PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Anneliese van der Pol

Brief Encounter   PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Anneliese van der Pol
 
As Max Bialystock said in a different context, Anneliese van der Pol might have the biggest name Off-Broadway: 18 letters!
Anneliese van der Pol
Anneliese van der Pol

The "That's So Raven" star with the overloaded Dutch name (she was born in Holland) may have been Broadway's last Belle in Beauty and the Beast, but she'll likely be making her biggest splash on the legitimate New York stage as one of the stars of the new musical Vanities. Based on the hit 1970s play by Jack Heifner, the Judith Ivey-directed show is in previews (starting July 2) at Off-Broadway's Second Stage. David Kirshenbaum composed the music and penned lyrics to go with Heifner's book. Van der Pol plays of three Texas cheerleaders, whose lives are tracked from the 1960s to the late '80s. Her co-stars are Lauren Kennedy and Sarah Stiles. The actress, who previously played in the show's Pasadena Playhouse run in 2008, talked to Playbill.com about Judith Ivey, Kathy Bates, Judy Garland and other sources of inspiration.

Playbill.com: How did the role in Vanities come your way?
Anneliese van der Pol: They called my agents. They asked for me to audition. I guess they'd heard about me through Beauty and the Beast and they liked my age range. I could play older and younger. [Composer] David Kirshenbaum had seen me and called my agent. They gave me a script way in advance. They came out to L.A. and I auditioned in this big warehouse somewhere in Pasadena.

Playbill.com: Were you familiar with the original play by Jack Heifner?
AVDP: I wasn't. Then I immediately had to go to Samuel French and get the play. I'm a bit young. As soon as I found out that Kathy Bates was in it and it was such a bit hit, I was really excited about it. I have a couple recordings of David Kirshenbaum's music and really liked it, really thought it was upbeat, new and original. So, I got this play. And I was excited about the play, but really when I heard the music I got more excited. No offense to Jack Heifner! (Laughs)

Playbill.com: How many songs do you have in the show?
AVDP: Well, there are about 25 songs and I'm in 23 of them.

Playbill.com: So you can't complain about not having enough singing time, can you?
AVDP: No! But I can complain for getting too much singing time. You know, I never thought I'd be that person to go on vocal rest. I always thought that was so high and mighty, and kind of annoying when people said that. But now I really get it. Playbill.com: Judith Ivey is your director. Do you think it makes a difference to have a female director guide this particular work?
AVDP: I think it's really important. So much of our staff is male. We have a male music director, a male writer, a male composer. There's really no other way around it. I can't really imagine any man, let alone anyone who's not Judith Ivey, directing it. It would really be detrimental.

Playbill.com: Vanities had originally been planned to go to Broadway, then it was cancelled, then picked up by Second Stage. That must have been a rollercoaster for you.
AVDP: It was. I remember getting the call and being really sad. To be on Broadway is one thing, but to originate a role on Broadway is another. And to have a job, especially when the recession was going! You know, I think we were sort of kidding ourselves because all the other shows were coming down all around us. Somehow, we still thought that we would go on. Maybe it was because our sets were already built and our show had such a small cast. Yeah, we got calls just before Hannukah and Christmas. It was disappointing. A month after that, we learned about Second Stage, which was uplifting. I called the girls right away and they called me, and we all cried. Onward and upward. I think Second Stage is just the perfect theatre for it. We might have gotten lost in the Lyceum, who knows? And if we had opened in the Lyceum, we might have closed so quickly because of the recession.

Anneliese van der Pol as Belle

Playbill.com: A fellow editor of mine saw you in Beauty and the Beast and thought you sounded like Judy Garland. Are you a fan?
AVDP: Yes, of course. Who's not? I am a fan. I'm a fan of her daughter, of Barbra Streisand. I'm a fan of any actor-singer who can really sell a song. Playbill.com: I read you were named after Anne Frank.
AVDP: Yes. I was born south of Amsterdam. Her name was Anneliese Frank. My mother's Jewish, so it fits. When I was small and not born yet, she went to the house where she hid, and thought that would be a nice name. I like it.

Playbill.com: I know you began acting fairly early. Did you ever get a chance to star in The Diary of Anne Frank?
AVDP: I didn't. I never really had the opportunity to do it while I was growing up. It never came around. I wish it had.

Playbill.com: Of course, you're busy with Vanities right now, but are there any other projects coming up for you?
AVDP: I've had a lot of auditions out here, which are going well. I had my fourth Wicked callback. It was for Glinda. The funny role. I might stay out here and see what happens.

Lauren Kennedy, Anneliese van der Pol and Sarah Stiles in <i>Vanities</i>
Lauren Kennedy, Anneliese van der Pol and Sarah Stiles in Vanities Photo by Craig Schwartz
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