Tony and Emmy Award Winner Andrea Martin is back in Toronto this week, lending her unique blend of comedy and vocal talent to the eight girls vying to become Dorothy in Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Wizard of Oz.
Ms. Martin is no stranger to Canadian audiences, her career got its start here with the original Canadian company of Godspell, and then she went on to star for many years on SCTV where she created memorable characters such as Edith Prickley and Dr. Cheryl Kinsey. Ms. Martin took some time today to talk with BWW about how you can't teach humour, how improv is good for self-confidence and how she's going to be the new cool granny on Broadway:
Welcome back to Toronto! You've been with the would-be Dorothys today mentoring them for this Sunday's show. Are you teaching them your unique brand of humour? What's it been like?
It's been great so far. The girls were open and enthusiastic, sweet and talented and really raring to go. They're true open vessels.
As for teaching humour, I don’t think you can give a comedy tip because as soon as you tell someone to be funny they can’t. I told them to invest in the moment, get behind it, make a choice and go for that. And if it’s meant to be funny it will be, but if you try to be it’s not.
We've been hearing a lot from the judges about how you have to act the role of Dorothy, you can’t just sing the role. Is this something you saw in the girls?
Well Judy Garland had it all, she was so versatile and so naturally eccentric that she was funny and heartbreaking in her own way. As for the girls, I mentored them in a group so it was challenging to see specifically what their acting was like because they were singing a group song. I don’t think it would be fair to judge that, instead my goal here was to free them up to find their own truth and project that so that they weren’t doing what somebody else thought the role should be.
These girls are very young, many of them are still in high school - and high school can be a rough place for theatre geeks. Do you think that a show like this and theatre in general can help girls embrace their unique qualities and build self-confidence?
Absolutely. Theatre is a fabulous place to build self-confidence as is improv. The reason that improv is so great is that you don’t have a chance to second guess anything - you have to be immediately in the moment. So if you have security or anxiety it alleviates that because anything a fellow castmate says you have to respond to on the spot. There’s no time to ruminate.
When I was a young girl I started in the theatre and I certainly didn’t think I fit in. I found a community of like-minded people all on The Edge of popularity and we became an immediate family. And I think that’s what theatre can bring these girls (or any person). It can bring them a community of like-minded people. We celebrate individuality. Especially this week because they’re learning character driven music from Annie Get Your Gun.
If you could play any one part in a Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, what would you want to play?
I’m going to fantasize about what part I would have liked to play, because seeing Betty Buckley sing Memories was one of the most ranscendent moments I've ever had in an audience. Whenever Seth (Rudetsky) plays that song, chills go through my body and I’m taken back to that moment when I saw her on stage. I could never play that cat, but to be able to go back in time and see it again and experience those feelings would be incredible.
What's next for you? Anything bringing you back to Broadway?
Yes! I'm doing the revivial of Pippin directed by Diane Paulus who just did the revival of Porgy and Bess. And she’s incorporating circus and Bob Fosse dancing into it, and using a company from Montreal called Les 7 Doigts de la Main. They’re incorporating acrobatics and circus skills with Fosse dancing and I’m learning how to adapt to the circus. I’m learning a skill! I don’t know which one yet but we’re trying a few. I’ve tried the trapeze, the silks, the hammock which Pink used so successfully on the Grammys. What I really want to learn is a skill from the old circus where you hang from the ceiling and twirl. I would love to do that.