Wednesday 17th of October 2018
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Tony nominees dish on how they fell in love with theater

Tony nominees dish on how they fell in love with theater

You never forget your first time — or your first show, especially if you wind up writing, choreographing or starring in one later.

Nearly a dozen of this year’s Tony Award nominees told us about their early forays into the theater, both on Broadway or off. Whether they were puzzling over the fast-talking salesmen in David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” or dreaming of the day they’d play Mimi in “Rent,” it’s a memory they’ll cherish forever.

Laurie Metcalf
(featured actress, “Three Tall Women”)

Brigitte Lacombe

“I was in high school in Evansville, Ill., and we went to St. Louis to see ‘Godspell.’ We all had terrible seats in the nosebleed section and the actors probably weren’t much older than we were, but they looked like they were having the time of their life. It was energetic, colorful and the music was — how would I describe it? Innovative. Everything about it made me lean forward. I won’t go so far that I thought, ‘Oh, I can do that,’ but I did think, ‘I’d love to do that.’ I’ve [still] never done a musical. But then, I can’t sing. So there you go!”

Jamie Parker
(leading actor, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”)

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“The earliest show I can remember is when I was 4 or 5, and my sister and dad were in an amateur production of ‘The Music Man.’ All I can remember is my sister coming on in her little band uniform holding a brass instrument, and all these kids coming on to be part of ‘76 Trombones.’ Being willing to accept what you see onstage has never been a problem for me — we all know: It’s just a play.”

Taylor Louderman
(leading actress, “Mean Girls”)

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“I moved around a lot with my dad’s job and grew up in a small town near St. Louis, where the cattle population exceeds the human. I was probably 13 when I came to New York for a theater camp, and the director wanted to see ‘Glengarry Glen Ross.’ I didn’t understand what was going on — the plot was way over my head, but it was nice watching the actors. I remember staring at everybody in the show, overwhelmed with the whole Broadway experience.”

Ethan Slater
(leading actor, “SpongeBob SquarePants”)

Joan Marcus

“One of the first shows I remember seeing was ‘Damn Yankees.’ I must have been around 10 or 11 years old and was obsessed with baseball. I remember thinking [the actors] were doing exactly what I wanted to be doing, not only singing and dancing, but playing baseball, too! I think that was the first semi-understanding I had of what it really meant to be an actor: You get to inhabit lives that you might not otherwise live.”

Jessie Mueller
(leading actress, “Carousel”)

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“I think I was 4 when my dad was playing John Adams in a production of ‘1776’ in Chicago. I must have seen it early in the run, because I have a memory of opening night. My parents had gone out for a party, my cousin was baby-sitting and my sister and brother and I were acting it out in our room. My parents came home and found us. We thought we’d get in trouble because we were up so late, but they just laughed.”

Lauren Ambrose
(leading actress, “My Fair Lady”)

“I saw Leslie Uggams in ‘Anything Goes’ when I was about 7 or 6, maybe even younger. My grandmother’s brother was an actor and he came up from Florida and wanted to take me to the show. I got the [cast album] and memorized it! Just seeing all those bodies onstage, creating this alternate world — to this day, that’s what I love most about this work, the collaboration of a unique group of people working together … and seeing what comes out of that.”

Ariana DeBose
(featured actress, “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical”)

“My first Broadway show was ‘Rent.’ I think I was 9 and sitting in the mezzanine with my aunt and my mom and uncle. I wanted to be the girl in the blue shorts and the leopard coat — I wanted to be Mimi, who made me cry. To this day, I never played Mimi. But I thought even then that I could make people feel something.”

Itamar Moses
(book for a musical, “The Band’s Visit”)

Andrew Eccles

“I was born in California and didn’t spend a lot of time in New York until college. Sometime over my winter break in freshman year, my parents came out and we saw Terrence McNally’s ‘Master Class.’ It’s literally in the form of a master class, with Zoe Caldwell playing [opera star] Maria Callas. A young actress played one of Callas’ students, and she was phenomenal — Audra McDonald, who was just out of school herself. While honoring her character, she managed to go toe to toe with the all-time great Caldwell, and that’s what stuck with me.”

Christopher Gattelli
(choreography, “My Fair Lady” and “SpongeBob SquarePants”)

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“A friend of our family brought me and my sister to ‘Dreamgirls.’ I was 14 or 15, and it was mind-blowing! The set was basically four big towers that had lights on them, and [director/co-choreographer] Michael Bennett had the towers moved around in ways that suggested spaces and passages of time [and] you always knew exactly where you were. Everything I’d seen up till then was traditional. To see something that was so spare, yet seemed so full and dramatic and emotional, was incredibly inspiring.”

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