DIVA TALK: Chatting with 13's Allie Trimm Plus Liza's at the Palace and "Gay Marshall Sings Piaf"

News   DIVA TALK: Chatting with 13's Allie Trimm Plus Liza's at the Palace and "Gay Marshall Sings Piaf" News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.

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ALLIE TRIMM
It certainly has been a stellar season thus far for young performing artists on Broadway. The Olivier-winning production of Billy Elliot—The Musical, which recently opened at Broadway's Imperial, boasts three young leading men who literally soar through their performances. And, the new Jason Robert Brown-Dan Elish-Robert Horn musical, 13, which ends its run at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre Jan. 4, 2009, boasts its own share of wonderful teenage actors. Standouts include Graham Phillips, who plays bar mitzvah boy Evan, whose life is upended when he abruptly moves from New York to Indiana, and Allie Trimm, who plays Patrice, the caring friend he makes in his new hometown. Thirteen-year-old Trimm, who boasts a beautiful and powerful voice, also possesses a rare, natural onstage warmth that is reminiscent of such Broadway favorites as Emily Skinner and Bernadette Peters. She also gets the chance to deliver what may be the show's best song, "What It Means to Be a Friend," and she does so movingly and with vocal control and an interpretative ability well beyond her years. Earlier this week I had the pleasure of chatting with the young actress, who is currently making her Broadway debut in the funny, charming and ultimately touching new musical 13; that brief interview follows.

Question: Congratulations on making your Broadway debut.
Allie Trimm: Thank you so much!

Question: How did you originally get involved in 13?
Trimm: I auditioned in L.A., and I auditioned for the Connecticut run. After that they just brought everyone over [to Broadway].

Question: How much did the show or your character change from the Goodspeed run to Broadway?
Trimm: The show hasn't changed a lot. In Connecticut it was two acts. At the beginning of previews in New York, it was also two acts, but they came in one day and said, "Alright, we're going to do a slight change. We're cutting the intermission and two of the big dance number songs." [Laughs.] So everyone was a little shocked but excited.

Question: Do you think that change helped the show?
Trimm: I do. I think the show is a lot better now. Even from Connecticut, it just makes a lot more sense — it flows better. Question: How about your character? Did Patrice change at all?
Trimm: My character, script-wise, hasn't changed a whole lot. Personally, I've become more of the character. In my head it's developed so much, and I've learned so much about Patrice. I've become so much more a part of her, and it's come out when I'm acting. I feel like I'm so much more her than I was when I first read the script.

 

Allie Trimm with Graham Phillips in 13
photo by Joan Marcus

Question: How would you describe Patrice?
Trimm: She's kind of not the most popular girl, but she knows who she is, so she doesn't care that she's not popular. She doesn't try to make herself cooler to fit in. She doesn't try to be part of the popular crowd, because she knows that that's not who she is. She's really levelheaded and smart, and she's just a nice girl. She wants people to understand who she is and not judge her by her clothes or other things like that.

Question: Do you have a favorite moment in the show for her?
Trimm: The song "What It Means to Be a Friend" is probably my favorite part of the entire show, personally. It tells such a true story, and I relate to it so much. I think everyone can relate to the Patrice character at some time in [his or her] life. [People] always feels like they need to try and fit in, but that's what Patrice's story is telling them. She's saying that looks don't matter, and it's not about how you look and talk and what you wear. It's about who you are, really. "What It Means to Be a Friend" is her telling a story about how she wishes people would act and how she wishes people would treat her and other people.

Question: The musical is a lot about various cliques in a school. Has the cast managed to avoid forming cliques? Do you hang out with each other after the show?
Trimm: Totally. The cast — we're such a big family, and we have so much fun together. I'm having so much fun working with this cast. I can't describe how many amazing relationships I've made and friendships that will last forever.

Question: How have you found performing eight shows a week?
Trimm: I'm having so much fun! When you think about it, it sounds like it would be tiring and stressful, but I am just loving it.

Question: Does anything stand out in your mind from the Broadway experience so far?
Trimm: I've learned so much, and I've grown so much as a person. I feel like everyone I've worked with has taught me something. I've learned so much about how to act when you're working professionally, and I've also learned just about being a person. I don't even know how to describe it. I've found who I am here, and I've become so much more true to myself.

Question: How has the cast reacted to the show closing in January?
Trimm: Everyone is really, really sad. We all started crying when we first heard, because we all love the show so much and we love being together everyday. On our days off we literally call each other and say, "Hey, you wanna hang out?" [Laughs.] We're all bummed that the show is closing, but with the economy the way it is and everything that's going on — a lot of shows are closing. It's really sad, but I'm sure everyone in the cast has a great future ahead of them and so much to look forward to. I'm trying not to dwell on the sadness and trying to look ahead and think of the positives about it.

Question: How have you been able to keep up your schoolwork while doing the show?
Trimm: In the beginning of rehearsals and tech, we had to do three hours of school a day, and we would all be tutored together. That went well. Once the show opened, we all had to go off on our own. ...I'm doing school online at my house. My parents — [when] fourth grade came along, they said, "Alright, you're on your own. I don't know how to help you anymore." [Laughs.] I've become very independent…I'm not too far behind, but I'm catching up.

Graham Phillips and Allie Trimm in 13
photo by Joan Marcus

Question: What type of courses are you taking online?
Trimm: I'm a freshman, and I'm taking Algebra II, Biology, English Honors, and I'm taking P.E. online, which is good! [Laughs.]

Question: What do you do in P.E. online?
Trimm: You just have to log what your physical activity is. It's really easy. I have an A in that class.

Question: When did you start performing?
Trimm: I've been singing my entire life. I was three years old, and I sang "My Heart Will Go On" from "Titanic" at my aunt's wedding with a live band. I started professional theatre in San Diego when I was nine.

Question: Are your parents in the business? How did you fall into professional theatre?
Trimm: No one in my family is in the business. I definitely didn't inherit my voice or my acting skills from my parents. [Laughs.] But I've always known that it's something I want to do, and I'm so lucky that my family is so supportive of me. They're here to help me grow and help me to do all of these things.

Question: Is your family here with you now?
Trimm: Yeah, my entire family moved out from San Diego to New York. We bought an apartment here, but we are planning on moving back to San Diego. We kept our house there, and my dad works there, so he's coming back and forth. Question: Do you have brothers and sisters?
Trimm: I have a little brother and a little sister. My brother Jack is ten, and my sister Avery is almost seven, so they're going to school in the city.

Question: Do either of them perform?
Trimm: They both like to sing, but Jack is more into sports. I don't know about Avery. She's young, and she likes to dance, so we'll see what happens with her.

Question: Are there any actors whose work you particularly like or have inspired you?
Trimm: I'm really new to Broadway. [Laughs.] I always have to ask names. I'm always embarrassed when someone says, "Oh, look, it's so-and-so!" and I don't really know who they are. I've really just learned so much from the people I've worked with here. Jason Robert Brown has been such an inspiration to me and has taught me so much. I'm so honored and blessed to be here.

Question: Have you gotten to see any other shows while you're here?
Trimm: Every now and then they give special tickets to the cast, and the cast goes as a big group to see a show. We went to see Spamalot and Shrek. And then I saw Mary Poppins and Altar Boyz. I personally haven't seen very much because I've been trying so hard to keep up at school.

Question: What type of career do you envision for yourself? What would you like to do after 13?
Trimm: At this point in my life I just feel like there's so much that I want to do, and I don't want to even think about limits. I just want to be able to do it all. I want to just work hard and be able to do everything I possibly can. I love to write music, and I'd love to record something that I wrote. I think that would be fun. Also, I love theatre. I just recently did my first TV job. I was on "30 Rock."

Question: What was that experience like?
Trimm: That was really, really fun. It was my very first TV and film experience. It was so exciting and new.

Question: What type of character did you play?
Trimm: My character was really, really mean. [Laughs.] It was challenging for me because I've never played a mean person before. It was very fun. It was a great experience — very different than live theatre, but I had a lot of fun with it.

Question: Do you have any other projects in the works after 13?
Trimm: High school! [Laughs.]

Question: Congratulations again. I thought you and Graham were really great. I was impressed by both of you, and I hope to see you in more theatre.
Trimm: Thank you so much!

[13 plays the Bernard Jacobs Theatre, located in Manhattan at 242 West 45th Street; for tickets call (212) 239-6200.]

 

Gay Marshall
 

FOR THE RECORD: "Gay Marshall Sings Piaf: La Vie l'Amour"
If Andrea Marcovicci and Michael Feinstein seem destined to keep the Great American Songbook alive and well, perhaps Gay Marshall will do the same for the classic French chanson. After all, the actress spent a year Off-Broadway bringing the songs of Jacques Brel to full life in the recent revival of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, and on her new solo recording she has turned her attention to the songs made famous by the late Edith Piaf.

Simply titled "Gay Marshall Sings Piaf: La Vie l'Amour," the single CD includes 15 tracks plus an additional four bonus tracks featuring English adaptations of "The Carnival Crowd," "All in White," "Lost and Lonely Souls" and "The Lady from Pigalle." The English translations were penned by Marshall, who has proven herself to be not only a gifted singing actress but a thoughtful lyricist. I particularly enjoy the imagery she creates in "Milord": "But love has turned the tide/You're drowning on the shore/Your precious jewel sailed from your side/She's gone and worth much more./And the ice from your eyes has become endless tears./Your commands turned to cries./All your plans turned to fears./You thought you had it all, and suddenly it ends./For no one owns a heart/Torn silk is hard to mend."

Marshall wraps her rich, textured belt around a mix of Piaf signature tunes ("L'Accordeoniste," "Milord" and "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien") as well as less familiar ones ("Avec Ce Soleil," "Le Droit d'Aimer"). And, whether she's singing Brel or Piaf, Marshall invests her work with an emotional urgency that is always compelling for the listener. High points of her new disc include a powerful version of "Padam," which begins Marshall's recital; a touching version of "La Belle Histoire d'Amour"; a compelling "L'Accordeoniste" that builds to a wonderful climax; a passionate "L'Hymne a l'Amour"; and a rousing version of Piaf's anthem, "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien."

Arrangements were penned by Marshall and Mark Hartman with additional arrangements by Paul Bevin. Marshall is backed by Hartman on piano and accordion, Steve Gilewski on bass, Peter Sachon on cello, Michael Croiter on percussion and guitar, Entcho Todorov on violin and Alan Won on reeds. For more information visit www.gaymarshall.com.

 

Liza Minnelli takes her curtain call
photo by Aubrey Reuben

DIVA TIDBITS
Something magical happened toward the end of the Dec. 3 opening night of Liza's at the Palace. . ., the limited engagement now playing Broadway's Palace Theatre. After performing a demanding, often exciting two-hour program of classic Liza Minnelli tunes and less-known Kay Thompson songs (and touching stories), the Oscar and Tony-winning triple threat began singing one of her signatures, "Theme from 'New York New York.'" Although she had already belted out "Maybe This Time," "Cabaret" and "Mammy," there was something different in this offering. Minnelli somehow captured the youthfulness of her early work but added the wealth of emotion and know-how that years in the business have brought, and belted out what could only be described as a thrilling, roof-raising version of the Kander and Ebb classic. By the time she got to the song's key-change, the audience was on its feet in full amazement of what they had witnessed. In fact, the sold-out crowd remained standing for several minutes until Minnelli returned with an impromptu, heartfelt "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" that simply melted into a section of the standard "I'll Be Seeing You." Liza's at the Palace is scheduled to run through Dec. 28; don't miss your chance to see a true star. Visit www.lizasatthepalace.com for more information.

Tony Award winner Melba Moore, who was most recently on Broadway as the ill-fated Fantine in the original production of Les Misérables, and Darlene Love, who spent over two years as Motormouth Maybelle in the Broadway production of Hairspray, will join forces for a holiday engagement in San Francisco. The two dynamic singers will offer Moore Love for the Holidays at The Rrazz Room at Hotel Nikko Dec. 27, 2008-Jan. 4, 2009. The engagement will also include two shows on New Year's Eve. The Rrazz Room at Hotel Nikko is located at 222 Mason Street in Union Square in San Francisco, CA. For reservations visit www.TheRrazzRoom.com or call (415) 394-1189 or (866) 468-3399.

The ever-busy Kristin Chenoweth, recently seen in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, has landed a new gig, according to Entertainment Weekly. The Tony-winning actress will voice the role of science teacher Miracle Grohe in the new animated comedy "Sit Down, Shut Up," which will air on the Fox network. The series, which concerns the "staff at a small-town Florida high school," will also feature the talents of Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Henry Winkler, Will Forte, Kenan Thompson, Cheri Oteri, Tom Kenny and Nick Kroll. "Sit Down, Shut Up" is executive produced by Mitch Hurwitz, the creator of the acclaimed series "Arrested Development." Expect a spring 2009 debut.

ASTEP (Artists Striving To End Poverty) will present a starry holiday concert Dec. 15 at the Zipper Factory in Manhattan. A New York City Christmas, a 10 PM concert, will feature Broadway stars "singing fresh, original approaches — pop, soul, rock and more — to favorite holiday songs." Currently scheduled to perform are Raul Esparza, Lauren Pritchard, Chester Gregory, Sierra Boggess, Tyler Maynard, Tory Ross and Lindsay Mendez. Conceived, produced and musical-directed by Drama Desk-nominated orchestrator Lynne Shankel, the evening will feature direction by Olivier Award nominee Stafford Arima. Proceeds from the evening will support ASTEP's mission to "create positive change for young people in need across the globe." The Zipper Factory is located in Manhattan at 336 West 37th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues. The $20 cover charge includes the performance and a chance to enter into a special Holiday Raffle; visit www.thezipperfactory.com for tickets.

Lea DeLaria and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who co-starred in the most recent Broadway revival of On the Town, will celebrate that musical's lyricists-librettists — Betty Comden and Adolph Green — at Joe's Pub. Jesse Tyler Ferguson & Lea DeLaria Do Comden and Green will be presented at the downtown venue Dec. 16 and 17. Show time both nights is 9:30 PM. Ferguson and DeLaria, according to press notes, "will re-create many of the duets and sketches that made Betty Comden and Adolph Green two of the most prolific and beloved songwriters of the 20th century. In an added twist, Ferguson will sing most of Betty Comden's material while DeLaria will do duties on most of Adolph Green's material."

Joe's Pub is located within the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. Tickets, priced $20, are available by visiting www.joespub.com or by calling (212) 967-7555.

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.

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