PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Mamma Mia! Star Lisa Brescia

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Mamma Mia! Star Lisa Brescia Lisa Brescia, back on Broadway starring as Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia!, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire with random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Lisa Brescia
Lisa Brescia

Brescia has appeared on Broadway in Wicked (Elphaba), Aida (Amneris), The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Cleo), Jesus Christ Superstar and The Woman in White.

Other theatrical credits include the Kennedy Center’s Side Show (Violet), Chicago’s Wicked (Elphaba), The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown (Mom), Evita (Eva), The Last Five Years (Cathy), A Little Night Music (Petra), Brigadoon (Meg) and Ordinary Days (Claire).

She toured internationally with The Mamas and the Papas, with original members John Phillips and Denny Doherty, for five years.

Full given name: Lisa Michelle Eiesland (How many vowels can be in a first syllable?)
Hometown: Born in Sioux Falls, SD. Raised in Milwaukee, WI.
Zodiac Sign: Taurus
What your parents do for a living: Mom: administrative support for cardiologists; now for a dermatologist.
Special skills: Self-deprecation. And I type really fast (could I be more bland?). I wish I could tell you something more titillating like I can put my feet behind my head or something.
Skill/talent you wish you had or were better at: I wish I could yodel. And juggle. And hula hoop like those professional hoopers with 20 hoops around their ankles and neck and arms. I had to learn some basic hooping tricks for Twyla Tharp’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ and took private lessons. My teacher was extraordinary and performed in burlesque shows; those women know how to handle their hoops.
First Broadway show you ever saw: Les Miserables in 1987
If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be? The Heiress with Cherry Jones
Current show you have been recommending to friends: Brief Encounter, though it just closed. Also, The Merchant of Venice, which was just extended.
Favorite showtune of all time: It changes all the time. I’ll see a new show or hear a recording and I’m convinced I’ve just heard the best song ever written.

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Some favorites: “Is It Really Me?” (110 in the Shade), “The Music That Makes Me Dance” (Funny Girl), “Not While I’m Around” (Sweeney Todd), “At The Fountain” (Sweet Smell of Success).

Three favorite musicals: This also changes, as there is such beautiful new material being written, even as I write this. Some favorites: 110 in the Shade, Sweeney Todd, The Light in the Piazza.
Broadway star of the past you would most love to have sung a duet with: Michael Jeter. Did you see his featured performance on the Tony’s broadcast highlighting Grand Hotel? I just about died from admiration.
Your personal vocal idols: Eva Cassidy, early Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Bonnie Raitt
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: Mark Rylance in La Bete. I’ve never seen anything like it. And it made me realize again how hard actors must work to reach that level of brilliance.
Music that makes you cry, any genre: India Arie touches me. Stevie Wonder and the Beatles make me cry simply from their genius.
MAC or PC? PC. But before all MAC users get their undies in a twist, I’m open to change!
Most played song on your iPod: It’s probably a tie: “Video” by India Arie, and “A Fool in Love” by Tina Turner.
Most-visited website: Amazon.com. But I have to stop! It’s addictive. And getting expensive. And YouTube. I am obsessed with videos of dogs who can sing.
Last book you read: "Crime and Punishment." Glad I got through it, but sheesh, that was brutal.
Last good movie you saw: "Maria Full of Grace" on DVD
Some films you consider classics: "The Godfather" I and II
"As Good As It Gets"
"The Goodbye Girl"
"A Place in the Sun"
"Tootsie"
"Psycho"
"Rocky"
"American Beauty"
Must-see TV shows: “Damages”
“The United States of Tara”
“The Tudors” (at least the first two seasons before Anne Boleyn lost her head)
Performer you would drop everything to go see: Audra McDonald
Pop culture guilty pleasure: "The Biggest Loser"
Three favorite cities: Perth, Chicago, NYC
Favorite sport/team/player: Baseball, Yankees, Mariano Rivera
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: The Carpenters (197_?)
When you first realized you could sing: I guess it was junior high school, when the choir director thought I was special. She was kind, nurturing, supportive, and probably ignited my spark for singing.
First stage kiss: Freshman year, Whitnall High School, Ernest in Love with Chris LoDuca.
Favorite or most memorable onstage role as a child/teenager: High school production of Godspell (“Day by Day”, “Oh Bless the Lord…”). I had a desperate need for spirituality as a teen, and the process of rehearsals and then performing that show for audiences was my first glimpse at how theatre can literally raise my spirits.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: When I saw Randy Graff as Fantine in Les Miserables. Her performance was vocally stunning, but what really moved me was her acting: honest, simple, gut-wrenching. At that moment, I understood the power of live theatre. Ironically, Randy is now a close friend and lives down the hall from me in NJ.
How you got your Equity card: Children’s theatre... wherein I did my best to convincingly portray Christopher Columbus’ mother. The kids seemed to buy it.
Favorite ABBA tune of all time: "Take a Chance on Me"
Favorite Mamas and Papas tune of all time: “Twelve-Thirty (Young Girls are Coming to the Canyon)”
How you would describe your approach to, and version of, Donna: I began by thinking she was quite different from me, but as the months have passed, I’ve discovered she’s more like me than I suspected. It evolves every night, and my favorite shows are the ones in which I’m surprised by her.
Favorite pre-/post- show meal: Pre-show: Anything light! Have you seen those spandex jumpsuits?
Post-show: Cereal, at home, with my man and my dog.
Favorite liquid refreshment: Chai tea latte
Most embarrassing or spectacular flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: As Amneris in Aida. I couldn’t say the words “neglecting me” –it came out: “niglecklick, niglecklick, niglicking me!”
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups:

The crew laughs at me because I get to the theatre an hour and a half to two hours before the show. You know, the usual physical workout (it varies... workout videos, yoga, pilates), hot steamy shower during which I do a vocal warm-up, fix the hair, beat the face. I like to send up a prayer asking for blessings on the cast, crew, orchestra, staff and audience. Additionally, before making a breathless entrance early in Act I, I do 35 push-ups in the wing, again sometimes drawing a response from the crew. I’ve tried other means to “be” breathless at the beginning of this scene, but nothing works like the real thing.

Most challenging role, vocally, you've played: Evita vs. Elphaba... it’s a draw.
Worst costume ever: Ugh!!! In Jesus Christ Superstar (the 2000 revival), a strappy number which consisted of three small leather triangles and a strap up my butt. This was my first Broadway show, before I knew I could say: “Umm... I don’t know that I should be seen in this outside of this room.”
Worst job you ever had: I was painted bright red from head to toe for a pharmaceutical industrial film. When we wrapped, they forgot I needed to get clean and they all went home. I was alone in the dimly-lit bathroom with the pink soap in the dispenser and paper towels. It was a long night.
Who would play you in the movie? Ha! Well, someone just wrote me a message on my website that said that Uma Thurman should play me in the movie. Hilarious. I don’t know... Danny DeVito? Can you tell this question makes me uncomfortable?
Leading lady role you've been dying to play: Nora in A Doll’s House
Diana in Next to Normal
Mary Stuart
Theresa in Circle Mirror Transformation
Leading man role you wish you could play: Puck in Midsummer Night's Dream
Dream Shakespearean roles: Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Olivia in Twelfth Night
Who have you played on "Law & Order"? What edition?

Welllll, I’ll have you know that I played the estimable role of the argumentative, jogging girlfriend of an Ambassador who discovers the body of an androgynous stabbing victim on "Criminal Intent." I have approximately 20 seconds of screen time, and every couple of months a residual check shows up in my mailbox. Sweet.

Career you would want if not a performer: This is the question we all wrestle with at 3 AM when we’re out of work! I think it would be some sort of mental health professional, perhaps specializing in young women with eating disorders.
Three things you can't live without: A community of people to love, a sense of humor, serenity (or the search for it)
Something about you that surprises people: I curse like a longshoreman.
"I'll never understand why…" ...people think they sound smarter when they’re being negative and critical of art, when it’s much more challenging (and demonstrates a much higher intellect) to articulate what works about it.
Words of wisdom for aspiring performers?

Keep studying. Never stop working to get better. Figure out what is standing in the way of your professional and artistic progress, and then work on it. Is it a lack of confidence? Lack of some skill set? Issues with overeating, alcohol or detrimental relationships? Don’t lie to yourself and don’t be afraid. Good luck.

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