DIVA TALK: Chatting With Pippin Star Rachel Bay Jones

By Andrew Gans
20 Sep 2013

Jones on opening night
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Question: You said the first night was different than what you thought it would be…
Jones: Yeah, because it was big. It was overwhelming! We had a big marching band number. There were like 40 of us in the cast. It was crazy. It was big and overwhelming. It felt like Broadway, Broadway, Broadway! [Laughs.] So different from the intimacy of the theatre that I’d grown up doing, and also very commercial, very competitive. I was just thrown into ice-cold water. It was a big shock. I was a teenager, and it was New York, and I was suddenly on Broadway.

Question: And then you were a swing in Women on The Verge - what was it like being a swing?
Jones: I wasn’t really a swing. My biggest thing was that I understudied Patti LuPone and Mary Beth Peil and Alma Cuervo, all of whom are these incredible actresses who are older than I am. And I thought, "This is completely obscene, but, yes, I'm doing it." [Laughs.] The big thing, I think, I was hired for is that Patti had concert dates, where she was definitely going to be out of the show, so I got to do those [performances], and that was really amazing. It was a completely crazy experience.

I was terrified because it was Patti LuPone. I was scared! And somebody, somewhere said, “Don’t let her catch you watching her, because she’ll get mad” and I thought, "Oh no, Patti can’t catch me watching her!" [Laughs.] But I’m her understudy, so I had to watch her all the time, and I’ll never forget I had to trail her backstage to see what her backstage traffic was like, and I was crammed into a little corner in the wings of the Belsaco Theatre trying not to look at her, but there was only four feet of space between us…She was always so nice to me. I don’t know why I was so scared. [Laughs.] But she just turned and grabbed me by the arm and said, “Come here, I want you around me for the next three weeks.” I was basically her little shadow in her dressing room, talking to her. She was heaven on earth. She just took me under her wing and made sure I knew all the ins and outs of everything about the part, and it was really terrific… And then I went on, it was scary as hell, but it was a beautiful role she created, and it was a joy to step into it as nervous as I was. The music – there’s so much I loved about that show. It was a joy to get to do it. She has a song called “Invisible” that she sings in Act Two, and it’s gorgeous. To get to stand on stage and sing that and to wear all the incredible costumes – they made me all the costumes. She had so many costume changes and wig changes. It was so glamorous. It was really exciting.

Question: You’re also a mom.
Jones: I have a ten-year-old daughter, Miranda.

Question: What’s it like combining eight shows a week with being a mom?
Jones: It’s a lot. I’m still trying to figure it out. I think it has to be a very carefully constructed schedule, sleep being the most important thing to try to figure out when to get it, how to get it, how to set up a schedule where you can actually sleep. Because we’re working at night, and it takes a while to wind down, and then I’ve got to get up for 6:30 and take Miranda to school and somehow come home and sleep, which is not easy to do. [Laughs.]

Question: Do you have any other projects in the works?
Jones: I’m mostly focusing on Pippin. I’d like to try and get some concert work together. That’s something that now I'm hoping I’ll have the freedom to do, and I’ve just been doing some really nice things in development. I’m not sure where they’ll go. Nothing concrete on the horizon, but some more Pippin for a while, so that makes me happy.

Visit PippinTheMusical.com

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.