On Feb. 7, the day major publications around the world published reviews of Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark — before the musical's official opening on March 15 — I had the chance to have a brief chat with T.V. Carpio, the singing actress who succeeded Natalie Mendoza in the role of Arachne following Mendoza's concussion and subsequent decision to depart the $65 million production. Spider-Man marks Carpio's second collaboration with director Julie Taymor, who also cast the actress as Prudence in her 2007 film "Across the Universe." Carpio, who gets to belt out Spider-Man's title tune, speaks about her work with the Tony-winning director in the interview that follows.
Question: Since we've never spoken before, let's start at the beginning. Where you were born and raised?
Carpio: I was born in Oklahoma City, and I was raised in Hong Kong when it was under British rule. [Laughs.]
Question: When did you start performing?
Carpio: I was an ice skater for eight years. I was always kind of around performing, I guess, because my mom was a singer in Asia. So I was around it, but acting, I didn't start until 2003.
Question: Does "T.V." stand for something?
Carpio: Theresa Victoria. … When I was born, my father said, "Miss T.V.'s here!" And my mom was like, "Miss T.V. — we can't call our daughter T.V." He was like, "Why not?" So my mom insisted that we put Theresa Victoria in there, but I've always been called T.V. No one's ever called me Theresa, unless it's really formal.
Question: Rent was your first Broadway show. How did that come about?
Carpio: I guess, after "Across the Universe," I got the opportunity to audition. So, I auditioned and got a part. Question: Was Broadway your goal?
Carpio: It was never a goal, actually. I've never really made plans; I just had the opportunity, and it was great. I guess Julie [Taymor] was really the first person who asked me to sing — for "Across the Universe." I was always scared of singing. [Laughs.] I didn't know what I was doing. I was just meandering around trying to see what I was good at or what I might have talents doing.
|photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Question: How did Spider-Man happen?
Carpio: Spider-Man happened because of "Across the Universe" and working with Julie. I was involved in the first workshops in 2007, so [it] sort of just bled into another from the last thing. Julie told us about it when we did Thanksgiving with the "Across the Universe" cast. She told us all about Arachne and Spider-Man then, so I kind of knew about it, and then I was involved.
Question: When the show started previews, what part were you playing?
Carpio: I was playing Miss Arrow.
Question: What was it like for you during the first month or so of previews when people were getting injured?
Carpio: For me, doing Miss Arrow, I wasn't doing any physical things. Of course, for our cast mates — we were all worried about [the actors who were doing stunts], and when Chris [Tierney] fell, it was very, of course, traumatizing for all of us. But I wasn't flying or anything, so I wasn't scared for myself or anything. [Laughs.] Not that any of the injuries happened flying, by the way.
Question: When it was announced that Natalie Mendoza was leaving the show, did you know at that point that you'd be stepping into the part? How did you find out that you'd be taking over the role?
Carpio: Well, the thing is, before the show started, I had been offered the roles of understudying Arachne and Mary Jane. And I had put off the Arachne role, because I had been involved, like I said, for three years already. I kind of already knew all the roles, but because the Arachne role flew and did all these costume changes, I thought I should get Miss Arrow and Mary Jane down pat first and then do that later. But once they offered me the role, I kind of — I don't want to say knew it, but I knew a lot of it already, so it wasn't like starting all over from scratch. I knew four out of the six songs already. I had been watching the whole play I don't know how many days already [laughs], and I'd seen the script for almost three years, so it wasn't [that difficult]. The only thing that I really had to practice was the flying. … The flying is not as crazy as all the other Spider-Man stuff. I'm basically just dangling a lot. [Laughs.]
|photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Question: What is the flying experience like?
Carpio: It's so much fun! I love it. I don't know why I thought it would be more work, but it isn't. When I did "Across the Universe," Julie had me learn how to roller-skate with this papier-mâché thing for the circus scene. We didn't know then [that] that's what I was going to be doing, so I took trapezing lessons because I wanted to do the circus, or take circus school or whatever, and trapezing is actually scarier. [Laughs.] So, this is fun.
Question: How would you describe Arachne?
Carpio: Well, even though there is an Arachne in the Marvel comics, Julie took the Arachne from Greek mythology and sort of weaved it into the story. [Arachne] starts out, basically, as Peter Parker's mentor — Spider-Man is her protégé — and later on his nemesis, sort of [a] love triangle thing. [Laughs.]
Question: Do you have a favorite moment in the show for her?
Carpio: I really love singing "Turn Off the Dark" and doing that sequence. That's probably my favorite.
Question: Since you've worked with Julie Taymor on "Across the Universe" and now this, tell me what she's like as a director.
Carpio: Julie — where do I start? She is amazing. The best way to describe her is, she doesn't pigeonhole you into what her vision of you should be. She takes what you are, and everything that you are — she sees that and then [puts] that into the story. For Prudence in "Across the Universe," there's so many things that weren't written down in the script, but after meeting me and working with me, she would write other bits, here, there, little things that she knew that I could do. So it's kind of the same thing with Arachne. Not that she's writing —actually, there's been some new writing, just to work around me and stuff, what my strengths are or what she says my strengths are. [Laughs.] And then, she has these visions. Like I said, nothing is written on a page. You always have to be ready to dive into what she's come up with, what she's dreamt up, what she's envisioned the night before or something. And, it's always an adventure to work with her.
Question: Are changes still being made to the show?
Carpio: Yes. Question: What are you working on at this point?
Carpio: I think it's still clearing up Act Two. That's what we're really trying to do. We're getting there, though, slowly but surely.
Question: What was your reaction to finding out that so many critics had reviewed the show before opening?
Carpio: My reaction was that I didn't even know that that was happening. I didn't even know that that was happening until the interview before you, actually. [Laughs.] Right before, my P.R. person said, "They're going to ask you this," and I was like, "Really? I didn't even know that was happening." I really had no idea. I mean, literally, I live in the theatre. I don't have television. I don't even have my own Internet connection at home, so I am so disconnected with the outside world. [Laughs.] I live in the theatre. I have to be so focused with what I do. I don't have a personal life, if you must know. [Laughs.] I don't have any functioning relationships — I mean, I do have functioning relationships, I'm just not seeing anybody, really. So any kind of news, I'm just shut out from.
|photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Question: How have audience reactions been?
Carpio: Audiences have been awesome. They're super-supportive, and especially the kids, man. I love it when the kids are in the audience. They're awesome. You can see when they're so scared because I'm kind of scary and mean sometimes. There are some young kids that are holding onto their parents, and I'm like, "Oh, it's so cute, but I'm glad you're scared." [Laughs.] And then, I watch sometimes when the Spider-Men are flying, and the kids [are] just out of their seats. It's amazing. I love watching it. I love watching the audience when I can.
Question: Where is your family now?
Carpio: I have some family in New York. I have family in Toronto and Hong Kong — all over the place, actually. My mother, right now, is living in Hong Kong, but she's going to move back to Toronto.
Question: You said your mother was a singer...
Question: Does she still perform?
Carpio: Yeah. In Asia and Hong Kong.
Question: What would you say has been the best part of the Spider-Man experience?
Carpio: I don't know. There's so much! How can I ball it up?
Question: Does anything stand out in your mind that's been especially exciting?
Carpio: I mean, everything is exciting. Number one, I think, would probably be the people that I work with — not only the creative team. I want to talk about the cast down to the makeup, hair, and to the crew. This group of people is amazing to work with. I am so happy to come to work because of the people I work with. That's number one, and number two is, I get a chance to do what I love. I mean, on all levels — I get to sing, dance — I mean, I use my body physically and sing and act. I get to even speak with a British accent, which I grew up [hearing]. When do I ever get to do that? Those kind of things — silly little things I get to do — so I basically do what I love. And number three — I just love the music. I just love everything. It's hard to say one thing. I just love my job. [Laughs.]
Question: Has there been talk of a cast recording yet?
Carpio: There's been murmurs, but I have no idea what that's going to happen. I'm sure it'll happen some time.
[Tickets for Spider-Man are priced $67.50-$135 for weekday performances and $67.50-$140 for weekend performances. Visit SpiderManOnBroadway.]
For all her self-proclaimed insecurities, Tony Award winner Idina Menzel thankfully has the self-confidence to simply be herself when speaking onstage in concert, and that decision is a completely winning one. In fact, up-and-coming theatre performers who desire a concert career should check out a Menzel performance, for her patter is so down-to-earth, self-deprecating, humorous and seemingly off-the-cuff, one can't help leaving the experience with a great fondness for the artist.
I had the pleasure of attending Menzel's Feb. 5 concert at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall, which marked the former Rent and Wicked star's New York Philharmonic debut and also boasted Tony winner Marvin Hamlisch as conductor. The Broadway favorite performed a mix of standards, theatre tunes and original songs in the 90-minute program, which breezed by as she wove a spell around the sold-out crowd.
Menzel was in terrific voice, her rangy alto soaring throughout the cavernous hall. Early in the show she scored with the touching Wicked ballad, "I'm Not That Girl," as well as a medley of the Cole Porter classic "Love for Sale" and the rock tune "Roxanne." In fact, the latter was such a wonderful, surprising pairing that Menzel should explore combining other standards and pop tunes that share similar themes.
The rock balladeer/singing actress shared amusing anecdotes about being offered a role on "Glee" and singing for Barbra Streisand at the Kennedy Center Honors before launching into a belty version of "Don't Rain on My Parade." A touching tribute to the late Rent composer Jonathan Larson preceded a particularly poignant delivery of that Pulitzer Prize-winning musical's "No Day But Today."
Other high points included a roof-raising version of the Wicked anthem, "Defying Gravity"; a gentle reading of "Look to the Rainbow"; and two masterful reworkings of theatre warhorses, "What I Did for Love" and "Tomorrow," the latter dedicated to her mother, who was among those leading several standing ovations.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was an a cappella version of "For Good," which allowed the audience a chance to hear the purity of Menzel's tones and her exquisite vocal control.
One final note: The sound of the New York Philharmonic is so thrillingly beautiful, with its lush strings washing over the audience, one wishes every concert could feature these talented artists.
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.