CUE & A: On the Town Star Alysha Umphress on Streisand, Memorable Auditions and the Worst Show Experience Ever

News   CUE & A: On the Town Star Alysha Umphress on Streisand, Memorable Auditions and the Worst Show Experience Ever Alysha Umphress, who stars as amorous cab driver Hildy in new Broadway revival of On the Town, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.
Alysha Umphress
Alysha Umphress

Umphress has appeared on Broadway in American Idiot (OBC), On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

Off-Broadway and regional work includes Make Me a Song: The Music of William Finn, Beaches and On the Town.

She can be heard on the American Idiot and Bring It On cast albums.

Full given name: Alysha Marie Umphress
Where you were born/where you were raised: Concord, CA. Raised in Martinez and San Francisco, CA.
Zodiac Sign: Pisces
What your parents did/do for a living: Both worked for IBM
Siblings: ONLY CHILD CLUB
Current audition song/monologue:

The last song I sang for an audition was "Me and Bobby Mcgee." It was at a callback actually. I had the prepared material and they wanted something from my book and I hadn't brought my book (my bad) because it was callback so the accompanist searched for the chords on his iPad and played it on the fly. He nailed it and it ended up going really well.


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Special skills: Tongue pops. Crocheter of Puss Hats. Decent extension (mostly on the left leg).
Something you're REALLY bad at: MATH. NUMBERS. SCIENCE. ANYTHING LEFT BRAINED.
First Broadway show you ever saw: Miss Saigon (cried)
If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be? No contest. 1964 to see Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. NO CONTEST.
Current or recent show other than your own you have been recommending to friends: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Favorite showtune(s) of all time: "Say it Somehow" from The Light in the Piazza. Perfection.
Some favorite modern musicals: The Light in the Piazza, The Life, The Wild Party (LaChiusa version), Once On This Island, Ghost (guilty pleasure)
Some favorite classic musicals: Are people going to kill me for classifying some of these as classic? I mean they were written before I was born so they're classic for me. Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, The Fantasticks, Pippin, Cabaret (the perfect musical)
Broadway or screen stars of the past you would have most loved to perform with: Danny Kaye, Donald O'Connor, Gene Kelly, Burgess Meredith, Paul Newman. I swear there's at least one female… I just can't seem to think of one right now.
Your personal vocal idols, living or dead: Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Jane Monheit, 90's Mariah
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: Kevin Spacey in The Iceman Cometh. Amazing. I STOOD through that show. That 4 and 1/2 hour show. What can I say? I love O'Neill. I'm a masochist.
Music that makes you cry, any genre: I have a heart of stone. Usually music makes me smile more than cry anyway.
MAC or PC? MAC
Most played song on your iPod: Recently? "Use Me Up" by Lake Street Dive
Most-visited websites: PLAYBILL OF COURSE! Etsy. FB (ugh) eBayay, Dlisted
Favorite Tweeters: @RightorDoyle @Mshowalter @Billyeichner
Last book you read: "Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York" by Gail Parent
Must-see TV show(s): "The Comeback." OMG THE COMEBACK!
Last good movie you saw: "Magic in the Moonlight"
Some films you consider classics: "Showgirls," "Troop Beverly Hills," "Clueless," "Drop Dead Gorgeous," "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"
Performer you would drop everything to go see: Alice Smith
Pop culture guilty pleasure: Katy Perry
Three favorite cities: New York, Amsterdam, San Francisco. New Orleans, Salzburg. SORRY, THAT'S 5.
Favorite sport/team/player: LOL
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: Whitney Houston's "Whitney Houston"
First stage kiss: Shane Stokes in FAB! The Musical! It was like, full on making out.
Favorite or most memorable onstage role as a child/teenager: Humpty Dumpty/The Goat in Alice in Wonderland. This was not my favorite moment by any means. It was, however, very memorable because I HATED THE EXPERIENCE SO MUCH and wanted to play Alice SO BADLY but they cast a girl with long blonde hair and blue eyes and that's when I first learned about the harsh reality of SHEAUXBIZ. *still recovering.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: Seeing a children's community theatre production of Oliver! (I was 5)
Favorite pre-/post- show meal: Pre: Green Symphony, Just Salad or Kobeyaki. Post: Joe Allen, delivery.
Favorite liquid refreshment: ROSE ALL DAY. Also Kim Crawford is my girl. Dirty Gin Martinis when I'm feeling fancy. Silver tequila when I'm feeling feisty.
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: Palais de Thes Du Hammam green tea, lip trills, chats, muesches
Most challenging role you have ever played: CC Bloom in Beaches. The Old Woman in Candide in college.
Biggest challenge about this current project: Running in high heels for a 1/3 of the second act.
Most fulfilling or fun aspect about the project: EVERYTHING. Having the most fun that could be had on a Broadway stage. Singing with that gorgeous 28 piece orchestra. HEAVEN.
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: I peed my pants in Anything Goes during "The Heaven Hop" when I was 13. Still recovering.
Worst costume ever: A dog costume made entirely of mops
Worst job you ever had: Waitress at a Mexican chain restaurant in the suburbs
Craziest audition story:

Auditioned last minute for a William Finn revue and sang a Lou Rawls song (naturally). Got a callback (was shocked). Couldn't go because I had had a vacation planned to California already paid for so I passed on the callback. Was on said vacation wine tasting with my mom and got a call from my agent telling me I booked it. BOOM.

If you could trade roles/tracks with anyone in the show for a week, who would it be? Honestly, right now, on Broadway, there is no other part and no other show I'd rather be doing other than Hildy in On The Town. Fo realz.
Leading lady role you've been dying to play: Mrs. Lovett. Norma Desmond. Dolly Levi (all my dream roles, I have years to grow into so that's good).
Leading man role you wish you could play: King Arthur in Camelot
Something about you that surprises people: I'm a musical theatre NERD and have exceptional musical recall. If I sang a song in an elementary Christmas pageant, I could probably still remember it today.
Something you are incredibly proud of: Our production of On The Town
Career you would want if not a performer: What is the job title of the person who gets to name street names in new housing developments? Is that what an Urban Planner does? So whichever job Idina has when she's wearing glasses in If/Then, or was it sans glasses? Shit. Shoe designer, final answer.
"I'll never understand why…" … WHEN PEOPLE USE THE LAST OF THE TOILET PAPER, INSTEAD OF CHANGING IT OUT WITH THE NEW ROLL THEY JUST PLACE THE NEW ROLL ON TOP OF IT. IT TAKES MAYBE 10 SECONDS AND THAT'S BEING GENEROUS. SERIOUSLY, HOW BUSY/LAZY ARE YOU THAT YOU CAN'T BE BOTHERED TO DO THIS? xoxo
Three things you can't live without: Friends. Music. Trader Joes.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: Be yourself and don't try and conform to a type. It may take longer for you to break, but if you're talented and hard working and NICE (just be nice, it's so much easier than being an asshole) then eventually someone will give you a chance.
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