NYMF Minute with Donna Lynne Champlin on Flight of the Lawnchair Man

NY Musical Theatre Fest   NYMF Minute with Donna Lynne Champlin on Flight of the Lawnchair Man
 
Donna Lynne Champlin, who recently accomplished the quadruple threat of playing accordion, keyboard and flute while also performing the role of the devious barber Pirelli in Broadway’s revival of Sweeney Todd, will now appear in the New York City premiere of Flight of the Lawnchair Man at New York Musical Theatre Festival, Sept. 13 to 18.
Donna Lynn Champlin sings from Lawnchair Man at the NYMF press conference.
Donna Lynn Champlin sings from Lawnchair Man at the NYMF press conference. Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Ms. Champlin has been involved in Lawnchair Man since it was only a one-act six years ago in the separate musical omnibus, 3HREE.

PLAYBILL.COM: How did you get involved with the show?
Donna Lynne Champlin: I auditioned for the Prince Music Theatre run of 3HREE six years ago (of which Lawnchair was the third musical in an evening of three one-acts).

PLAYBILL.COM: How has it changed throughout the development process?
DLC: After Philly, 3HREE went to The Ahmanson in L.A. and then Lawnchair was commisioned to be a full-length musical. We had various workshops in NYC over the years and then last year we premiered the full-length version of Lawnchair in a very successful run at The Goodspeed at Chester theatre. So basically, it's gone from a one-act, to a two-act full length musical at Chester, and now for the NYMF we're trying it again as a one-act, albeit a much longer one than before.

PLAYBILL.COM: Tell us about your character.
DLC: Gracie is just a wonderfully funny, grounded and flawed goofball. Her love and devotion to Jerry (Christopher Sutton, the Lawnchair Man) is....well, their relationship together really is the grounding force in the show for everything else to fly around. Literally. I recall a lot of our reviews from 3HREE called Gracie "the best girlfriend a guy ever had" which i think...is pretty accurate. I actually wish sometimes in real life I could be as great a girlfriend as Gracie is, but—she sets the bar pretty high.

PLAYBILL.COM: What made you want to get involved with a NYMF show?
DLC: I think the NYMF is an absolute Godsend to the theatre community. Anything that supports new works, writers, composers, actors, designers and just new ideas in general is something that I am extremely proud to be a part of. Plus, NYMF has really cool, eclectic taste in the shows that they decide to put up which is really refreshing, and they've got something for everyone in the festival every year. Whenever NYMF calls me I am thrilled to participate because there's really nothing that makes me happier than working on new, innovative projects—which is what NYMF is all about really.

PLAYBILL.COM: Physically, how will the show do all of the special effects in a smaller theatre than before?
DLC: Well, in all the other theatres we've done this show we've either had a fly system and/or traps (not to mention wing space) to help us with our special effects. However, "necessity is the mother of invention" and as a result we've come up with some pretty creative ways of getting around the one or two things we've had to adjust. But most of our special effects actually are being done at 37 Arts and the others we're (pardon the pun) "winging it" pretty fabulously. Ultimately though, the story is always the main focus of Lawnchair and because the story itself is so universal and charming it just makes the effects more or less icing on the cake, in comparison.

PLAYBILL.COM: Since last doing the show, you performed to great acclaim in Sweeney Todd. Do you feel that you've changed or grown as an actress since then?
DLC: Oh dear God, yes. I actually think I have....literal joint pain from all the growing i did in Sweeney (or was that from the accordion?). I actually...gauge how much I'm learning in a show by how horribly uncomfortable I feel and man, I think Sweeney totally won the prize for stretching me way beyond anything i was even remotely comfortable with in my entire career. But our director John Doyle was just amazing to work with and he made taking all those leaps so much easier because we trusted him and the piece implicitly. As far as me changing as a person? I listen much better than I used to, and I'm not as quick to panic about things anymore. Believe me, once you've done Sweeney Todd with nine other people on a stage that's impossible to leave...there's not much else that scares me artistically at this point. But there's a deeper trust I have now not only for my fellow actors and directors, but for everyone around me—the crew, the costumes, the company managers, and especially the audiences. It was a real "if you build it, they will come" kind of year for me in Sweeney and I find that it's staying with me especially in this Sweeney process.

(Playbill.com is a media partner of the New York Musical Theatre Festival 2006.)

For more information and to buy tickets, visit the
2006 New York Musical Theatre Festival website

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