On The Rocks: Where Celebrities & Cocktails Mix : Moms of Dear Evan Hansen Coleen Sexton (Wicked, Legally Blonde) and Lili Thomas (The Hello Girls, Rent) Chat Life on Tour, On Stage and Backstage!

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On this week’s On the Rocks with Alexander, we talk to the moms of the Broadway national tour of Dear Evan Hansen actors Coleen Sexton from Jekyll & Hyde, Wicked, Legally Blonde, and more and Lili Thomas from We’re Gonna Die, the Hello Girls and regional productions of Miss Saigon, RENT, Cabaret, and more …with guest co-host actor Stephanie Erb from True Blood, Ray Donovan, and the new League of their Own TV series as we chat about the reality of life on the road with a show, handling heavy material 8 shows a week, backstage chips and cheese, and discuss some of the themes from their musical…with host Alexander Rodriguez Raise a glass and join in the chat!

On The Rocks: Where Celebrities & Cocktails Mix
TV & Radio Personality Alexander Rodriguez sips and chats with your favorite celebrities from TV, film, Broadway, music, reality TV and pop culture in this weekly, entertainment, no holds barred talk show. Academy Award, Emmy Award, Grammy Award, Tony Award, Golden Globe Award winners – he’s drank with them all! Its talk radio with a twist!   Presented by Straw Hut Media and Here TV

Episode transcripts

Hello on the rockers on this week'sepisode, the MOMS of the Broadway touring
production of Dear Evan Anson, theateractors calling sexton from Jackal and hide wicked
legally blonde, and Moore and LilyThomas from we're gonna die, the hello
girls and regional productions of Missigon,rent cabaret and more, with my guest
Co host, actor Stephanie r fromTrue Blood, Ray Donovan and the new
League of their own TV series.And the list goes on and on and
on. With me, your favoritehost with the Sassy most raise a glass
and at the drinks begin it's onthe rocks. Life is a banquet and
most poor suckers are starving to death. I'd like to propose a toast.
This is on the rocks with AlexanderRight. Drink with your favorite celebrities as
you talk about fashion, entertainment,culture, reality TV and well, that's
about it. So pop a corn, lean back and raise a glass on
the rocks. Lord have mercy andjust a little disclaimer. We're actually recording
this a little bit earlier. SoUm so, where cast members can make
it to curtain call not too tipsy, I hope. Buttons and bows and
Pantyhose. On the rocks podcast,a place where we're too Glam to give
a damn. Like us on twitterand Instagram at on the rocks, on
Aeron on facebook. On the rocksradio show. Send me an email.
Book me for a wedding funeral,Kntana, a brisk I don't care,
I will show up. Info aton the rocks radio show DOT com.
The show is presented by Straw hutmedia. You can watch and or listen
to. are now almost three episodes. That on the rocks radio show DOT
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Hello East Coast. The shows broughtto you by Fan daddies dot com,
bringing you to the SASSIEST and classiestclacking fans and hats for pride, e
DM parties, SA see selfis andeven sci fiers. Head to Fan Daddy's
DOT COM. And a word ofwarning. Tonight Shenanigans are being fueled by
the vodka tastings of neft vodka puretaste. It's just damn good vodka.
Um, you can drink at neator you can mix it with literally anything.
I mixed it with Diet Mountain dewlast week, throw back to my
college days. It worked like acharm. Head to NEFT VODKA US dot
com for more INFO. Okay,let's get the show on the road.
Returning to on the rocks, pleasewelcome my guest co host, Stephanie Herb
Not only an actress of over norecords are showing that. This is what
an actor goes through during self tapes. Yes, well, not. Yeah,
I haven't introduced you yet. Overa hundred film TV appearances, but
a writer, director, producer ofdark and Quirky comedies, the likes that
have not been seeing to the Donovan. Well, not really, however,
she did co create many comedies withfemale genieuses that can be seen and enjoyed.
As an actor, she tackled comedyand drama with Ego Gusto recurring roles
on Ray Donovan, true blood,the young and the restless, weeds,
twenty four, the fosters, theiconic freaks and Geek. During the previous
here she worked on N C IS L A Ryan Murphy's monster for Netflix,
prime's news series a league of theirown, which is premiering very soon,
and the new boss spin off filmsinclude Peter were's fearless John Lee Hancock's
the little things. Gor Verbinski isthe ring starship troopers, which I love.
That credit and more. Please welcomeback to the show, Stephanie Herb
you're no strangers on the rocks.Well, like multiple self, tape photo
did not belong in there, butI love it because what an actor goes
through for a horrible shit to havea taping device in their house and force
their spouse or their friends to betheir scene partners. I tell you,
it's the same process for my grinderprofile. You take forty pictures and then
you put up one good one ifyou're lucky, and then it's oftentimes don't
even have your face. I probablywould be good at a grinder profile.
Well, I'm not sure it's marketbut it's well. But I want to
talk about you. Know you.You've been coming on a lot lately because
we love your insight from behind thescenes, both film, TV and stage.
But you went through something recently thatI was just fascinated by, which
thing. It's a thing you andwe're gonna be talking to our actors today
about kind of stepping in and takingover a role the soap opera world calls.
Oh yeah, that was weird.Tell me about it. It came
out of the blue and a womanwho is an icon on General Hospital and
Nancy Lee Grant, had to haveback surgery. She couldn't wait any longer,
so she had to step away andthey were scrambling around looking for someone
to play her. Well, she'slike ten years older than me and I
don't really look like her, butthey're like well, Stephanie, do it,
and I'm like okay, and Ihave done soaps, but I mostly
played doctors or, you know,therapy therapists that electroshock therapy their patients,
like they all do um. Butthis was a lady who's been through every
possible scenario for thirty years on thissoap and they handed me ninety pages on
the first day and said here,do this that. I'm talking about Dante
and freedom and people. I don'teven know what I'm talking about and you
have to be off book and youget one take. So it was rather
terrifying. But I always say thiswhen I do is so my hat is
off. To those people. Thatis hard work. It is hard to
be good. It is hard toeven memorize or control where your body is
going when you have had no sensememory, especially if you're stepping in I
don't know anybody I'm talking to thestory. I would read them to myself,
going what, what is happening?She was an alcoholic and then she
almost murdered someone, but murdered someoneelse by accident, and then she helped
someone find out who their daughter was, but it wasn't really their daughter because
they kidnapped her into a white slaveryoperation. And I'm it was terrifying.
I got through it. I willsay that Disney gives you the best covid
masks ever. Yes, my husbandstole mine, but it makes them so
good. They have like a pictureof Mickey on him or something. No,
they're just soft and they fit yourface really well and I wish some
had taken about ten out of themexactly like that guy. Uh. Anyway,
it was hard and Nancy came back. Oh the other thing, did
she come back with a new face? Spill the tea? I do not
think so. I think she reallyhad back surgery. But I will say
that the fans are insane. ThePhantom in SCI FI and soap opera world
insane. I had people reaching outto me going, you know Nancy,
tell me about Nancy, and I'mlike, I've never met Nancy, I'm
just replacing Nancy for a few,you know, weeks, uh or.
There are people saying you're nothing likeAlexis. Your Voice is too deep.
How can you play Alexis with sucha deep voice and carefully? I didn't
do it. They asked me.They're giving these small amounts of money to
do it. You know, it'sjust the actor's life, is we and
that's what I always bring to thistable. Like every time you're a year
it's like, what the Hell iswacky story. I am shooting, by
the way, a very strange horrorfilm coming up which isn't on my bio,
but the guy who created Um Ghostwhisperer, he's directing and and and
producing it and it should be ratherinteresting and I'm excited about a League of
their own. The News has comeout. We know some of the CAST
members in it. We know thatit's a TV series based on the movie.
Yes, somebody from the original castis back. Yes, and and
it's really about what really went on, not the Tom Hanks the fine thing,
but that most of these women weregay and uh, and also not
allowed to play with black women.And you know, it's all about that
struggle of trying to keep it secretbecause otherwise you get kicked off the team.
And I think it's going to bereally good. I mean I love
the people in charge, Abby Jacobsonand will Graham. I love them,
so hopefully they'll bring me. Idon't know, it's it's a little far
fetched, Lesbians and Baseball and softball. Anyway, we're excited. Thank you
for joining us today, because youhave very special insight, having spent so
many years on the stage. Alsoas a mom, seven years old.
Well, according to your IMDB.I'm like better not print this out green
piece. Yeah, Um, butalso being a mom Um. You know
we're gonna be talking about mom themesand working actors and how all these themes
uh come across that you have avery special connection with moms because of my
relationship and the MOMS in this showare dealing with the things that I have
been dealing with. You know,it's it's a rough time to be a
teenager in this world right now whatwe're gonna talk about that, because it
is a rough time to be youth. But, and we're going to see
from the two different characters point ofview, it's a rough time to be
a parent. There's there's no amountof money or any medication that would be
like hey, that was a goodtime to have a kid in this in
this age of social media politics,the social unrest that's happening. But I
do think from what I've heard is, you know, the youth are now
growing up with terms like non binary, L G B T Q is.
Whether the government's getting involved or not. The kids are like, who cares?
They don't all right, they're justlike shut up and leave us alone.
We just want the planet not toburn up. Well, now,
that's not a lot to ask anyway. So on that note, I want
to bring in burning up. Weneed the A C back on, don't
you think? Are you having ahot flash? It's my Latin heat.
It's turning you on. Profile Tonycan make sure that the air condition is
on. So, Dear Evan Hansen, uh Broadway touring production. It's at
the amonds and theater until the endof July and I had the absolute benefit
of going to see a mattinee performance, which I usually like going opening night.
I like going weekend nights because mattinee'stend to be a little bit quieter
crowd. This show was entirely powerhouseand we have the benefit of the two
actors who played the two moms Umhere, so let me formally introduce them.
Theater is alive and well. CallingSexton, who plays Heidi, start
on Broadway as Lucy when she wastwenty years old in Jacquelin Hyde, as
well as a TV version Jackel Hydewith David Hasselhoff. By the way,
the national tours include wicked, legallyBlonde, Chicago U and regional mom and
me a spam a lot end ofthe rainbow, playing Judy Garland, which
we're gonna talk about. please.Welcome colleen playing Heidie Hanson and Dear Evan
Hanson made my bronze are run fromcrime from her second act powerhouse number.
Please welcome Colleen Sexton. I thinkI need myself. Yes, you are
good girl. Also joining US LilyThomlas UH, Thomas Tisch School of the
Arts Grad, consummate instrument musician aswell as actor singer, who started recently
David Malloy's pre Broadway round of octeta Broadway and we're gonna die. The
hello girls only human regional at theKennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Berkeley Rep,
Milwaukee Rep. also, she isa mom in real life. Her
performance as Cynthia Murphy and Dear EvanHanson is an intimate, an emotional roller
coaster that doesn't give you a chanceto breathe. Um, and I was
absolutely living for it. I wantto see a spinoff musical about the two
months going shopping and getting drunk andbeing like, let's just have a moment
to relax. Ken. Wait,Jesus Christ, please welcome Lily Thomas.
Hi, yes, yes, Um, I love the two of you energy,
the storyline, the characters, yourbackground so different. And so before
we start talking about some of thethemes from the musical, Um, I
want to talk about growing up.Stop calling you're a Jersey girl. I
am now. Did you have withher? Yeah, do not mess.
Did you have any family in theBiz or what was kind of your first
exposure to theater? No, it'sreally crazy. I have not one person
in my family that can hold anote. Um, UM, yeah,
know, I started in junior highand my in my school shows. My
sorry, I'm trying to find away because I can see everybody's just me.
Is that possible? I don't thinkso. You're only going to see
what he's shooting out there, right. Yeah, yeah, no, so
I um, yeah, I started. I had a voice teacher that just
kind of heard my voice inquired.I wanted to give me private lessons and
book my first professional show actually whenI was a sophomore, at the paper
mill playhouse, which is I loveand h yeah, it's beautiful, but
it was fifteen minutes from where Igrew up and it got her it rained
on stage, it was singing inthe rain. So that kind of still
when I was still a dancer.Um, yeah, and then I ended
up in a in a band,a pop band, over in Germany.
I was gonna say called Five.And why? And why in Germany?
How? How young were you,because this was before so it was between
the ages of like sixteen and Nineteen. We started. We made a pilot.
We it was kind of like thelike a version of the monkeys,
you know, and we were goingto do the actual pilot, which we
did. Um, we made thealbum and everything came out but it just
because kind of wasn't going anywhere.It was like right around the time that
end sync and back she plays werecoming out, Um, and which is
totally dating me. Um. So, yeah, it just kind of wasn't
going anywhere and I came home fromthat wanting to audition for more theater and
my manager had it said to me, you know, there's an audition for
Linda eddards understudy in Jacqueline Hyde,and I laughed because I first of all
it was obsessed with her. Youknow, Played Lucy in the original production.
I just I just thought there wasno way this was going to happen.
and Um, I went in audition. I booked it so that my
first professional show was Jacqelin Hyde andI was nineteen, when I was so
young. When you look back,do you wish that you had a little
bit more time to kind of matureand enjoy it, or are you glad
that you had success right the gate? I I feel both ways. I
don't regret a minute of it.Um, I do kind of I do
kind of wish I had hell alittle more training Um in you know,
and I didn't go to college.Um, but I don't regret it.
No, I'm I would never takeback that show and my my experiences.
I, you know, kind ofgrew up pretty quick, um. But
yeah, I did have some timesthough. You know, I let loose
a little bit and really was ayear old. Um. But yeah,
yeah, well, we have anumber of entertainment people that listen to the
show. So I would love toknow. Did you make any kind of
mistakes, being thrust in the spotlightliterally at such a young age that you're
like, I probably should have donethat a little bit different or I should
have yeah, I mean I thinkwe all do. We all make mistakes
at some point. Um. Youknow, I definitely moved to l a
a little too quick right after NewYork, I think. Um, so
I didn't kind of keep the ballrolling. And what did your parents think
about all of this? That's alwayswhat I wanted to family involved, right.
Yeah, my mom supported whatever Iwanted. Had A very, very
supportive family. My my father passedwhen I was young, um, but
she kind of like, you know, it's funny you asked that because she
worked at my high school. Shewas a secretary at my high school and
when, when I was about sixteen, I got offered offered crazy for you.
The national tour. I went andauditioned for susters German and I turned
it down because I just felt notready as a sophomore in high school,
not ready to go on the road. I thought I was auditioning for Broadway
and it was the tour Um.So I ended up and then our prince,
the principal of the high school,said to my mom, will you
should have let me know. Wecould have figured it out. We know
she's going to do this. Youknow, next time something comes along,
we'll set a plan, we'll we'llget her tutor. Road I got and
then I got to the band,and then the band I tutored. I
graduated with my class still but UM, junior and senior year I was pretty
much over Germany. was back andforth in Germany Lot. That has to
be such a difficult decision, numberone as a performer, but also as
a parent. You know, youhave this opportunity to tour with a show
like crazy for you, which Isaw that tour in production, by the
way. Um, you know,it's that struggle. It's like do you
let a kid be a kid ordo you just take the opportunity and and
go with it? Well, youhave also the dichotomy of the stage parent
who wants them to do that andthen a lot of times the kid doesn't
want to. Yeah, I bumpinto that a lot out here especially.
Well, yeah, it's like theyjust want to play Xbox, but mommy
wants them to be on Broadway,so you're gonna do it. No,
my mom couldn't have been more opposite. That's supported me and if I didn't
want it, I didn't have todo it, if you know. But
she believed in me and and hersupport, you know, got me through
a lot. Did you have siblings? I do. I do have a
lot of half siblings. I have. They're a bunch way the big family
a lot older. My mom wasforty one when she had me. She
just turned eighty four. She's stillstill going and still, you know,
healthy and great. Yeah, justyesterday. That's awesome. Um and so
and so literally talking about you andyour kind of experience. You know,
you were born into this literally musicalfamily. Mom was a pianist, dad
was a childist. You started dancingat age four. Can you just briefly
list the number of instruments that youhave been acquainted with? It's funny because
my parents will say I don't actuallyplay anything, not to the caliber of
a real musician, but you know, I just we had a lot of
instruments around the house. My parentsare all classical musicians and so everything was
Um. You know, when youstudied an instrument, you really studied it.
So I didn't really study anything Um, I just sort of fiddled around
and, you know, it wasjust kind of exposed to everything and obviously
I'm very into music, so Iwould just pick something up and as soon
as I could play a few tuneson that, I'd move on to the
next thing. And a lot ofit was just accompanying myself for you know,
creating some sort of music. Andthen when the whole actor musician things
started getting hot, I said Ican I have some stuff in my back
pocket. I tell you, lookingback, I wish I would have learned
piano much, much earlier. Youknow how many hundreds of dollars I would
have saved on rehearsal, pianist audition, pianists, show pianists or date.
I dated a piano player for brieftime. The only reason is because he
could play the piano. It wasfriends with benefits or something right now,
leally, how did you make thatkind of transition from musician to okay,
now we're going to add the acting. Now we're gonna go to Tish.
Now we're gonna WE'RE gonna go thisroute. I mean I was always really
um into musical theater. That wasthat was my that was my rebellion against
my parents musical theater. My fatheris also a classical musician and he would
have considered that rebellion as well exactlyreal music, you know, active music.
So they would always call me anactor because my music was rooted in
the text Um. So so II did. You know, I did
theater all growing up, middle schoolhigh school, but my parents were pretty
strict about me not doing anything professional, as they were child musicians and wanted
me to really have a life andlearn how to ride a bike and go
to the pool with my friends inthe summer. Um, and at the
time I was really upset that becauseI just wanted to do it. And
you know, I I sang alittle bit with the Philharmonic when I was
in my teens and Um and gota taste of sort of that level of
responsibility and I think that I waspretty split and and inevitably very grateful for
my childhood. Um, you know, and so so. And then when
I went to college, it wasreally that was the real beginning of my
immersion into the life I had ofmyself. I mean a I think it's
so rich to understand both sides ofmusic. So my mom was a classical
pianist as well, and so Ilearned music by looking at the notes.
And that's what you're saying, Um, and so when I would start to
go audition or meet other performers thatcould naturally harmonize or improvise, I was
like, I don't understand that atall. I need to see the actual
notes or I can't do that.Um, if I think understanding both of
those kind of cultures is so umimportant. Um, definitely. and Um,
look, I want to talk alittle you. We've talked about this
in in another interview. You talkedabout your early experience as an Asian actor,
that you either too exotic or youweren't Asian enough, and I can't
imagine what that kind of struggle waslike. Um, can you talk to
a different world today? I mean, it's exactly I took a lot of
time off to be to be amom and to not be in this industry.
Um, after a lot of alot of feeling like I didn't know
where I belonged. I I grewup very American and Um, you know,
didn't really have so much exposure toAsian heritage and culture earlier on,
and so to automatically be thrown intothis very Asian box but then constantly told
I wasn't Asian enough. It wasit was just a battle that I had
no control over and, you know, it was a struggle to have so
many other people tell me what Iwas at such a young age and not
not to really know myself well enoughto speak up for myself, and I
think that did contribute a lot tothe steps that the steps that I took
back from the industry. Um,but I feel coming back into it.
You know, a decade later,it is a completely different world and I'm
grateful that. You know, there'sbeen a huge shift and to be a
part of the shift now. Iwant to talk to everybody about that kind
of shift. Um, and colleen, you know, as the white woman,
you know, there's certain Broadway lookeda little bit differently even ten years
ago, where I was like,you know, here's the roles. Even
growing up for me as a Latinkid, I wasn't seeing Latin actors taking
the way roles. We're always eitherin the ensemble or we could do west
side story if we wanted. Thoseare like our choices. So I want,
I want all of your opinion asto you know, we are in
this kind of exciting energy of diversity. We're seeing UH MULTICULTURAL CAST, we're
seeing gender UH swapping, we're seeingall different kinds of of of different energy.
But do you think casting can becometoo woke and interfere with the intention
of the show or even interfere withthe intention of a character? Do you
want me to take that everybody's opinion? That is a really loaded question.
I will say that we only allcan speak from where we are in the
spectrum of things. So I justnoticed that I as a woman who is
over forty. It's a nightmare.That's all I can say. It's like
I read for Karen's. Now that'snot why I went to college to read
for Karen's, but you know,I think always my perspective and because my
dad was a classical musician. Heused to say, Stephanie, the worst
thing is going for low quality andtrying to make everybody happy, and the
best thing is to have an opinion, even if it doesn't make people happy.
And so I feel like I haveno qualms with any kind of crazy
casting or UN normal whatever you wantto call it. That I'm not getting
the right word, but as longas it's good, I don't care.
I don't care. I mean,do you disagree with that? Um,
I certainly have seen instances in anytype, even with the you know,
lgbt q program sometimes I'm like Hey, like, I understand the intention,
but Um, I think it canbecome that that's what the point is,
rather than the production itself. Hey, look, can we just cast and
it becomes it becomes a headline forthe media and not it is an enjoyable
performance. That is called stunt castingand it's basically a Hollywood thing that's never
going to go away, I'm afraidso. But I think now people are
afraid to comment and me like hey, maybe it wasn't the right choice just
because you don't want to get canceledand you want to appear with the Times.
Alexander, I'm canceling you right nowfor saying, girl, that's I
have to have my own show becanceled on the network. But I want
both of your opinions because I'm surethe roles that you've been offered have definitely
changed over the last even five years. I mean, I will say a
percent that there was not when Isaw the original dearv Hanson with the original
Broadway cast. I saw it Isaid, wow, okay, I get
it. I love the show.Um and I was younger, but part
of me was like, I reallyidentify as one of those moms. It's
really that's unfortunate that I'll never getto be one. Um I didn't think
it was a possibility because most familieswere being portrayed, and not only white
but um, as one racial culture. And and so to have a mixed
race person involved in a family isvery complicated because then what does that mean?
Are you implying adoption? Are youimplying all all these other things that
maybe not written there? And andso I think that for so long I
wrote it off and Um, itis definitely a I mean I'm shocked still
that I get to be part ofrepresenting a mixed race family on stage in
a show that it's not about thatright yeah, that's what's great about it.
Yeah, it's presented without comment,without pompatively. Yeah, here's this
family, that happened. I thinkas long as you don't point at it,
then it's people start to accept it. I think the Brits have been
doing that better than us on allmany different levels, on many different levels,
but they have all kinds of peoplemarried and it doesn't nobody cares.
But here it's an issue. Ifind it. For me personally, it's
you know, I'm I'm a womanwho who's not able to have a child.
I want to be a mother very, very badly, Um, and
I'm hoping someday I adopt. WhenI look at the show, they could
be adopted, they could be like, I don't think race should come into
the show. It shouldn't. Itdoesn't have to be all white. There
couldn't be mixes of people, becauseyou could have adopted a kid. And
you know what I mean and youknow I am. Yeah, and it's
Nice because it really highlights what Ithink it's so special about these women is
that you know, as a parentin any form, that you feel apparent,
whether it's biological, adopted, whetherit's that you feel like some surrogate
mother in some way to a child. The feeling of caring Um, caring
so unconditionally for a child, iswhat is really highlight highlighted in doing something
like this as well. What aboutmy kids? Adopted? Right? No,
I did not know that. Yeah, you there's no difference to me.
I don't. I forget he's adopted. I forget he does too.
It's weird. We're like, Oh, yeah, I didn't squeeze you out
in hospital, I bought you ina store. But I think it's a
point that we are having these conversationsas well. We're not just weeping you,
because I know some kids who areadopted will. They have to talk
about it and they have a kindof work through it. But I love
about the two months in Dear EvanHanson, is, you know, on
paper they're so different, but atthe end of the day they want to
be the best parents and they wantthe best for their kids above their own
needs, and that's what I loveabout these mom characters and uh, and
the strength of both of you showedon stage. It was really uh,
you know, an absolute love story, no matter the ethnicity, no matter
class, circumstance or anything, andit really was about the kids. Yeah,
UM, and we're gonna talk.We're gonna talk more about the themes
than you have an answer, becauseI have a few minor quibbles with with
some of the themes. Yeah,Lily, how many kids do you have?
Two? Okay, so she's beenthrough that whole thing. Yeah,
are they like in middle school rightnow? We have eleven year old and
an eight year old. I loveeight. Eight is a great age.
All right, that's done with themommy talk. Go on. Well,
no, and it must be adifficult decision, such as being sixteen and
deciding whether to take or tour ornot, but also saying, Hey,
there's an opportunity to take this role, I'm gonna leave my kids at this
age and I'm gonna be gone forwhat, six months, a year?
Oh my God, can you kindof work through that? What kind of
conversation you had to have with yourfamily? What kind of conversation you had
with yourself? I don't think I'mstill having a conversation with myself. My
whole day off yesterday was spent havinga crime conversation with Um. It will
never be easy. Um, itwas not an easy decision. It remains
not an easy decision. I thinkpre pandemic, I probably would never have
entertained the thought of taking a tour. Um, the theater world has changed
the Vastlet, especially what's happening inNew York right now, what's available,
and spending such a long time outof work. Um, it did change
the dialogue and the thought process forme. Um, I also think that
the material comes into play. Whatof my leaving home to do and what
kind of story my telling exactly?Is a part of it. You know,
it's actually my first time being amother on stage. That's cool.
So that is like the whole otherthing too, of having to I can't
even just pack it up into abox and put it away. I have
to unpack it every day. Arethey able to come visit you? They're
coming tomorrow. Wow. Have theyseen the show yet? No. So
it's been one of my daughters likefavorite albums forever. She sang the songs
for her recitals at school. Imean I'm a voice teacher at home too.
I teach the songs to my students. I do different, you know,
versions of them with my students andmy kids and Um, so they're
really excited that they finally get tosee it. I always said when you're
a little older, I mean thethemes are very heavy and as a parent
you have to decide like Oh what, am I ready? What kind of
questions am I ready to answer withthat? Um, okay, before we
start chatting all about dear Evan Hanson, um calling, I want to know
your experience touring. Is is notunusual for you, you've heard, with
some of the biggest shows. Um, also kind of taking a role that
has been established. I want toknow your creative process as an actor making
a roll your own but still payinghomage to the character and for the original
direction. But it's like, okay, I'm I'm now. Can you first
tell our audience about having to takeover the role of wicked as alphabet during
the show? Yes, I wasa stand by at this point for two
weeks and it was kind of reachthat mark where you're like, all right,
I gotta start bringing some magazines in, you know, because I'm not
in the show. I was standingby for Alphaba. So it was the
it was the exact day that Iwas brought magazines and I brought, you
know, I was kind of donewatching for a little bit you know.
And I was downstairs in the basementand I had my headphones in and I
just happened to take them out tohear some of wizard deny and she could
get through it and I was like, Oh God. I ran up to
the stage stage left and the PSM. He's like, so she'll give a
sign. I said, wait,she sh'll call out mid show. I
didn't know this is option. SoI guess she gives like a little sign
to stage left and and and shedid. So they had in I think
in like a couple of minutes,they had seven people around me putting on
it. I had never been onyet. My first time. And there's
one part in act one where there'sa little tiny because Elpha was Alpha was
like an Evan Right. She's onstage pretty much the all time, except
this one section in the Oz duskballroom. So so Victoria Mattlock, who
was playing Alphaba, had to getget her mike taken out as I was
in the costume getting putting the MICin my Um my, my costume was
she it was madness. And butyou didn't have time to like to worry
about it, right, you justgotta do it. Or was it just
something weird that happened. Her voicejust went I think. I think she
thought she was going to be ableto. She just couldn't get through the
end of and then she's got howmany more songs to say after that?
And those wicked fans know every singlenote too. It's not very crazy fans.
Yeah, I just knew. Yeah, that was that was completely crazy.
Yeah, you know, it's interestingbecause I've been with the show since
two thousand eighteen, Um, andI've understudied both. Well, I've undersided
both MOMS. I went on forboth MOMS, but there are two different
hid ease that, um, Iunderstudied, and it's it's very you always
want to make it your own,but you also need to do kind of
what they're doing, Um, whilemaking it your own. But so I
think I did keep a lot ofit's really, really hard to get it
out of your body, like certainUm ways that you hold your body,
Um, just inflections on your voicethat you you get from somebody up from
watching and tracking them and learning.It's it's really really it was really it's
really hard to kind of step outof that and and make it your own,
which I think now that I'm doingit. Eight shows a week.
Um, I'm I'm I'm trying.I'm trying to get that out of my
system and I'm just kind of makingit my own, which I know Michael
Um and stacy have both asked whatwanted me to do. Is just kind
of like let this live. It'sbut it is hard to go from having
one way of doing it because you'veunderstudied, to now playing it and trying
to you know. Yeah, Ithink people also don't understand eight shows a
week. It becomes like such achallenge, but then it becomes a joy.
You know, I toured for ayear and a half and it got
to the point where all the littlenitpicky things you don't even think about.
You're just there and it's anything comesout of you and it's kind of brilliant.
You know, in in Equity WaiverTheater in Los Angeles, which is
what I mostly can do these days, we have four shows a week,
three sometimes you just don't get intothe groove, but eight shows a week
is transcendent and I'm sure that you'regoing to find all the little bits of
you coming out in this role themore you do it, and the other
stuff will melt away, unless it'sgood, then you should steal it,
because always steal things. But butit is funny, you know, playing
the role eight shows a week ratherthan stepping in for somebody for a few
performances or one performance, is thenyour life starts to align with this kind
of performance. So for the bothof you being and this kind of heavy.
So let's just start talking about dearhaving anselm Um, the both of
you having to align your lives tothese characters. Um, we know dear
Evan Henson is a very, veryheavy piece. So I want to know
how you approach the characters of theMOMS Um, and how you kind of
have to add some lightness or joyto the characters who pretty much don't have
any joy on stage, by theway, because you can't play it one
note. And you also have tobe Um, afraid of taking that energy
home with you or all of asudden you're in this you know, year
long depression from city to city.Yeah, so how did you kind of
work through the heaviness of the piece? How do you work through eight shows
of that emotional breakdown? Yeah,Um, it is a journey, that's
for sure. Um, you know, it's it's it's just prepping yourself and
and you know what I'd really triedto do to not bring it home with
me is I really try to likewatch funny shows or like spend time with
the cast or because you can getinto a place very easily if you let
yourself where it's, it just itstays with you and you have to have
that that outlet of of joy andfun. And you know, Lily and
I will get together and have drinksand our inter dressing room afterwards. That
it's really nice. It's fun.Um. But yeah, you know,
Um, it's, it's, it'sit's just, Um, it's just it's
a tough it's a tough show andI, you know, I don't don't
really know how to answer this question, to be honest. I just I
just Um, you know, armup every show. Um, we we
do the thing right before the showwhere we, you know, I'll come
together and we take three big breathsand just go into the journey together.
Um. But it's it's definitely challengingand there are days, there are times
that I can't fully work up thewater works the way you know, because
so big so small for me.I struggle with the hard part for me,
as I found out Sunday night.I called out Sunday night for my
first time because my voice was justso tired. And I think a lot
of this scene work Um. There'sa there's a lot of fighting between,
you know, everyone her and Ihave to find a balance that, because
I don't think it's my singing voicethat's been going, it's it's my speaking
and I think it's all from thehigh pitched yelling and the and the Um.
So that's a balance that I haveto try to find. What I'm
gonna Start doing this week is reallyUm. Yeah, but as an actor
that must be difficult because you wantto be in the moment and sometimes those
mad chickle moments happen where you arein that moment and if you're fighting with
somebody, you're fighting and I tellyou, having a single mom. Uh,
all my life, the fights wereexact conversations and fights I've had with
my own mom and it all comesfrom a place of love. But it
stirred up so much that I feltin the moment there and I can't imagine
going through that. Uh. Yeah, I use, I actually use my
mom in in the in some ofthe arguments, because I remember when she
would yell, it would it wouldscare them and it would the fights we
would have would be at a frustrationof you know, she was exhausted from
working three different jobs. He wasexhausted from, you know, putting up
with like the single mom and feelingkind of out of it, but then
wanting them to be together. isalso what they're fighting about too. Um
and, and the role of Heidi, you're kind of alone on stage for
a lot of the show. Youknow, your scenes are pretty much with
Evan and then, of course,we know the first family scene is so
awkward. Um but it's kind isn'tit? But it's kind of like you're
kind of alone on stage on thisisolated journey as well, which also must
be tough as well. You know, you have your scenes with with Evan
Hansen's character, but other than thatit's it's up to your girl. She's
just that single mom trying to figureher way out, you know, figure
it, figure it out to youknow, her job and then classes at
night. So she's just trying herbest. You did an interview where you
did talk about a certain part ofthe song that you were actually having problems
with vocally for like the first coupleof years. Um, can you talk
about that? And and literally,as a vocal teacher, I would love
you know you're kind of feedback onthis, but you really worked at it
from the craft point, from theactual nuts and bolts of this performance,
which I love hearing about. Yeah, I am. I for a while
couldn't find. There's a there's asection of so big, so small where
she, you know, goes,she hits. I think it's an E.
I think I'm not good with notes. I'm just all about the year.
Um, uh, and it's Uhand I'd come up short a million
different ways and I couldn't find.Basically, I've been working with my voice
teacher because I think since wicked,I after well after wicked, when I
did legally blonde and I kind oflost my mix. My mixed voice right
so the belt mix, so Iwould be belting it and it would blow
my voice out and Um, Ijust recently kind of found it again and,
you know, working with Matt Farnsworth, it was an amazing vocal coach.
He kind of saved my voice andnow I've just found the right placement
for me to be able to doit. You know that many shows a
week and sometimes you have to breakit down from from that point of view.
You know, and especially if you'replaying in Alphabe, you know you
can't go full out every performance becauseyou will not have a voice, and
that's just do it. But it'shard, you know, when you have
the audience expecting that moment Um.You know you just have to sing it
like put it in the right rightno, as Alphaba, you know I
was definitely mixed it, mixed belting, or I could have never done it.
Um, yeah, but and there'sways to mix and still sound really
powerful. Literally. I want toknow about your warm up, also dealing
with this heaviness, but also approachingit with the kind of you kind of
feel alone on the road, withoutyour family that you haven't been separated for
but it's like, are you preparingas the actor, are you preparing as
the character? You still have thatenergy as lily the person. So how
do you kind of work through thatheaviness and what's your warm up kind of
like, yeah, I think that, Um, there's a lot of stillness
in the beginning when I first goton the road and I didn't really know
anybody. Um, it was alot worse because I would go home after
the show and I would just sitby myself and like wallow in the depression
of the character. Um, Ithink that what Colin was saying that the
more we can all laugh together.I actually I know that that scene Heydiet
the Murphy's is so awkward, butit's so it's so wonderful to finally see
colleague on stage, you know,because because we we love to hang out
back see and whatnot before and afterthe show, but during the show we
don't. We really don't see eachother until that moment. Um. You
know, it is it's gotten alot better as we've developed these relationships with
each other off stage. Um,there's a certain amount of support that that,
I think, helps you feel Um, you know, not as vulnerable
in those moments and and so thereforeyou don't have to take them home so
heavily at the end of the night. Um, and you know, just
sort of like with with Cynthia theseshe's going through these stages of grief,
and grief isn't always, you know, the heaviest sadness, and that's sort
of what I try to incorporate into, you know, my version of this
woman is is when you have whenyou've lost a loved one and you're you
miss them and you go back andyou work on all the things that went
wrong, but then you are overwhelmedby an amazing memory and then, and
I think that's really sort of whatI try to latch onto with her.
Is that why she latches Onto Evan? Is that he's providing her that levity
in in her journey? Do youthink she finds hope there? That's where
she's exactly. Yeah, and Ithink that, you know, working on
my my relationships with the Evans andreally, as I'm getting to know them,
getting on that stage and hearing themand believing them and and and wanting
to care for them. You know, I mean now we all we all
know each other, we all carefor each other as as actors, as
human beings and and so that's definitelynot lost on me and not lost in
the integration through the character Um.So let's get to some some some of
the nitty gritty of the role ofCynthia. You know, the perfect family,
you know, of a certain class. From the outside it looks amazing.
Growing up in Orange County, like, I know exactly what that looks
like, but then we see thatthere's so many problems, Um, that
Cynthia has with connecting including her husband. Um. It's that idea we don't
really know what's going on behind closeddoors. Money doesn't solve all problems.
Um. With the current shootings thatare happening all over the US, especially
are the youth shootings, the schoolshootings, also the youth committing suicide,
especially in the lgbtq community, whichit's increasing at such a high rate,
there's always that question, where arethe parents? Um? Is that the
parents fault? Should Cynthia have donemore for Connor is it fair to put
any blame on her? It's sucha loaded question. Um. I feel
this a lot. Um. Youknow, I live in Westchester in a
very nice neighborhood. Um, mykids go to private school. I'm I'm
friends with lots of people who havethe appearance on the outs, but not
me. I mean I'm divorced,but a lot of people have on the
appearance on the outside that I havethe perfect family, I have everything that
I would need to create make ahappy life and and it really is true.
You know, money is a facadeand it is a nice blanket or
all of the problems that everybody has. Um. I do think that what
I what I connect with most withCynthia is this generation generational divide Um between
the exposure. When when I wasa kid and when my parents were parenting
me, it was a little moresimilar to maybe their own experience. It's
like go outside and play, gofind a friend and do something right,
or bikes around the neighborhood. Yousay, I know this neighborhood, I
know my neighbors, I know thepeople that they're going to encounter. It's
just a different world now. Thethe exposure. Um, you can't control
what your kids are exposed to iton any kind of similar level as to
when I grew up, and Ithink that's a huge fear of mine and
parenting and trying to not be overbearingbut trying to be as um aware of
everything I need to be to keepthem safe. What the stakes are so
much higher now and and you knowwith technology and the Internet and you know,
there's there's only so much you cando and what they're going to be
exposed to, even if it's notwhat you're allowing them to do, but
what their friends have done and seenand watched and they communicate to them,
or what what's left up at acomputer at school. You know, there
are so many factors here that werenever even thoughts in my parents heads when
they were raising me. It's sucha scary time, especially with, you
know, certain factions so angry towardseach other. You know, it's you're
afraid to go to school, you'reafraid to go to a pride event,
you're afraid to be honest with whoyou are with your friends. It's such
a scary, scary time. Butthen you're also afraid to be honest with
your parents because you're trying to growup on your own become your own person.
It's like it's it's such a scarytime and there is no guide book,
there is no right or wrong.And when, like when the situation
like suicide happens, you know therecould be nobody to blame, there could
be everybody to blame. Um.It's such an awful, awful tragedy that
I can imagine having to go throughUm, either as a single mom or
with the full family or everything.Everybody just seems so disconnected Um, and
that's where I found most of thesadness, was that everybody was like isolated,
even, you know, even inthe same even that trying their best,
even see. You know, youcan see, Larry, you can
see something, you can see,Heidi. Everybody's trying and everyone's failing in
some way because there is no thereis no rule, like you said,
no rule book to follow that saysthis will yield a positive result. And
that's what I also I love thinkingabout that when we sing map, which
is the first song. I mean, there were never truer words. There
is no map, nobody can tellyou what to do to be a better
parent, and you know, everybody'sjust trying to do something good. And
there are many moments in this,within this piece, where both mothers are
trying their best in making decisions thatfail. The people who depended depend on
that. And so here's my experiencewith watching the character of how D I
felt my my self defense was realhigh at the beginning of the show because
I felt that her character was beingvilified for being gone all the time.
And having been in that household,I know the necessary to put food on
the table, to provide for yourkid. Sometimes you have to be gone
working three jobs. That's all mymom did, but for the moments we
were together there was this absolute joy, sense of humor. I never felt
so isolated the way that that EvanHanson did. But for you calling working
through this character. I mean she'skind of painted to be, you know,
a bad parent, and it's likeshe's doing every, literally everything that
she possibly could. She literally is. You know, it's like it's like,
you know, what else can shedo? But you know her husband
left her to go have another familywith another you know, they have new
kids. So it's like this isand it is. It is. It
is frustrating to think that, youknow, the the audience sees her as
doing bad, but she's really doinggood. But it's you know, what
else? What other choice does shehave? Right really, you know,
Um, it's you know, whenyou're doing that many things, that's why
you forget, you we were supposedto do tacos tonight. Oh, you
know, because she's all over theplace, because she's just trying her best.
You know, that one hit almostlike they forgot Taco night. I
mean because it's so it's it symbolizesso many other things and I remember going
through high school and being bullied.The only safe place I had was my
time with my mom and we wouldwatch soap operas, by the way.
That's how convoluted they used to be. But that was like the only special
time that we add which was soimportant because it fueled me and gave me
the confidence to go back to school. I want to know from both of
you what do you think the messageof Dear Evan Hanson is? I believe
it's all about connection and having outletsto talk to people and Um you know,
uh, that they're there, thatthere's yeah, connection is the big
the big one for me. Um, you know, being able to converse
and open up and not be scaredto Um. You know, holding stuff
in is a very scary thing andI mean it's what leads a lot of
people to suicide or hurting themselves orUm. But uh, there and we
are in our in our website hasa bunch of Um self help, Um
websites you can go to and wecan go to on our on our on
our website. Yeah, I meanto pay it back off of that completely
and what you were saying before aboutfear being so much a part of this
culture right now. Um, Ithink that the main message and it's,
you know, it's in the endof act one song. But it's it's
that you are not alone and whateveryour thoughts are that you may feel,
oh, nobody else feels like thisor someone will judge me for thinking or
feeling this way, whatever that feelingis, there is somebody who has felt
it, has felt it too,and so to be able to communicate,
and you know, you see whathappens and what Evan gets wrapped up and
into by not being able to communicate, you know, and and by his
he's crippled by his fears. SoI I do hope that everybody who's walking
away from the show, and alot of kids want to come see the
show and their parents bring them.And so I am very aware that for
every kid or tween or a teenin the in the house, there's usually
an accompanying parent there and it's sortof like these two perspectives at the same
time and I think colleen and Ium, you know, I take that
responsibility. You know, I don'ttake that lightly of also being able to
show the parents in the audience thatwhatever you feel like you're failing at.
Every mother at some point is feelingthat as well. And on top of
that, you know I think that'sthe beauty of our show. Is there
everyone that's in the audience can probablyconnect to one of the characters on stage
because there first of all, they'rewritten brilliantly, the characters of the sometimes
I find myself saying lines from theshow and I'm not not meaning to,
because everything is just written so welland Um, the storylines from like,
you know, obviously struggling teens toparents, agrieving, Um and single parents
trying to make it. There's there'salways someone that you can connect to in
the show. Um, well,it's funny. It's like, is there
a hero of the show? Imean it's not Evan who's the hero of
the show. Is Is there one? I do think that everybody. It's
showing the same issue in every typeof person. That's what's so amazing about
this show. It's showing a Um, it's showing guilt, it's showing anxiety,
it's showing frustration or a lack ofdirection, self doubt. It's showing
all of those different feelings that everybodyhas, no matter how old you are,
what you're relationship status is, whatyour job is, that they can
be universal. How has playing thisrole changed you? The most in your
personal life. Well, I justhave a I'm just completely aware to all
the guilt that I have not beingaround my kids. So, Um,
I think that listening has my listening, I think, has gotten better.
I try to be more open andnot as reactionary and to try to to
listen better in my daily life.Yeah, how has it changed me?
You know, Um, I Ithink that I'm you know, I always
considered myself in this business more ofa singer, Um, and being able
to play a role with such heavyacting, um it, it took a
long time for me to get tidyin my system and really feel connected to
it. Um, you know,since I'm starting an understudy, but it
I just feel like it's challenged mea lot as an actress and not just
a singer. That's, you know, mainly singing and, you know,
other shows. But this is likea heavy it's like a play, with
a really heavy play with the reallygreat music. Um. But so,
but, yeah, I mean again, I'm on what we talked about earlier.
I really try to get out ofit, though, the sadness of
it, because I do have Ido connect, even though I'm not a
mother, at least of yet.Um, everything I went through. I
went through a lot of stuff.Last year I actually recovered from breast cancer,
Um, and it's taken away anykindability for me to have a child.
So I'm I'm using some of thatin the show, um, but
again trying to, you know,keep it light when I come off the
stage as much as I possibly can. Well, congratulations on on on getting
through that. Thank you, Um, sending all all my wishes. I
mean, I have to tell youthe performance on Sunday was very emotional.
Um. In some ways it's likeGod damn, but it also, like
you said, it's like there's hopeat the end and it's like, you
know, I think to me it'sthe show is also about. There is
no good or bad. People arecomplex and that's that. You can't put
a person in a box as badmom. You just can't, and I
think that's why it's a good show. And sometimes we're the hero sometimes we're
the assholes. Sometimes, you know, we want fame at the cost of
everything. You know, sometimes wepost stuff we shouldn't post, sometimes we
say comments that we shouldn't Um.So yeah, uh, ladies, thank
you. Thank you so much.I know you have to run and and
do a show. But what anabsolute, absolute joy to chat with you,
especially, like I said, havingseen it. Um, it's at
the almonds until the end of Julyand then it's going to be touring all
over the place. Um, sodefinitely get your tickets and see these fabulous
ladies in a fabulous production. Um, can you tell our audience where you
want them to find and follow?Yeah, sure, I'm call sex.
Next, my last name sex,CE L S C X U Seventy Nine
on Instagram and I am at theLily Thomas on instagram. Now, Lily,
are you? Are You doing onlinevocal coaching during this whole process?
Um, I have a bunch ofstudents who are waiting for me to feel
like I've settled into the part enoughto integrate that back in. What I've
noticed on these double show days,and this is all very new for me.
I didn't, you know, Iwasn't a part of this company before.
I didn't really know the piece allthat while, aside from seeing it
originally. and Um, I'm stilltrying to balance what do I have to
do in my day to be asvulnerable, Um, and and broken down
on stage and and then to beokay with it. So Um I think
as soon as I start to finda good rhythm I'll start integrating my my
students back into my schedule. excited. Thank you, thank you, thank
you. I love chatting with youso much. I love the behind the
scenes and I love the approach.You know, we just didn't get your
info about snacks, though. Showsnacks. What show snacks do you like?
Rapid Fire Show snacks? Go lays, potato chips, baby, I
love potato chips well, and I'mhorrible, horrible singer. I don't have
to really sing so much in theshow again, like I was a singer
musician for a long time and thisis a really amazing opportunity to dive into
this very book heavy part. SoI definitely have cheese in my refrigerators,
which I love these ladies with theircheese and their chips. Now I'm trying
to have a bar in my dressingroom too. Yeah, I love,
Love, love that in my mindnow, like if I come back and
see the show, I'm just gonnaImagine you guys are like whooping it up
with wine and cheese until we cometo that scene in the living room.
Thank you. Thank you so muchfor spending your time with us. Have
a great show, have a greatrun. And, Stephanie, where can
people find me? Oh, ontwitter, I'm at urbaness E R B
M S S, and Instagram I'mStephanie Underscore, herb underscore official. Somebody
kicked for me and now I hateit, but I believe it. I
do have to say I thought Ihad heard one of the questions that you
were going to ask was about ourTV shows that we like. Yes,
and I have to say Ray Donovanis one of them. I had so
much fun on that show, oneof the best shows on TV ever.
I loved working with Leev. He'sreally good. We didn't even get to
talk about the emmy nominations. ParkerPosey, where are you, anyway?
That's a whole other show. Anyway, ladies, thank you. Have a
great, great show. That's anotherepisode of on the rocks. You never
know what we're gonna talk about.Special thanks to our guest, my guest
co host, our engineer Tony Sweet, our Social Media Clip editor, Alex.
it's Mendez, researcher, Mama Rose, the crew over at Davidson and
troy publicity, especially Peter and Victoria. Thank you. Please like share,
subscribe so we can continue bringing thisprogramming your way. Coming up, we
have pop star and choreographer for EminemNicki Minaj. Bobby Newberry is here.
We also have Rupaul's drag race,Bob the drag queen and Mona Exchange together.
We also have cast members from LynnManuel's Tony Award winning show Freestyle Love
Supreme. They're coming on. They'regonna do some Improv hip hop fuel.
Yeah. So until next time,stay happy, stay healthy, stay sexy
more importantly, stay tipsy. Thishas been another episode of on the rocks.
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next week, stay fabulous.