An interview with Jeanne T. Arrigo, playing Signora Fioria in Do I Hear a Waltz?

Jeanne Arrigo headshotQ: Welcome to TMTC! This is your first time performing with us — what inspired you to join us?

I’ve auditioned two times prior, each time by invitation. I didn’t even know of this theatre company until I was invited to audition, but I’m thrilled to finally be a part of a production here! I actually didn’t really know this show, either, but have fallen in love with Signora Fioria. I am looking forward to sharing her with the audience.

Q: What drew you to Do I Hear a Waltz?

I’ve never been cast in anything Sondheim has written, and who doesn’t love Sondheim? And I’ve always loved Richard Rodgers’ music (the first show I ever did in high school was Oklahoma! and I’ve been drawn to his music ever since!). Since I received the script and the music and have reviewed it daily for three weeks, I am so anxious to see these characters come to life, and struggle through this brief encounter they share in Italy.

Q: What about the production are you most looking forward to?

So many things: meeting and working with the other cast members, singing the music along with instruments and the cast (especially the songs, “No Understand” and “Moon in my Window”), and seeing how it is going to be staged in the space.

Q: Where do you hail from?

Well, I’ve lived in Chicago for over 20 years, so I really consider it my home. I grew up on a small farm in Missouri (where my dad and older brother and his wife still reside — it’s not farmed, but just a lovely woodsy, seven acres). I went to college in Iowa, and then came to Chicago for grad school and have been here ever since.

Q: What’s your New Year’s resolution? Have you kept up with it so far?

I haven’t really made one, except I keep saying that 2014 incorporates my favorite number (14), so it is bound to be amazingly rich with blessings and success!

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An interview with Kelli Harrington, playing Leona in Do I Hear a Waltz?

Kelli Harrington headshotQ: Welcome to TMTC! This is your first time performing with us — what inspired you to join us?

Actually, a friend told me about this project and that he was going to recommend me for it. The next day, I was contacted by the office and asked to come in to audition! I still owe that friend a nice big drink.

Q: What is your process of developing a character? How do you begin?

I was a singer before I ever did any acting, so I still always begin with the music first — old habits are hard to break. It’s what makes me feel most comfortable in getting into the style and mood of the show. It’s helpful to know as much as possible about the history of the show and how it was developed; then at some point you have to let that insider knowledge go and play what’s on the page.

Q: What about the production are you most looking forward to?

Getting to work with Dominic and his cast of actors. I was a student in the opera program at Northwestern while Dominic headed up the musical theatre department, but we never worked with each other directly. It’s a little mind-bending that we get to do so now, more years later than I care to count!

Q: What do you want audiences to take away from the production?

This is one of those lost treasures that not many people outside the theatre world know about. I like that we get the chance to introduce them to works by masters in the field that, for a number of reasons, fell through the cracks.

Q: What’s your favorite classic film?

I’m a Hitchcock fan: Strangers on a Train, Rope, To Catch a Thief, Dial M for Murder, and Rear Window are just some of the ones I’ve watched enough times to recite them in their entirety.

An interview with Dominic Missimi, director of Do I Hear a Waltz?

Dominic MissimiQ: You last directed The Baker’s Wife in Concert for us last season. Welcome back to TMTC! What inspired you to join us again?

I enjoy the philosophy of the theatre, that it looks at the more unusual music theatre fare. I also love the fact that no matter what the show may be, the size of the theatre demands that you take a chamber approach. The audience is up close and personal which demands that the director and actor concentrate a lot more on truthful acting. It’s a wonderful intimate space.

Q: What drew you to directing Do I Hear a Waltz?

I was in college when the show opened on Broadway, and I remember being totally captivated by the title song. In fact, I staged it as one of my directing finals. The show was not a big success on Broadway, but for all these years I’ve been fascinated because I could never figure out how three of our most illustrious creators of music theatre — the great Richard Rodgers, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents created a piece that didn’t land. I believe Rodgers should have followed his first intention, which was to create a chamber musical. Instead, they populated the show with a singing and dancing chorus with not much for them to do. I want to clear things away so that you can see the lovely and somewhat sad story of American secretary Leona Samish looking for love in Venice.

Q: What is the beginning of your process when you start reading a script? Do you envision the characters? The setting? Both at once?

First and foremost I am attracted to the characters that have been created by Arthur Laurents, the book writer. In this particular show, I love the mix of the Italians and the Americans, and especially as it plays out and you realize the enormous differences in the way the two different cultures view life and love. I also believe the characters are a product of their environment. I try to see and touch everything they do in the play. Waltz? was a treat, because I am Italian and I have visited Venice three times. I consider it the most beautiful, magical, mysterious city in Western Europe, just as our leading character describes in the musical.

Q: What were the first steps you were inspired to take after reading Do I Hear a Waltz?

I wanted to go back and look at the evolution of the piece. I read the original play The Time of the Cuckoo by Arthur Laurents, watched the film Summertime with Katherine Hepburn based on the musical, and I listened to the CD of the revival of the musical at Pasadena Playhouse a few years ago. I read everything I could find about the show, especially Sondheim’s critique of the collaboration with Richard Rodgers. It was quite an adventure for all of the original artists who worked on the production. Through all of this, the characters, the storyline, the music — many, many things shone through and it made me determined to do everything I could to make the show work. We are doing the original version from the Rodgers and Hammerstein library.

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from TMTC’s Chamber Musical presentation of Do I Hear a Waltz?

I would love it if I heard someone say at the end of the performance, “Wow. What a lovely musical. Funny, sad, beautiful, touching. I had no idea this was such a good musical!” This show has such a fantastic pedigree. Who could ever imagine any less than a thrilling musical by Rodgers, Sondheim, and Laurents? I can’t. And that’s what I want to prove to our audience. Do I Hear a Waltz? deserves our attention.

An interview with Elizabeth Telford, playing Jennifer in Do I Hear a Waltz?

Elizabeth Telford Q:  You previously performed with us in Triumph of Love. Welcome back to TMTC! What inspired you to join us again?

Thank you! I had a blast working with TMTC, and I was excited for another chance to work with new people on a show that is so rarely produced.

Q: What is your process of developing a character? How do you begin?

I read through the script, get a sense of the arc of the piece and of the character I’m playing and do research about the show, the setting, and anything else applicable to the play.

Q: What do you want audiences to take away from the production?

I hope they enjoy seeing a rare work by amazing theatrical and musical talents – Sondheim, Rodgers and Laurents – that is virtually never produced.

Q:  What is your New Year’s resolution? Have you kept up with it so far?

Oh geez, my New Year’s resolutions are nothing particularly notable. Eating well, staying active… It seems as the weather stays cold, I just want to stay inside and eat chocolate.

Q: What do you love about working at The Music Theatre Company?

The people. It’s a wonderful company, and I feel very lucky to be starting work on a second production here!

An interview with Heidi Kettenring, performing in concert January 27

Heidi KettenringQ: We’re so happy to welcome you back to perform again at TMTC! What inspired you to join us again this year?

I had so much fun creating the show I did last year with Doug [Peck, on piano] and Jamie [Cooper, on guitar] so when approached about doing another one there was no hesitation.  I am doing an entirely different set list this time, so it has been really exciting coming up with new material.

Q: What are your favorite kinds of songs to perform in concert? Will we get to hear any of your favorite songs on the 27th?

I have a very eclectic taste in music. This concert covers a lot of that. Some of them are my very favorites. It is a lovely challenge to take something I love and make it my own, while also paying homage to why I love it so much in the first place.  Songs I’ll sing in the evening range from Billy Joel to Joni Mitchell to Harry Nilsson to Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Q: What about the concert are you most looking forward to?

Playing with Doug and Jamie is a magical treat. We really work and play well together. I am also really excited to sing a few songs written by good friends. My amazing friend Guy Adkins passed away a few years ago and I am going to be doing a song of his. Also, my dear friends Steve and Karen Multer wrote a song for me that I will be debuting on Monday. I am so excited and honored to be singing it.