|Photo by Brett W. Mallard|
It's been a whirlwind year for 18-year-old Alexandra Socha, who was a student at Nashua High South in New Hampshire when she attended an open call in April 2007 for the Tony Award-winning Duncan Sheik-Steven Sater musical Spring Awakening. A few months later — on July 24, 2007 — the young singing actress made her Broadway debut as a Spring ensemble member and as the understudy for the musical's leading lady, Lea Michele. This past May, Socha succeeded Michele as the ill-fated Wendla and is currently sharing the Eugene O'Neill stage with "Weeds" star Hunter Parrish (as Melchior) and Gerard Canonico (as Moritz). I recently had the chance to chat with Socha, who spoke about her Main Stem bow; that interview follows.
Question: Let's start at the very beginning. Where were you born and raised?
Socha: I'm from Nashua, New Hampshire. It's about an hour from Boston. I don't live on a farm or anything. [Laughs.] It's very suburban.
Question: When did you start performing?
Socha: I did my very first show when I was five years old. My mom is a singer and a performer, and my dad's a musician, so I was sort of born into this world. I saw my mom do a show, and I knew I wanted to be doing it, too. When I was five years old, I was a Siamese princess in The King and I in a local community theatre.
Question: What are some of the other shows that you've done?
Socha: I've done mostly community theatre back in New Hampshire. My junior year of high school I was Amneris in Aida; I was in Jane Eyre and The Wizard of Oz.
Socha: I always hoped it would be my career. I never, ever fathomed that it would happen now, but it was always my goal.
Question: Were there any singers or actors that you admired when you were performing as a kid?
Socha: My absolute idol is Kristin Chenoweth. [Laughs.] I've always, always looked up to her, but I really appreciate so many different people. . . . I love watching so many people, and I love pulling things from many different actors and putting them all together and watching people and making who I am out of [that].
Question: Okay, so how did you originally get involved with Spring Awakening?
Alexandra Socha: [The production has] been kind of known for doing lots of open calls around the country. I went to one of the first ones back in April 2007 in Boston. I got a callback in Boston, and then a couple months went by, and then they called me to come in for a callback in New York when Krysta Rodriguez was leaving the show.
Question: When did you first hear about the musical? Had you heard the score before you auditioned, or had you seen it?
Socha: Both! I've always done theatre . . . [and] I remember being at my friend's house one night and him playing the album for me. So I bought it and then on my school break, my winter break, I came to New York City and I saw the show.
Question: Tell me about making your Broadway debut.
Socha: It was just crazy! It came so quickly.… I was in the ensemble at the time, in one of the chairs. I went on, I think, a week after I had gotten [to New York]. It was so insane that it didn't even really hit me.
Question: You also understudied the role of Wendla. What was that like going on when Lea Michele was out?
Socha: The first time I went on, I actually found out an hour-and-a-half before the show, which was actually good because it didn't give me a chance to really freak out about it in my head. I just had to do it. I went on again a couple of weeks later — she had a couple of personal days — and it was always really fun going on for the role.
Question: Since you were in the show and you probably watched Lea do the part, how have you been able to make it your own now that you've taken over the role?
Socha: Because Lea and I are just different people and different actresses, it wasn't really like, "How can I make this my own?" because I always [played Wendla] the way that it worked for me. Lea did it in a way that worked for her. They both work, but we're just very different, so it's kind of cool. The one thing that was sort of hard … especially in the last two weeks [while] working with Hunter [Parrish] and getting to have a creative process, I would sometimes just be in my understudy world. I would move when I had to move and do what I had to do, and it was hard to learn that I didn't have to do all that and that I could create what I wanted.
Question: Did you get to work with [director] Michael Mayer again before taking over the role permanently?
Socha: I did. We were in rehearsals with Kyle Riabko [who now stars in the Spring tour], so I got to work with him.
Question: Is there anything that you think you changed in your performance since taking over the role?
Socha: Actually, a lot has changed in the last three months since I took over. Between Michael and myself and other people, lots of discoveries have been made and lots of things have changed, but they are all for the better. I think what we have now is working very — it was working well before, but now it's really in a place that we all feel good about.
Question: How would you describe Wendla?
Socha: I want to use the term innocent, but not naïve. I find that they are very different words and mean very different things. She is curious, and she has this feeling in her that there's something more out there than what she's been told and what she knows. They've been told not to question things, but she sort of does. She questions her mother about the stork . . . She definitely knows that there are more things, but she doesn't know how to go about finding them out. So, she is innocent on that level, but she is curious. Another great word for her is she's very hopeful. She knows that there's more out there, and she thinks that what's out there is better.
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