By Christopher A. Pape
Broadway is a tough business but Victoria Clark makes it look easy. A native of Texas (with all the charm that entails) she came to our fair city to be a director. One thing led to another and she is now one of the most acclaimed stage actresses working today. Having stared in and won a Tony for The Light in the Piazza she is beloved by a wide swath of the American theater going public. As a followup to her success in Piazza, she was nominated for a Tony in Sister Act and is currently staring in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which is wone of the hottest tickets in town.
Victoria sat down with us; the whole time she was gracious, down-to-earth and very funny. I enjoyed the time we spent together at our exclusive photo shoot and I wish her the best of luck in the new production!
Resident(R): Tell us about Rodgers and Hammerstiein’s Cinderella…what drew you to the production?
Victoria Clark(VC): Two main reasons: #1: THE PEOPLE INVOLVED: At this point in my career, it’s all about the working relationships. I have been lucky enough to play all kinds of women and characters, so now at this point, I am looking to work with collaborators who inspire me and make me better. The creative artists I work with every day on Cinderella are doing just that. First of all, our director, Mark Brokaw is brilliant. I have admired his work for some time, and I liked him from day one of the first workshop. He is patient, kind, understanding, imaginative and his visual sense is uncanny--he has a tremendous vision of how the show should move. Douglas Carter Beane the fantastic playwright is our book writer. Douglas and I met doing Sister Act on Broadway, and he is a good friend and a very funny person. He has reimagined this story and made it very alive and funny. When I heard that Laura Osnes was set to play Cinderella, I knew I wanted to work with her. She is an old soul with the hugest heart in the world. Seeing her every night in our scenes is the greatest gift. This design team: William Ivey Long (costumes), Paul Huntley (wigs), Anna Louizos (set), Kenneth Posner (lighting), Nevin Steinberg (sound). They are all singular artists at the peak of their careers, and each iconic. Their contribution to this production is inestimable and they are expert collaborators. I adore them all. Trust me, no one has seen a fairy tale story come to life like this. And lastly, our music department led by our music supervisor and arranger David Chase and conductor Andy Einhorn are taking this delicious Rodgers and Hammerstein score and adding some unknown gems from that famous songwriting team’s catalogue, and creating a brand new show. It is a new score containing an old score in a way. It is unique. And of course everyone from the Rodgers and Hammerstein organization led by Ted Chapin and Bruce Pomahac is a genius. I have never worked with this many amazing artists at the same time. I am in Heaven.
#2. THE FLYING: Speaking of Heaven, I have never flown in a show before, and I wanted to do something that absolutely terrified me. Wasn’t it Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “do one thing every day that scares you?” Well, here it is. Now it is my favorite part of the show.
R: You’re known for musical theater, having won a Tony in 2005, what makes musical theater different from television/movies?
VC: Well, it›s the live audience, most obviously. After the design, rehearsals, technical rehearsals, next comes the audience. They are the final and most important character and make each performance completely different.
R: What role are you playing?
VC: I am playing the role of Marie. She is Cinderella’s friend from the village; she is an outsider and deemed by most to be a bit off. She is called “Crazy Marie.” Then we find out there is more to her than meets the eye...
R: How did you get into theater?
VC: I started as a director. I came to NYU’s graduate musical theater writing program to be a director, and presented so much of the writers’ original material that a casting director gave me an audition for a replacement in Sunday in the Park with George. I didn’t really think I had a shot, so I went. I got it. It was only my second Equity job. Once people saw a Broadway credit on my resumé, they assumed I was an actor, and the doors just kept opening. I wasn’t planning on being an actor, but it came and found me.
R: Favorite role (s) you’ve yet to play?
VC: I am asked that question all the time, and I don’t have any burning desire to do a role that already exists. I would rather create new characters.
R: What do you think of New York’s musical theater scene? What makes it the best?
VC: I am not an expert on everything that is happening now. But having lived here for 30 years, I do know New York is the cultural capital of the world, and of course the best city in the world for musicals. Just before 8:00 pm, I like to think of all the amazing artists that are all warming up to give a performance: actors, singers, musicians, dancers, you name it. It is mind-boggling. All the best training for musicals is here in the United States, and the talent just keeps getting more and more impressive. I think that keeps the quality of the product very high. I would like to see a return of great writing for the voice to musicals, Broadway musicals in particular. Adam Guettel, Ricky Ian Gordon, Jeanine Tesori, these are all composers who know how to write for the voice.
R: How was it to grow up in Texas?
VC: Sublime; it was a very happy place to grow up. I was blessed with an incredible family who is loving and very funny. And my best friend is hilarious, now an executive producer in television. She and I laughed our childhood away. And that endless sky. There is something in that sky that just makes you thankful to be alive.
R: What does it mean to be a New Yorker?
VC: I have no idea! I guess I could qualify as a New Yorker now that I have lived here all my adult life. I have learned that most New Yorkers feel they are citizens of the world and that global awareness unites us in a way. We are also very fiercely proud that we are here. It is an intensely exciting place to live. You can feel the energy just bubbling up from the sidewalks and streets. I also think we have the most beautiful parks in the world. My son says that Central Park is his front yard, and Riverside is his back yard. He was boasting about that at age 4. He was already feeling proud then.
R: What section of the city do you live in? What do you like about it?
VC: I live on the Upper West side. It is all kids, and families, and students, and dogs. It is very neighborhoody. I have been here almost all of 30 years. I also lived in Hudson Heights for about 5 years. That was also beautiful. I had an amazing view of the Hudson River and the Palisades. I’m so happy to be where I’m at.
R: Any pets?
VC: Yes, does my teenage son count? Not counting him, one Golden Retriever age 10, and a black rescue cat who is 8.
R: George Brescia styled our photo shoot and he writes a fashion column every month for the Resident, isn’t he great?
VC: Yes, not only is he an amazing stylist, he is a rare person with a huge heart, and he is also a beautiful actor and singer!
R: What charities are you involved with?
VC: I have done a number of benefits for Broadway Cares/Equity fights Aids since it began in 1987. They are an amazing organization. I serve on the Board of Directors of both New York City Center and The Kurt Weill Foundation. I am also very active at my church St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church on West End Avenue and 86th St. But you know, actors work for free all the time. This entire profession is a kind of calling. We get used to working for nothing or for very little, and to making our contributions by giving our time to worthwhile artistic endeavors. And then every now and then, the gift of a wonderful Broadway play or musical comes along, and those times are very special. Then we feel truly blessed. •