It is Monday, December 14, four days before 14 year old Christy Carlson Romano opens at Lincoln Center in the role of Mary Phagan in the new musical, Parade. Written by composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown and librettist Alfred Uhry, the show is directed by Harold Prince, for whom Christy had auditioned a number of years before for Whistle Down the Wind. She was too young for that part and too small. Yet, as I converse on the phone with this clearly-spoken resident of Milford, Connecticut, who claims she is "excited," "loves the 35 member cast," "is having a wonderful experience," and "will always look back on Parade as a springboard to many other things in her life," she seems undaunted by the fact that she is opening on Broadway.
The poise and confidence she exudes are qualities one would attribute to a much more experienced and much older actress. That is probably due to the fact that she knew she wanted to act from age four. The youngest of four, she followed in her sisters' dancing steps, taking lessons in West Haven. There she also enjoyed singing, and was encouraged by her mother, who recognized her natural talent.
"At six years old, I was in a dance competition. I was 4'2" tall, and performed 'The Jazz Hot.' from Victor/Victoria, dressed in a platinum-spangled costume. We were approached by a manager, and we decided to try show-business for a year to see if we liked it."
The results are rather amazing. She has appeared in eight films. They include Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You," and featured roles in "Goosed" and "Looking For an Echo," directed by Marty Davidson. She has been seen on six television shows, even performing in a Barbara Streisand Skit on the Rosie O'Donnell Show. In her first stage experience at the age of six, she played "Molly" in Annie at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.
Despite the fact that the space held over 3,000 people, Christy was not apprehensive. "I do get slightly nervous, but I feel that's a positive, and it actually reassures me. It makes me feel that what I'm doing is right." Among her stage credits: She toured in the first National Tour of The Will Rogers Follies directed by Tommy Tune and the National Tour of The Sound of Music, directed by James Hammerstein. She played the lead as "Tina Denmark," in Ruthless at the Strand Theater and the lead as "Zoe" in Just One World for Musical Theater Works. She was a soloist in Broadway Kids Sing Broadway at the Houseman Theatre and sang "Nothing Like a Dame," for the Actors' Fund at the Shubert Theatre.
More credits? She was "Mary" in Night of the Hunter, directed by Lonnie Price, and in reading through her bio, I realized I had seen her in the role of "Pippa," in a stylish production of Spider Web at the Westport Country Playhouse in July 1997, which went on for a summer tour to the Cape Playhouse and Ogunquit Playhouse.
"The hardest part of touring was leaving the family, who have all been tremendously supportive" Christy says. "My father became 'Mr. Mom,' but we also had a nanny."
Christy has combined rehearsing for this new show and taking two singing lessons a week from Paul Elkin in New Haven with her studies as a freshman at St. Joseph's High School in Trumbull, where she is an A student. (Among the many schools in which she has studied: 1994-1997 School of American Ballet in NYC.)
"During our two months of rehearsals, I was tutored, but now I'm back in school. Working on a film, I rely on my own instincts. If I need help, I can go for outside advice. But in Parade, Hal (Harold Prince) has given me a lot of direction. You know I die in this show, so I'm not included in the ensemble numbers. But I have two beautiful solos: 'The Picture Show,' and 'The Trial Song.'"
According to Christy, Previews have been going well, but changes have been made, which can be difficult, particularly because they combine long hours of rehearsal and performance. "Often," Christy explains, "we must rehearse from 10 to 5, take a break until 6:30 and then return to perform the show."
That her part in a flashback in the second act has been changed three times does not bother her. "I have a photographic memory and practice in my dressing room."
Christy is already planning for her future. Having performed in four opera productions, as a soloist with the Kansas City Orchestra in Kansas, as soloist in Dr. Seuss Children's Opera as "Gertrude McFuzz," in Jordan Hall in Boston, as the lead as "Princess Lenore," in "Many Moons," with the New Jersey State Opera, and soloist in the Ravinia Music Festival in Chicago, she hopes to study Opera at Juilliard.
Is there anything this girl can't do? I am amused when reading the "Special Skills" on her resume. She lists -- along with Jazz Dancing, Tap, Ballet, Lyric, Singing, Swimming, Gymnastics, Bike Riding, Tennis, Basketball, Softball, Soccer, Ice Skating, Rollerblading and Monologues -- Interviewer-Host. She tells me she has a talent for talking and was once a host for a USA TV special at a Thanksgiving Turkey Celebration in Litchfield.
No doubt New Yorkers will soon be giving thanks for the Broadway debut of this talented actress, Christy Carlson Romano.