DIVA TALK: Chatting with Spring Awakening's Alexandra Socha Plus News of Chenoweth, White

By Andrew Gans
August 29, 2008

News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.

ALEXANDRA SOCHA
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.

Question: Do you think you always knew that performing would be your career?
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 naοve. 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.

Alexandra Socha with co-star Hunter Parrish
photo by Cass Bird

Question: As you mentioned, you've had a few different co-stars in the past few months. Is it difficult adjusting to a different person playing opposite you, or do you find it keeps you on your game?
Socha: It was certainly an interesting few months! It was a great challenge for me, trying to fit my character with their characters. It was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work trying to do that, but I am very excited to sort of be set with one man for a little while! [Laughs.]

Question: How do you feel about performing with the audience onstage?
Socha: In the theatre group that I used to do a lot of stuff with, we were in a three-quarter thrust theatre, so there was audience on the side of us. So I'm kind of used to it, and I'm used to having them right there. That really wasn't a challenge for me. The challenge was performing in a much bigger space. I don't mind [having the audience onstage]. It's a lot of fun because you can really feel the audience's energy. You really can get a taste of it because they're sitting right next to you.

Question: Do you have a favorite moment in the show for Wendla?
Socha: Gosh, I don't even know if I can pick one. The very first part of the show with "Mama Who Bore Me," standing on that chair in a spotlight, putting on a dress and trying not to fall over — it's definitely scary, but once you're in it and it's going well, it's so exciting.

Question: Do you think the show has a message? What does it mean to you?
Socha: What I find is that [Spring Awakening] shows teens today that the things they're going through are okay because people over 100 years ago were feeling them, too. . . .You don't [often] think that teens were going through the same things that we are today. I think it's great that kids and adults can relate to the show. It shows them that, if you just figure out how to deal with what's going on, that it can come out all right. I think for parents, it's a great message to show that talking to your kids, as scary as it may be, really can have a great outcome. I really love the message of hope it brings for people today by showing that if we communicate with each other, we can deal with problems . . . . With teens . . . there are just so many things you can't avoid. Teens will always have angst, and they will always be rebellious, but it's just showing that there are ways to deal with it that don't include repression and negativity.

Question: Are you working on any other projects right now?
Socha: Just concentrating on this and seeing what's to come. We'll see what pops up in my future.

Question: Do you have an idea where you would like to see your career go?
Socha: Ever since my world turned upside down last summer, my motto has just sort of been, "We'll see what happens." [Laughs.] So we will. We'll see what I end up in and what I end up following. I've always done theatre and I've always loved it, so I think it will always be a part of my life in some form or another.

Question: Is any of your family here with you?
Socha: My mom did live with me for the first year I was here [in New York]. I turned 18 a few months ago, and she just moved out a couple weeks ago, so I've been trekking on my own, seeing how it's all working out.

Question: And, how has it been living on your own for the first time?
Socha: It's pretty good. I have to do my laundry today, so I'm a little nervous! [Laughs.] But it's been pretty good. It feels good to grow up.

[Spring Awakening plays the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, located in Manhattan at 230 West 49th Street. For tickets call (212) 239-6200 or visit telecharge.com or springawakening.com.]

DIVA TIDBITS
Current "Pushing Daisies" Emmy nominee Kristin Chenoweth's third solo recording will feature a wide range of Christmas songs, including "Silver Bells," "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Come On Ring Those Bells." Entitled "A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas," the single CD is due in stores Oct. 14 on the Sony BMG Masterworks label. About the new disc, which was recorded at Capitol Recording Studio's legendary Studios A & B, Chenoweth said in a statement, "From the minute I signed with Sony Classical eight years ago, I wanted to record a Christmas album. I grew up listening to Barbra Streisand's Christmas album, and that was such an inspiration to me. Christmas is my favorite holiday and I am blessed and excited to be able to do my own Christmas album." The complete track listing for "A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas" follows: "I'll Be Home For Christmas," "Christmas Island," "The Christmas Waltz," "Do You Hear What I Hear?," "Marshmallow Ride"/"Sleigh Ride," "Sing," "Silver Bells," "Come On Ring Those Bells," "What Child Is This?," "Home On Christmas Day," "Born On Christmas Day," and "Sleep Well Little Children"/"What A Wonderful World."

The fourth annual Broadway Loves the 80's concert, an evening featuring Broadway actors performing their favorite eighties hits, will be presented at Joe's Pub in September. Directed by Jamie McGonnigal and Xanadu's Marty Thomas, the Sept. 7 performance is scheduled to begin at 9:30 PM. Spelling Bee's Mo Rocca as well as Casey Erin Clark and Chris Dilley will host the one-night-only event. Among those scheduled to perform are Max von Essen, Hunter Foster, Annie Golden, Tony Award winner Cady Huffman, Chris Jackson, Emily McNamara and Wayne Wilcox. Tickets for Broadway Loves the 80's Vol. 4, priced $30, are available by calling (212) 967-7555 or by visiting www.joespub.com. Joe's Pub is located within the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street.

Singer Sarah Brightman, who created the role of Christine in the London and Broadway productions of The Phantom of the Opera, will release her first Christmas album this holiday season: "A Winter Symphony" will feature such holiday favorites as "Silent Night," "In the Bleak Midwinter" and "Ave Maria." Amazon.com lists a Nov. 4 release date on the Manhattan Records label. For more information visit www.sarah-brightman.com.

Tony Award winner Lillias White will return to the Triad Theatre in Manhattan in September for a series of Monday-evening concerts. Part of Lee Summers' "Just a Piano" series, the Tony-winning actress will perform Mondays at the Triad beginning Sept. 1. She will be accompanied by pianist Mike Dalto for the 9:30 PM concerts. The Triad Theatre is located in Manhattan at 158 West 72nd Street. There is a $40 cover charge and a two-drink minimum. Call (212) 868-4444 for reservations or visit www.smarttix.com. For more information visit www.triadnyc.com or call (212) 362-2590.

The cast recording of the recent Off-Broadway musical Frankenstein — co-starring Hunter Foster, Steve Blanchard and Christiane Noll — will be released on the Friends of Ghostlight label (an extension of Sh-K-Boom and Ghostlight Records) in September. The single CD will be available on the Sh-K-Boom website and at all digital outlets Sept. 2 and will be available on Amazon.com beginning Sept. 30. The recording features the entire original Off-Broadway cast, including Foster as Victor Frankenstein, Noll as Elizabeth, Blanchard as The Creature, Jim Stanek as Henry and Mandy Bruno as Justine with Becky Barta, Nick Cartell, Casey Erin Clark, Struan Erlenborn, Eric Michael Gillett, Leslie Henstock, Patrick Mellen and Aaron Serotsky. Frankenstein is priced $14.99. For more information or to pre-order, visit www.sh-k-boom.com.

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