DIVA TALK: Catching Up With Tony Winner and Cinderella Star Victoria Clark

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15 Feb 2013

Victoria Clark
Victoria Clark
Photo by Denise Winters

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Victoria Clark, the Tony-winning singing actress who imbues her work with great humanity, palpable warmth and rich humor in unexpected places, is back on Broadway in the Main Stem debut of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, which also boasts Laura Osnes, Santino Fontana and Tony winner Harriet Harris.

It was during her Tony-nominated run in Broadway's Sister Act, where Clark again impressed with a surprisingly touching journey as Mother Superior, that the gifted soprano first heard about the role of Marie in Cinderella, which features a new book by Douglas Carter Beane, who handled similar duties for Sister Act. "As far back as during [Sister Act] previews," Clark recently said with a laugh, "[Douglas] would skip into my dressing room and kind of plop down on my sofa and just say, 'I have your next part!' I was like, 'I can't [concentrate on a new role]. I'm in the convent. I've got stuff to think about.' And, he was like, 'No, no, no, really, seriously. I'm writing this — I have this part for you. Crazy Marie…It's great. It's great. She's the Fairy Godmother, but she's really a homeless person. She's a bag lady.' And, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, type casting! Perfect!' He kept dropping hints along the way, and the first reading was a year ago — over a year ago.

"That's a score that I grew up with, and a score that I love," Clark explained, "and I had never worked with [director] Mark Brokaw, and I really wanted to work with him and had admired his work forever and heard he was fantastic to work with. Laura Osnes I knew as a colleague, but never worked with her. And then when I met with Mark, he said, 'You're definitely flying!' The design team started working almost immediately after the first reading — we had a positive response from the reading — and [producer] Robyn Goodman just went into like super-duper overdrive, getting everything organized and pre-planned. She got the design team together. It was sort of presented to me in such a way that I was very excited about it… When you put all those great people together, and the flying, and the score, it's like, 'Okay, this is a no-brainer!'"

Clark at a January press event for Cinderella.
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

So, like Mary Martin and the other great women who have dazzled from high above in Peter Pan, Clark's new role allows the Light in the Piazza Tony winner the chance to soar above the audience. "It's really fun, but I'm scared of heights," Clark admitted. "I mean, I will ride on a rollercoaster, but it's not my favorite thing. I keep my eyes closed the whole time. I have to go way above the proscenium. I'm above the lighting rail in order to pre-set my position, so I'm way, way up there with huge costume pieces hanging off of my frame. I'm in a swing sometimes, and I'm in a harness sometimes, and I'm working with this magnificent person from Foy…[who is] teaching me. Of course, I grew up with Peter Pan, so I'm like, 'Am I supposed to do a Peter Pan move or…' He's basically teaching me how to do it. You have to respond when you go up. Your face has to indicate that you're moving. You can't just hang there like a sack of cheese. You have to, somehow in your body — even though you're not manipulating it — it has to be as though you decided you wanted to do something silly and fly over the carriage and tease Cinderella or whatever.

"But, on a more spiritual level," Clark added, "I had a real experience during one of our last dress rehearsals with the orchestra, where I looked down, and I could see everybody doing their job offstage, and I realized that no one was looking up at me because people forget after a while that I'm hanging up there. I realized this must be what the angels feel like, or when people that we love look back and look after us, and I just had a real moment of thinking, 'This is the perspective that this character needs to understand that they're involved, but there's only so much that they can do.' They can see, and their perspective is different on what's happening with the humans. I really understood it in a different way, and it was very moving to me."


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