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Interview: Theatre Life with Emily Skinner

The powerhouse performer speaks on Signature Theatre's Simply Sondheim and more.

Interview: Theatre Life with Emily Skinner
Emily Skinner

Today's subject Emily Skinner is currently living her theatre life in your living rooms as part of Signature Theatre's streaming presentation of Simply Sondheim. The production is available through March 26th.

Over the years, Emily has wowed audiences on Broadway and throughout the country. You might remember her past Signature greatness from her performances in Dirty Blonde, Ace, and The Witches of Eastwick.

On Broadway she has wowed audiences in Prince of Broadway (Outer Critics Circle Nomination), The Cher Show, Side Show (Tony Award® nomination, Drama League Award), Jekyll & Hyde, The Full Monty, James Joyce's The Dead, Dinner at Eight (Outer Critics Circle nomination), and Billy Elliot (also national tour).

Emily's work Off-Broadway includes Picnic at the Transport Group (Drama Desk Nomination), Jerry Springer: The Opera at Carnegie Hall, Fiorello!, No Strings, Pardon My English and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at City Center Encores! and leading roles at Manhattan Theater Club, WPA Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Roundabout Theatre Company, York Theatre, Paramount Theatre at Madison Square Garden.

Across the country Emily has performed multiple roles at The Kennedy Center, Alliance Theatre, Hangar Theatre, Long Wharf, The Old Globe, Goodspeed, St. Louis MUNY, TheatreVirginia and Virginia Rep.

As you will read, Emily has a long association with Sondheim both as an audience member and as a performer. I think you will agree that her killer vocals in Simply Sondheim are a big highlight. Her "The Ladies Who Lunch" will truly knock you out. Trust me on this one.

Emily Skinner is one of those performers that no matter how many times you see her you'll always be wanting more of this powerhouse beltress. Grab a cocktail, and enjoy Emily Skinner with a stellar group of performers in Simply Sondheim from the comfort of your own home. It's definitely what is needed to help us get through the winter blues and beyond.

Everybody riiiiiise for Emily Skinner!!

When were you first introduced to the work of Stephen Sondheim? Either as an audience member or as a performer

I think probably I was introduced via my Mom's cast album collection while listening to Gypsy and West Side Story. I first time I saw Sondheim's work was a production Of Sweeney Todd in VA as a kid. It knocked my socks off.

Interview: Theatre Life with Emily Skinner
L-R Solea Pfeiffer, Matthew Gardiner and Emily Skinner rehearsing for Signature Theatre's streaming production of Simply Sondheim.
Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Can you please talk about the process of filming Simply Sondheim under pandemic conditions?

Matthew Gardiner our director/choreographer had a core set of performers that did most of the group numbers and some of the solos with ten days of rehearsal while being tested daily and masked when not performing. The musicians and crew were masked as well. The NY performers were tested before coming to Arlington a few days before and then quarantined. We shot independently of everyone else.

Interview: Theatre Life with Emily Skinner
Emily Skinner in the Signature Theatre's streaming production of
Simply Sondheim.
Photo by Christopher Mueller.

One of the songs you perform in Simply Sondheim is "The Ladies who Lunch" Can you please tell us how you make a song your own when it is already associated with a particular performer?

I was very lucky because I performed it in Prince of Broadway for Hal Prince. He said "I don't want you to think you have to do it like Stritch". He let me totally make it my own. I chose to do a more modern take on the song. It's not as ironic as Stritch's performance. I went to the dark side and embraced it because the song is very much about self-loathing. The song asks you to do that.

Interview: Theatre Life with Emily Skinner
Emily Skinner and Jeff McCarthy in the 2009 Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma production of Sweeney Todd.
Photo by Wendy Mutz.

What is the one role in a Sondheim musical that you would most like to perform and are there any you would like another crack at?

I would love to do Desiree in A Little Night Music. I did a little bit of it in Prince of Broadway. I've done Charlotte and Petra (twice. It's a show in my life that keeps coming back in my life. And with the insights I got from Hal It would be nice to explore them.

I played Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd way too early in my life. I did it once with Jeff McCarthy and would like to do it again now that I'm the right age.

When we are able to gather again in person in an actual theatre, what are you most looking forward to?

I keep trying to imagine what that night will be like. It makes my head spin. I think it will be very emotional. Norm Lewis and I got very emotional shooting Simply Sondheim because it was the first time we had been back on a stage with an orchestra since everything shut down.

Why do you think Stephen Sondheim's work continues to be relevant after all these years?

It's impossibly smart into the human condition. I don't think anyone writes with his intelligence and his real phycological introspection. He just nails everything.

Special thanks to Signature Theatre's Director of Marketing Jennifer Buzzell for her assistance in coordinating this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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