What Is It Like To Return to a Show in a Different Role?

BroadwayCon   What Is It Like To Return to a Show in a Different Role?
 
Four-time Tony nominee Judy Kuhn, Alexandra Silber, Tony winner Daisy Eagan, and Judine Somerville talk about revisiting a show at BroadwayCon.
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Daisy Eagan Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Sunday’s “Revisiting a Show” panel at BroadwayCon featured an eclectic group of actors in the unique position of performing a role in a show, and then “revisiting” it either in a different role, or in the same role after some time had passed. As one might guess, doing such a thing obviously has an effect on the given panelists, and they discussed that change in perspective, due to personal growth ad maturity, time and a show’s legacy and success, or a personal event that shook them to the core in the interim.

Judy Kuhn, who played Cosette in the original 1982 Broadway production of Les Misérables and returned in 2006 to play Fantine in the show’s first revival, confesses to finding the return to be “very bizarre…. It was like visiting a childhood home [that] feels familiar, but things look different than you remember them. It was not always comfortable.” She also reminds us, “The original production was just this show, Les Misérables, and not [the mega-phenomenon] it is now. [Revisiting it] affected me [in that way] too. it was [now] much bigger than what any one character was doing.”

Alexandra Silber, late of Fiddler on the Roof, took a much more personal route. Having played the role of Hodel in college, she felt a connection to the show and her character through the route her character took. “My dad had just passed away,” she shares, in a moment of honesty, “and for me, Fiddler gave me this chance to address and experience something I didn’t have [the chance to experience), which was to say goodbye to my father. Every day on the platform, I got to say, ‘Papa, heaven knows when we’ll see each other again.’” It was a gift of such healing.” She channeled that same connection with her father again in the recently-shuttered revival, in which she appeared as Tzeitel, acknowledging “Now I’m at a place in my life where I am beginning to think about marriage and relationships and family, and now I can therefore really delve in and take on Tzeitel’s story, and [that role] gave me another opportunity with my father that I didn’t have, which was to dance with [him, through Tevye] at my wedding…. It really is for my soul as much as my artistic life, and I’m forever grateful.”

Daisy Eagan, the star who cemented her place in history through performing Mary Lennox in the original The Secret Garden, recently revisited the show as Martha in a concert version of the show, opposite Sierra Boggess, Ramin Karimloo, and Tony nominee Sydney Lucas in her former role. “It was a trip,” said the 1991 Tony winner. “I was terrified. It was the first time I had been back to New York in 15 years. I had moved to Los Angeles, and quit the business, and had a kid…. I was really, really scared.” Like Silber, Eagan also lost a parent during her time in performances, and “ to have ‘Hold On’ sung to me every night as a kid was honestly, very literally, what helped me survive my mother’s death. I don’t think I would have had the tools to get through that [process] otherwise.” Therefore, “to turn around and play [Martha] and get to say those words, in effect, to my inner child, was very cathartic and restorative and really was [another] opportunity for me to really finally heal that part of me and close that chapter as well.”

Judine Somerville, one of the original dynamites in the OBC of Hairspray, spoke to performing the role 15 years later in NBC’s Hairspray Live!, and how her approach to the role changed, as she now had a 12-year-old son (born actually during her original OBC Hairspray run). “[He’s old enough now that] he can appreciate all this. He saw me on TV [in the telecast last December] and went absolutely crazy. And that what’s I want to show him, and that’s what Hairspray has given me…. [It’s] the gift that keeps on giving. I want him to see the joy that comes from doing the work. When you connect with art, magical things can happen.”

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