She's Got a Way: New Mother Parkinson Happy to be Back as Brenda

She's Got a Way: New Mother Parkinson Happy to be Back as Brenda "It was like putting on an old pair of jeans!" is how Movin' Out star Elizabeth Parkinson laughingly described to Playbill.com her return to the role she originated in the Billy Joel-Twyla Tharp musical.
Elizabeth Parkinson
Elizabeth Parkinson

"I haven't had these on in a while, but they still feel pretty good," said the dancer, who returned to her Tony Award-nominated role as Brenda for the first time since February 2004 — when she went on maternity leave.

Nancy Lemenager (Never Gonna Dance) and a number of understudies filled the "Uptown Girl" shoes while Parkinson planned for the arrival of her and husband/co-star Scott Wise's now-20-week-old James Montana Wise.

"It was always my plan was to come back to the show. I want to continue to dance and perform. I love the show and I thought it would be a perfect situation; most people who are working mothers have jobs that take a lot more hours than what we have as Broadway performers."

The long-limbed leading lady — whose leap is captured in one of the show's iconic images — was back to work at getting in shape for the strenuous two-hour dance piece a mere eight weeks after giving birth. "Well, even sooner actually. I was starting to do little thing because I'm crazy. But I was back in class after eight weeks and I just really slowly built up to it. I know my body really well and kind of what I need to do and I'm almost there. I feel like I've got a little bit more to go as far as my 'gut strength,' but I feel surprisingly good."

Though Parkinson had been with the show since its inception over two and a half years ago, her time away took its toll. "I had really forgot how hard the show is. I started rehearsing a couple weeks ago [and] it is really physically so demanding. It's a blessing that the show's only two hours long. If it were longer than that, it would be detrimental." But the new mother ultimately sees her absence in a good light. "I think that the time I spent away from the show was valuable. It was nice to have fresh eyes and see everything all over again."

As for the stage couple's dancer-in-training, "He moved a lot when he was in the womb. He was always kicking those little legs," she explains. "And now he's very active. He's really a very physical baby. He rolled over for the first time last week and it was this huge event."

Parkinson and Wise had began dating while working on the Broadway show Fosse. What is the seven-year-old couple's secret to marital bliss? "When we work together, we completely ignore each other. I think that's really the reason why it works so well. In Movin' Out, it was sort of easy to keep ourselves separate because we don't dance together. I think that's kind of a decision we made to preserve our relationship."

The dancer revels in her current home and stage spotlight. "I don't think I've ever been happier in my life. I feel so blessed to have the baby and actually have a great show to do. It's more than ever imagined."

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