BWW Interviews: Jim Ambler on WHITE CHRISTMAS at Hillbarn Theatre
Hillbarn Theatre's White Christmas opens tonight, and we'll be there to cover, but before the curtain rises, we spoke with star and Bay Area native Jim Ambler, who plays Phil Davis in the show. Check out our interview below, then visit http://hillbarntheatre.org/ for tickets and information!
Hello Jim. Thank you for taking the time to talk to BroadwayWorld San Francisco. I guess the question to start with would be whether or not you've ever experienced a white Christmas yourself.
Growing up in the bay area my Christmas memories consists of rain and the fall of leaves, which I cherish. I spent my college years in Boston, Mass, so my first white Christmas was very white and abundant. After college I moved to New York, and I have spent many years enjoying the snow. The first snow is always the best, and my tradition is to call my mother in Foster City and enjoy the memories of first snows.
You've performed all the way in the Big Apple on Broadway and now you're taking on one of the most iconic Holiday roles here at our intimate Hillbarn Theatre. How do you bring the big and the small together for a production like this?
I had always wanted to perform at Hillbarn while growing up, but never had the opportunity. The first show that I attended at Hillbarn made me fall in love with the connection between the audience and the actors. Sometimes you can't find that in the bigger houses. I love the opportunity that being an actor gives. I have performed in opera houses, theatres in the round, theatres at sea, on Broadway and in intimate theaters like Hillbarn, and each venue gives you as an actor something different to experience. I can't wait to feel the intimacy of having the audience so close, which will bring the heart of this show right onto the audience's laps.
Everyone knows the romantic story and red and white colors of the show. What's new and original in Hillbarn's production, aside from the fact that Hillbarn will be using a fabulous, live orchestra?
I think originality comes from the individuals that create. The theatre itself will bring a brand new perspective to the piece. (I can't give all the secrets away, you must see the show!)
The pairs lead this show - Bob Wallace and song-and-dance partner Phil Davis, as well as the two sisters they fall for - so chemistry has to be important. Tell me about your fellow cast members and what audiences can expect from their work as an ensemble.
My favorite part of being and actor is creating connections with other actors that follow the director's vision. The Hillbarn creative team has assembled an amazing ensemble to create this beautiful piece. Their dedication and passion is immense. I am in awe of the talent in this cast. I am paired with the best of the best, Pierce Brandt, Amanda Farbstein, and Melissa O'keefe. The connection the four of us have is incredible. We play, discuss, hug, laugh, and play some more. Working with this company has really created a family. When this ensemble sings together it brings chills! The amazing score also helps.
The show opens December 5, but what can you tell us in the meantime about the creative elements - sets, costumes, etc - at this point?
One of the aspects of performing is the elements that come together to form a beautiful experience. When I first saw the set designer's vision, I was blown away. Then when it was being created around us it was even more impressive. The costumes are beautiful and fun at the same time. Many of us in the company love this era, so it is fun to be transformed back to the fifties! The choreography and the direction of this piece is what makes this production the highest caliber. I always say that what makes a production professional is attention to the detail, and that is what this company gives.
This really is the kind of show where all the various pieces come together to create the perfect holiday experience. What makes this show such a classic?
This show is about heart! The Company of the White Christmas at Hillbarn was brought together because of this one element. The Irving Berlin score is stunning and brings strong feelings of nostalgia, humor and excitement for a holiday season. I have never performed a holiday themed show, so this is a thrilling experience for me. People going out of their way to make other people's lives better. After all, it is the season of giving. I think this show and its company is a big gift to me to come home to!
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