It's been a busy few months for Broadway actress Erin Dilly, who made her Main Stem debut as Young Phyllis in the 2001 revival of Follies and later earned Tony and Outer Critics Circle nominations for her performance as Truly Scrumptious in the family-friendly Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The mom of two young girls, who is married to fellow Broadway actor Stephen Buntrock, spent two weeks this past summer stepping in for Tony nominee Kelli O'Hara in the award-winning Gershwin musical Nice Work If You Can Get It while O'Hara appeared in the developing new musical Far From Heaven at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Now, Dilly has a role all her own — Mother in the limited engagement of the new musical A Christmas Story, based on the Jean Shepherd stories and the beloved 1983 film of the same name, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Featuring direction by John Rando, choreography by Warren Carlyle, a score by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek and a book by Joseph Robinette, the cast also boasts Dan Lauria, John Bolton and Johnny Rabe, among others. During rehearsals I had the pleasure of chatting with the wonderful singing actress, who spoke about her recent Broadway outings; her roles as mom, wife and actress; and her own holiday traditions.
Question: Before we get to Christmas Story, tell me about filling in in Nice Work.
Erin Dilly: Oh, my gosh. It was jumping in the deep end of the most delightful, hilarious pool. I had such a good time. It's just a really joyful company — all so welcoming — and Kelli [O'Hara] is one of my best friends. We go back to Follies because we met in both of our Broadway debuts. So, it was this beautiful sort of passing of the torch. She was just really happy that I could be there, and then I was happy to give it right back to her and go take a nap! [Laughs.]
Question: What was it like getting to sing all that Gershwin music?
Dilly: You know, that's the music that kind of pours out of me. It's what I grew up singing — what I grew up listening to in my home, so it was actually a real pleasure every single night. And, just playing opposite Matthew — Matthew is such a fine actor and such an exquisite musician. I don't think that he would say that about himself, but he was marvelous to watch craft a song. I had such a good time with him.
Question: Is there any chance you might get to take over if Kelli leaves, or do a different production of the musical?
Dilly: There's been a little bit of a speculation, and I would be delighted if they came a-calling when Kelli is, in fact, done with the show because I hadn't been on Broadway in a while. I'd been raising my babies and doing a lot of television and film work, and it was just such a perfect sort of reintroduction and re-emerging for me…and fun! I hadn't had that much fun on stage in a long time, and I didn't have to work out because I danced my butt off. I literally danced my butt off. I was like, "I'm five pounds thinner after dancing with him every night!" You know, I quickly put that back on, but that's okay. [Laughs.]
Dilly: Anna Louise is six, and my baby, Cady — who is not a baby anymore — she's three.
Question: How was it combining motherhood with doing eight shows a week?
Dilly: You know, I'm married to a remarkable dad and partner, Stephen Buntrock. He's magic with our kids, and when I had to sort of put it into full gear and start working as hard as I did to get into the show and then run the show, he just leapt in and took over. So our kids, to a certain degree, have always known both of us as primary parents because I would work during the day, doing TV, and take them during the night when Stephen was on stage, so it's a lot of balancing. I'm tired all the time, but I think that's the trial of being a working mom. I wouldn't change it for the world. They think it's very cool. I mean, not me on stage. They mostly like the costumes and the wig room… [Laughs.]
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