Call Me Adam chats with award winning actress Catherine LeFrere about starring as "Dorothy Brock" in Gateway Playhouse's (215 South Country Road, Bellport, NY 11713) production of the Tony Award winning musical 42nd Street which runs through June 8. Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I don't know that I can pinpoint a specific person or moment but my earliest memories I have are of myself watching the VHS tape of Meet Me in St. Louis starring Judy Garland. I had a costume that looked just like the tennis outfit Judy wears to sing, "The Boy Next Door" and I would wear the outfit and sing along to the movie over and over and over. I can't remember a time after that when I didn't know I was going to be an actor. So yeah, let's go with Judy Garland. She's a good one. :)
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Oh god that list is so long! So many talented people in this business whose work I admire. However, there are a few really talented hot female playwrights I'd really love to get the opportunity to tackle. Sarah Ruhl, Leslye Headland, and Annie Baker write really gutsy and interesting relationships and I would just relish the opportunity to work on and/or help develop a play by one of these fierce ladies.
3. What made you want to audition for Gateway Playhouse's production of 42nd Street? Haha, pretty simple…I got an appointment from my manager saying, "Please book this and I will come see you in it." I laughed and told him I thought I was too young for the role but it turns out to be the perfect fit. I love this musical and this role so much. I could do this show for years and not get bored. Also, the opportunity to work with Randy Skinner was a huge draw…he's a legend and knows this show inside and out. I've learned so much in the short time I've gotten to work with him. Oh and my manager has already come to see me in it!
4. What do you identify most with about "Dorothy Brock"? Someone came up to me at the opening night party and said to me, "this is the first time I haven't HATED 'Dorothy'!" I won't give anything away but she's definitely a character that can rub the audience the wrong way and some would even say she is "the villain of 42nd Street."
I don't like to approach a character by starting out thinking she's a nasty bitch. Instead I like to think, "okay why does she behave in this way that seems off-putting to everyone around her?" You have to make her human and justify (for yourself) why she is doing the things she is doing so that the audience doesn't immediately write her off. For me, "Dorothy" is sometimes not so nice because she's unhappy due to something she's not getting from her romantic life. I'm not saying that this excuses her actions, but I think we can all relate to not behaving in the best possible way when we are unhappy in our personal lives. Even though she's a star, she's vulnerable and insecure and during the first half of the show, not very happy.
It's most fun to get to play a "villain" when that character has the opportunity to redeem herself and end up in a different place from where she started. I love that I get to do that every night with "Dorothy."
5. What makes the Gateway Playhouse a great place to perform? I'm having so much fun! Such a great group of people who genuinely want to bring quality Broadway theater to this community here in Bellport. They're really good to their actors and I'm just so grateful for the opportunity to share the stage with such talented folks! Sometimes it's also really nice to be out of the city for a few weeks! It's like camp, we have bonfires after the show some nights.
6. Why is this performance dedicated to your grandmother? How has she influenced you? My grandmother passed a year ago and she would've loved to have seen me in this. She didn't get to see me do too much in her final years and she lived during this time period and seeing me sing these songs would've just made her so happy. She was the only other artist in my family and always encouraged me to follow my dreams. I recently moved and finally had the space to hang some of the paintings she painted many years ago. The day I hung them, I got the call that I booked this show. So in a way, I feel like she's with me.
7. What do you enjoy most about performing with this cast? They're such fierce dancers!! Everyone is really generous and has been since the first day of rehearsal. The tap dancing is really the star of this show and so we all feel like an equal ensemble. We also had a very limited rehearsal and tech process and last week I believe we performed this show 11 times. You bond with the group of people that you get that tired and stressed with!
8. What do you get from your theatrical shows that you don't get from your television/film work? There is nothing like having a live audience. I really think that relationship between performer and audience is my favorite part of the job. I love getting a feel every night for the energy of the house…are they gonna laugh after I say that punch line? Okay maybe not tonight, and you have less than a second to move on or the comedic timing dies! You have to be totally present and there really is nothing better than hearing laughter or applause!!
Usually on a film or TV set everyone is quiet and it can be hard if you love to feed off the audience reaction--which I do! However there are many lovely elements of film/TV…like getting a second or third try if you feel like you didn't get it right. In the theater, you only get one shot!!
9. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? I've learned that I'm far more shy in real life than I am onstage! I think lots of actors will say that's why we become actors…we love attention but we're way more comfortable being someone else. I think public speaking as Catherine LeFrere is really scary but I'll say anything you want me to say as "Dorothy" in front of hundreds of people! I just really feel my most comfortable up there on that stage bringing joy to people--as cheesy as that sounds! I also try to take good care of myself because it's really hard to be in a show when you are not feeling 100 percent. So sometimes I can't go to loud bars or stay out late, but it sort of comes with the territory. If I get hurt or sick, I can't work!
I think starting out in the business I was trying to make myself more like everyone else and it took me a while but I finally came to realize that what makes me unique is my calling card and that is what is going to make me stand out from all the other girls. There are SO many talented people in this business. Sometimes being different is a GOOD thing. The best thing I can do is walk into a room and be like, "okay, this is what I've got! Hopefully you'll like it, but if not, there'll be someone else who will." I can't always convince myself of this, but usually when I do, something good comes of it.
11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? To go back in time and meet some of the greats! I'd love to meet Shakespeare and Bob Fosse. I'm such a theater nerd! I'd imagine it would be like the scene in Woody Allen's After Midnight when Owen Wilson goes into a bar and meets all those iconic writers...except in my case it would be the iconic theater greats.
12. Favorite skin care product? I have so many! But one thing I can't live without is my primer. It's amazing! Hourglass makes it and it's called "mineral veil." I wear it under my foundation on stage and it keeps all that cake-y stage makeup from clogging up my skin. Sometimes I wear it by itself and it makes your skin look like porcelain!!
Most recently seen in the world premiere of Admit One at NJ Rep and Unlock’d at The Duke on 42nd. Film: The upcoming feature Maybe There’s a Tree. TV: Running Wilde (FOX). NY Theater (selected): The Empress of Sex, Once Upon a Time in New Jersey, The Judy Holliday Story, The Green Knight (Planet Connections Award, Best Featured Actress). Regional (selected): For Worse (NY Stage and Film Festival), As You Like It and The Boys From Syracuse (Shakespeare Theatre of DC), and NOIR (Broadway World Nomination, Best Actress). Graduate of Northwestern University and The School at Steppenwolf. For my grandmother.