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Interview: Theatre Life with Anne Runolfsson and Tess Adams

The mother/daughter team on their self created show The Story Goes On and more.

Interview: Theatre Life with Anne Runolfsson and Tess Adams
L-R Anne Runolfsson and Tess Adams

Today's subjects Anne Runolfsson and Tess Adams are currently living their theatre lives performing in their mother/daughter self-created show about the ups and downs of being in show business entitled The Story Goes On. You can see these crazily talented ladies in action April 29th at the New Spire Arts' Ausherman Theatre in Frederick, Maryland.

Anne Runolfsson's career includes being the standby for Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria, recording a killer solo cd called At Sea, playing Lili in The Secret Garden, being a soloist with symphony orchestras all over the world, and had the pleasure of performing with the late great Marvin Hamlisch on numerous occasions with her daughter. Anne has appeared on NBCs The Blacklist, and made her directorial debut December 2021 in Los Angeles with My Unauthorized Hallmark Movie Musical.

Recently, Anne appeared with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra and is scheduled to appear in 2022 with the Phoenix Symphony and the Florida Orchestra.

Tess Adams made her Broadway debut at the age of seven in the 2006 revival of Les Misérables and worked actively as a child performer, singing as a principal soloist for The Boston Pops, National, San Diego, Seattle, and Utah symphonies. She has performed with her mother all over the world--from famed New York venues such as Birdland Jazz Club and 54 Below to wonderfully adventurous places such as Estonia, Anchorage, Russia, Finland, Hawaii, the middle of the Baltic Sea, and more.

Prior to the pandemic, she completed a full semester of classical acting training at the British American Dramatic Academy in London. Amid the pandemic, she competed in the Kennedy Center's Irene Ryan Acting Competition and was a semi-finalist for Region One. She is a recent graduate of Quinnipiac University where she earned BAs in Theater and English, graduating Magna Cum Laude.

Anne and Tess are two seasoned veterans that happen to be related. Where as many performers would never consider performing with a family member, Anne and Tess embrace it. Read on to see what they have learned from each other.

Please consider making the trip out to Frederick, MD to see The Story Goes On. There will be plenty of on and off-stage stories, some great music, and it's a chance to hear and see Anne Runolfsson and Tess Adams living their theatre lives to the fullest.

How did you get into performing?

A- My mother loved going to the theater, musicals, plays, it didn't matter. She also LOVED music so we had constant exposure from an early age. It wasn't until I was in middle school that I had a thought that I might like to perform. I took an acting class with an infamous Theater teacher at our school. One of the assignments was to sing a song in front of the class. As I listened to student after student get up to sing, I realized that not everyone had an innate ability to sing well-everyone in my family had a beautiful voice. I asked to take voice lessons, and my teacher immediately sent me on a community theater audition for a musical, which I got. I fell in love with the theater, the community and there was no looking back.

T- Some families are comprised of all doctors or lawyers--my "family business" was show business. My father, Tony Adams, was a Broadway and film producer and my mother, Anne Runolfsson, is a Broadway performer. In other words, I was always heavily exposed to theater and music and the inner workings of the industry. As early as I can remember, I was putting on shows for my family. They always had costume changes and props and several musical numbers. My parents liked to play musical soundtracks for me and explain the storylines. I had a Les Misérables karaoke CD that I would play from a boombox in my room and perform the entire show by myself.

What was your first professional performing job?

A- I grew up on the stages of Southern California Community theater. When I was 19 years old, I was in a 1/2 union, 1/2 non-union production of Annie. The director of this show asked me if I would like to be in his next production at the Lawrence Welk Theater, and would I like to get my union card. I was thrilled.

T- My first professional gig was the 2006 revival of Les Misérables playing Young Cosette/Young Eponine. I learned from a babysitter (a fellow aspiring actor) that there was going to be a revival of the show. At six years old, I marched up to my mother in her dressing room (she was playing Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera at the time) and announced that I would like to audition. Though hesitant, my mom was able to secure me an appointment through her agent at the time... and I booked it!

Interview: Theatre Life with Anne Runolfsson and Tess Adams
L-R Anne Runolfsson and Tess Adams in The Story Goes On.
Photo courtesy of the artists.

Anne- How did The Story Goes On come about?

Tess and I had been wanting to work on a show together about our crazy life in and around show business for a while. Tess was finishing college, graduating May of 2021, and we had a date booked to perform in a cabaret series at the Legacy Theatre in Branford, Ct in July. It seemed like the perfect time for us to put your heads together and write the show. We sat in our basement studio in Frederick, MD, still in the pandemic mode, and we wrote about our lives...spitballing off of one another, very stream of consciousness for starters. We reached out to the brilliant Lawrence Yurman about being our Musical Director and we were off and running.

Tess- Can you please tell us what audiences will see and hear when they come to the show?

We hope that audiences will be transported through time as they watch snippets of archival VHS footage, and listen to our recounting of the unique and surprising journey we've been on as a single mother/daughter duo navigating life in and outside of show business. They'll hear songs from beloved musicals such as Les Mis, Phantom, Wicked, Gypsy, and more; however, those songs will be used to propel our story forward, giving the audiences insight into moments of sorrow, hilarity, and triumph. Exciting new arrangements of these known tunes by our brilliant musical director, Lawrence Yurman, will hopefully give any familiar ears something new to chew on.

Tess- You have a special connection to the legendary Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Can you please tell us about it?

I wasn't professionally involved in the making of Spider-Man. However, I did witness almost every iteration that came to pass. I remember, as a young child, my father's excitement and pride in the team he had put together to create this musical (i.e. Bono & The Edge, Julie Taymor). He passed during the early stages of its development and it was really devastating to watch what unfolded after.

Anne- You put out a wonderful solo cd called At Sea. Can you please talk about how you chose the songs for that recording?

When I decided to make my recording At Sea, I knew I wanted it to be personal and to tell a story. My father was from Iceland, and from the time he was a small boy he felt the call of the sea. In his late teens early 20s he was a musician, playing all over Iceland but as he recounted, "I was onstage playing a great gig, but all I could think about was travel." He decided to leave his music career behind and become a sailor. He was a merchant marine and so was away pretty much 6-8 months of every year and when he was home, he drank a lot. Needless to say, this left a huge hole in my world where a father might be. At Sea was my way of exploring deeper how our relationship had affected my life.

Interview: Theatre Life with Anne Runolfsson and Tess Adams
Anne Runolfsson in the Broadway production of Victor/Victoria.
Photo by Carol Rosegg/Joan Marcus.

Anne- You had the huuuge task of understudying Julie Andrews in Victor Victoria on Broadway? Can you please talk about that experience?

Standing by for Julie Andrews has been one of the great honors of my career. She is still a dear friend for whom I care deeply, but watching her work during this time, learning craft from her, taking in her tremendous grace, not to mention how she was the leader of our company has shaped quite a bit of me since that time. I also had a front row seat into the brilliance of Blake Edwards, and Rob Marshall. I watched everything; I was a sponge. And if that weren't enough then Liza came in and I got to work with her. It was a time.

Interview: Theatre Life with Anne Runolfsson and Tess Adams
L-R Anne Runolfsson and Tess Adams.
Photo courtesy of the artists.

What have you learned from each other as performers while putting The Story Goes On together?

A- Tess and I have a bond that is beyond strong, it is primal and fierce. We have had an extraordinary life, but also an incredibly challenging life. I always have known that I can count on her but diving into a project like this has strengthened everything I know to be true about her, and about us. I am enormously proud of Tess.

T- I have always been my mother's biggest fan. She is incomparable to me. Something I really admire and have learned from her is the electric energy she brings every time she walks onto a stage--especially in the medium of concert/cabaret. My mother uses her whole body and spirit to perform and that fire is something I've tried to ignite more of in myself.

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