PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Paper Mill's Little Mermaid Star Jessica Grové

By Matthew Blank
18 Jun 2013

What are some of your most memorable roles as a kid or teenager and how old were you? "Rosie" in Really Rosie when I was 10 in Ohio. "Anne Frank" in Yours, Anne - 14, "Dorothy" in Wizard of Oz, 15-17 years old.
First stage kiss: Yours, Anne (a musical of The Diary of Anne Frank) when I was 14, right before I left Ohio to do Oz. My good friend Andy Jobe played Peter and we had a sweet, innocent peck.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: I don't know that there was a moment, per se. I think I just always knew it was what I wanted to do. I performed in community theatre shows with my family from the time I was 3 years old, so I caught the bug early.

I suppose I realized it could be a career upon seeing the national tour of Les Miz when it came through Columbus. I dreamed of playing young Cosette after that. And that dream morphed into wanting to play Eponine, which I got to do in the Broadway company when I was 19! That is why I always tell people to follow their dreams.

How you got your Equity card: Dorothy at Madison Square Garden in 1997
Favorite liquid refreshment: Iced coffee with soy milk
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: I don't really have any rituals. I am not superstitious. I do vocalize and stretch and I use the time when I am pin curling my hair and putting on my makeup to quietly focus and prepare.

Once I feel settled in and comfortable in what I am doing, I like to try and make the rounds before the show, touch base and connect with my coworkers. To me it feels very odd to see someone for the first time that day onstage.

Most challenging role you have ever played: Amalia in She Loves Me
What has been the biggest challenge about this project? So far the challenge for me has been living up to my own expectations of this role... I grew up watching the animated feature and want to do the role of Ariel justice.
What has been the most fun or fulfilling aspect? Working with Glenn Casale as a director. He manages a perfect balance of keeping the room light and fun, but still focused. He hires lovely human beings who are fun to be around, crazy-talented and inspiring to watch, and he encourages specificity and doesn't let anyone get away with just playing attitudes.

It is so rewarding because he is molding us into full-fledged, real people -not cartoons - which makes all of the relationships deeper and the characters completely relatable to our audience.
Five favorite Disney characters, not counting Mermaid: Belle, Baloo, Flower, Bashful, Dumbo
Worst job you ever had: There are no bad jobs, just bad attitudes :-)
If you could trade roles with anyone in the cast for a week, who would it be? Liz McCartney - it looks so fun to be evil! I would copy everything she does because she is brilliant.
Any upcoming or side projects you can talk about? I have been invited to do a concert at 54 Below, and I am in the process of choosing material for my debut album.
What show would you most love to star in opposite your husband, Dan Cooney? Sunday in the Park with George
Leading lady role you've been dying to play: Eliza Doolittle
Leading man role you'd like a shot at: Jack Kelly, hands down. I have been a huge fan of Newsies since I was a kid.
Something about you that surprises people: My actual age (Not telling! But it is easy enough to look up...)
Something you are incredibly proud of: My husband, Dan Cooney, and the life we are creating together.
Career you would want if not a performer: Anything involving animals or little kids. So, like a zookeeper or a preschool teacher?
Three things you can't live without: 1) My son, Gavin
2) Coffee
3) Love (that includes Dan, since he is sitting right next to me and got all offended when he read this!)
Words of advice for aspiring performers: Follow your dreams, work hard, be kind, and have a good balance between work and personal life.