“Right now, I’m in rehearsals in West Hollywood… in my own bedroom, by myself with my child, Jack,” Annaleigh Ashford explains from her West Coast home last week before returning to New York City to begin actual rehearsals for the Encores! staging of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Sunday in the Park With George. “He’s been playing all the parts, and I’ve just been rehearsing for him. When I’m breastfeeding, I run all my lyrics, and he usually burps on me when I’m wrong!”
She laughs and continues: “People think I’m crazy in the neighborhood because they probably hear me singing really loud in the house, and then when I’m walking around the neighborhood, I’m like, ‘Sunday in park with Georgeeeee!,’ running all the patter lyrics like a crazy person.”
Ashford will play the roles of Dot and Marie opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in the special Encores! staging October 24-26, a more dramatic turn for the performer following her Tony-winning comedic turn in You Can’t Take It With You, her take on the wild and wacky canine Sylvia in Sylvia and last night’s spin on Columbia in Fox’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
And, her newborn son with husband Joe Tapper (who also was seen in You Can’t Take It With You), Jack Clark Tapper, has been there through the “Time Warp” and preparation for the Park.
“I actually was four months pregnant when we started filming [Rocky],” she explains, “and by the time we were done, I was very clearly pregnant. [William Ivey Long] did his costume magic and took care of me. So Jack is also in the movie, but he’s hiding. Isn’t that crazy? I did some crazy tap dancing, and I jump off a piano, and we’re running around, and sometimes people would forget I was pregnant, and then all of a sudden they’d be like, ‘Are you okay?’ We shot nights, so we would get there 8 at night and finish at 8 o’clock in the morning, so when we were getting closer to the end of shooting, I was about five-and-a-half months pregnant, and it was starting to wear me out.
“I am so fortunate, and I was so lucky to feel good the whole time. We had a blast together, and everybody was so kind to me and took care of me, but we finished just in time for me.”
Ashford also flew back to New York just in time for Sunday in the Park With George; she began rehearsals October 17 ahead of her October 24 opening night. With only a week of in-the-room rehearsals, she says that she’s been preparing as much as she can by herself.
“In the collections of Sondheim’s works, I always think that this is one of the favorites, not only because the story is so beautiful and the score is so incredible, and James Lapine’s book is immaculate, but I think that artists really are attracted to it because it’s the story of a man trying to follow his heart in his art. (Oh, I just rhymed!)
“As I’ve been working on it the last couple of weeks, I feel like my baby Jack, by osmosis, will know the entire score of Sunday in the Park With George because he’s heard it so many times in the womb and his first month of life, but it is such a beautiful comment on the psyche and the heart of the artist.”