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BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Candice Shedd-Thompson

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Candice Shedd-Thompson
Candice Shedd-Thompson

One of the best things about being a columnist is you can introduce some fresh new talent to the public. Take, for example, today's subject Candice Shedd-Thompson who is currently living her theatre life onstage at MetroStage in its tenth anniversary production of the pop-rock musical Rooms a Rock Romance. The production runs through November 11th.

Candice is a graduate of James Madison University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in musical theatre. While there, she performed in Spring Awakening, Grey Gardens, and subUrbia, and was a backup singer for Patti LuPone in Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda.

Professional credits include High Society and The Rocky Horror Show at Winnipesaukee Playhouse, Mary Poppins at West Virginia Public Theatre, and Mamma Mia and The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts. You might have also heard her on your last vacation if you took a cruise with Celebrity Cruises or took your family to Hershey Park.

Here we have a young lady rising to the top of her game and Rooms a Rock Romance is helping local audiences get glimpse at what's to come from Candice Shedd-Thompson. This is one show you all NEED to see. Between Candice, her co- star Matthew Schleigh and a red hot rockin' ensemble of musicians, you'll want to wear your "Friday Night Dress" any night of the week. The direction by Tom Jones is pretty terrific too. Get yourself some tickets, head over to MetroStage in Alexandria, Virginia, and see why I and many others think Candice Shedd-Thompson is someone you will be hearing a lot from in the future.

At what age did you get interested in performing?

Like many girls, I took an interest in dance from a young age and was in and out of lessons growing up, but I think my interest truly peaked in middle school when I was introduced to musical theatre and show choir.

Where did you receive your training?

I received my Bachelor of Arts in Musical Theatre from James Madison University. Go Dukes!

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Candice Shedd-Thompson
Candice Shedd-Thompson at center in the Highlands Playhouse production of The Spitfire Grill. This was Candice's first professional performing job. Photo courtesy of the artist.

What do you remember about your first opening night? What and where was the show?

My first opening night was as a Hotbox Girl in Guys and Dolls at Rocky Run Middle School. I can't say I remember any specifics about opening night so much as the general feeling I took away from the experience: that I had found a place I felt I really belonged, and that I couldn't wait for my next show.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Candice Shedd-Thompson
Matthew Schleigh and Candace Shedd-Thompson in the MetroStage production of Rooms a Rock Romance. Photo by Chris Banks.

Can you please tell us a little something about Rooms a Rock Romance and your character in the show?

I jokingly tell people that Rooms is sort of like The Last Five Years if it were Scottish and rock. In all seriousness though, it's almost like a rock opera. Two characters, 90 minutes, and largely sung-through. It has elements of your classic "boy meets girl" story, but with a lot of twists and turns, both comedic and heart breaking, that you wouldn't necessarily expect. My character Monica comes from an upper-middle class Jewish family in Glasgow. She has this huge, driving energy, with all the unbridled ambition you would expect from someone in their young-20's who has yet to face any true hardships. She grows a lot through the course of the show, and it's an exciting journey to be on.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Candice Shedd-Thompson
Candice Shedd-Thompson in the MetroStage production of Rooms a Rock Romance. Photo by Chris Banks.

What do you enjoy the most about singing Paul Scott Goodman's score for Rooms a Rock Romance?

One of my favorite things about this score is its diversity. I know the show is billed as a "rock romance," but every song has its own unique sound. I feel a country/blues twang when we come to America and sing "NYC Forever," a punk grind in "All I Want is Everything," and even a splash of lounge-esque, Jimmy Buffett groove in "Scottish Jewish Princess." There is so much variety that you never get tired of singing it, and I think it makes the score more interesting to listen to as well.

You've performed on a few cruise ships. What would you say is the biggest difference between performing in a standard production versus working on a cruise ship? Is the cruise ship more intense rehearsal wise?

Rehearsal wise, cruise ships tend to be a lengthier process. I would rehearse typically from 9 AM to 6 PM, six days a week, for six to eight weeks. The length of the rehearsal process is necessary though as you're often learning many different shows, instead of just one production. We would learn four one-hour long main stage shows, and anywhere from three to eight "boutique" shows that would be performed around the ship. It's a lot of material to keep in your brain at once! I also had the opportunity to train with the dancers on some of the aerial apparatuses, beginning my days at 9 AM with physical conditioning that included rope climbing and hanging upside down from a trapeze.

I'd say the biggest difference between the two kinds of productions is how they're structured. Cruise ship shows are often times revue shows, a combination of many Top 40 hits with flashy costumes and impressive dance numbers, where the story line is either light or non-existent. I appreciate and enjoy doing both, but I definitely miss the characters, plot, and through-line that come with a book musical or more standard production. Revue shows often feel like a non-stop, high-energy marathon, where as a book musical has ebbs and flows, chances for you to catch your breath and play a softer side.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Candice Shedd-Thompson
Candice Shedd-Thompson in the Riverside Center for the Performing Arts production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Photo by Susanne Carr Rossi.

You recently completed a run of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts in the role of Esmeralda. Can you please talk about the experience of putting that show together?

The Hunchback of Notre Dame was and is a dream show of mine and it was an amazing, albeit exhausting, experience. The scale of the show is, of course, quite large, and they decided to pull out all the stops. Apart from the normal rehearsals you would expect with your cast, we also needed to rehearse with our orchestra and the 22-person choir that would be singing with us onstage. It was a lot of moving pieces (literally, because several of our large set pieces were on wheels) that had to come together. During the rehearsal process I was struggling with my health, having first come down with scarlet fever and then the flu, suffering from a pulled intercostal muscle due to an extended cough while simultaneously doing performances of Mamma Mia in the evenings. Needless to say, I was pretty tired, but it was all worth it when I got to put on the costume each night to become one of my Disney idols from childhood, and sing the beautiful score.

After Rooms completes its run, what is next for you?

After Rooms, I will be headed down to Kings Dominion to perform in their first ever Winterfest with the all girl group called "The Mistletones," and then returning to the very exciting world of auditioning!

Special thanks to MetroStage's Producing Artistic Director Carolyn Griffin for her assistance in coordinating this interview.

Theatre Life logo by Kevin Laughon.

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