PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Matilda's "Mrs. Wormwood," Olivier Award Winner Lesli Margherita

By Matthew Blank
April 16, 2013

Lesli Margherita, making her Broadway debut as Mrs. Wormwood in Matilda The Musical, fills out's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

She received the Laurence Olivier Award for her performance in Zorro the Musical in London’s West End. A
California native, her national tour/regional credits include Kiss Me, Kate; Show Boat; Man of La Mancha; The Grönholm Method; Little Shop of Horrors; Spamalot; Grease; Aida; West Side Story and See What I Wanna See.

Her nightclub act All Hail the Queen has played to soldout crowds in NY/L.A.

Full given name: Lesli Michelle Margherita
Where you were born/where you were raised: Born in San Jose, CA, raised in Fremont, CA. Woo Hoo Cali!
Zodiac Sign:Taurus. Total. Taurus.
What your parents did/do for a living:My dad is retired, he was a masonry contractor. He actually built the theme park theater I performed in during high school. My mom is an awesome stay-at-home/proud stage mom.
Siblings:3 older sisters. Lisa, Lynn and Lora. I knowÖ the L thing.
Current audition song/monologue:I will do anything humanly possible to get out of singing my own song at an audition. I like singing from the score.

But, since it never seems to work, I usually sing "Gorgeous" from The Apple Tree and "Umbrella" as a ballad. Yes, the Rihanna one.

At my first Matilda audition, they looked through my book and had me do the end of "My Strongest Suit" from Aida, which range-wise is close to "Loud." Fantastic, now Iíve just given away my songs. Thanks, Playbill.

Special skills: Seriously, I have none. Wait- Iím an amazing online shopper. Oh, and I bedazzle. I can bedazzle anything. And do. Judge away.
Something you're REALLY bad at: Anything domestic. My poor husband. I canít cook, and canít clean. I once put laundry detergent in the dishwasher. True story. The dishes smelled nice, though.
Did you have any particular mentors or inspirations when first starting out? My ballet teacher Yoko Young gave me whatever technique I have today, and gave me a strong work ethic. Later, it was Kenny Ortega, who gave me my first TV job and taught me about performing for the camera, as well as being grateful for every job you get. Even if it's a flop.
First Broadway show you ever saw: Jerome Robbins' Broadway. I LOVED it. An entire cast of triple threats. I wanted to be them. Jason Alexander (who won the Tony for it) has directed me now a couple of times in L.A. It was so cool to tell him how much that show meant to me.
If you could go back in time and catch any Broadway show, what would it be? The original cast of A Chorus Line. They WERE those people.
Current show other than your own you have been recommending to friends: Book of Mormon- Matt Doyle is a phenom.

Newsies- those boys are FIERCE.

Iím also telling peeps to look out for First Date: The Musical this summer. I workshopped an early version, and itís really really funny.

Some favorite modern musicals: I was a total Rent-head. The Producers, Spamalot. Love Wicked.
Some favorite classic musicals: Man of La Mancha; Kiss Me, Kate. I know they arenít totally old, but Evita and Dreamgirls are my faves.
Broadway or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with: Carol Burnett, Madeline Kahn, Lesley Ann Warren. I mean, come on.
Your personal vocal idols, living or dead: Donít laugh. Iím a Celine freak. Iíll NEVER sound like her, Iím just saying publicly that I love her.
The one performance Ė attended - that you will never forget: In keeping with the mortifying Celine theme, my husband surprised me and we flew to Vegas to see her concert. I kid you not, she took one step on stage, and I started bawling. Loudly. My husband could not have sunk down in his seat further.
Music that makes you cry, any genre: Reggae. I hate it so much that I will cry if itís playing anywhere.
MAC or PC? What's a PC?
Most played song on your iPod: It started as a joke but if I needed a boost before something big, I played "Eye of the Tiger" loudly. During previews, Iíve needed it a lot, lol.
Most-visited websites: D Listed for celeb gossip that makes me scream laugh.

Divatress (you read that correctly) for the insane amount of extra hair I buy.

Playbill. Duh.

Last book you read: Iím a bookworm, bookworm, stupid little bookworm (see Matilda). I read a ton, and Iím also a proud YA (young adult) fan. Just finished the last in the "Maze Runner" series. I recommend. "Hunger Games"-ish.
Must-see TV show(s): "Homeland"
"Game of Thrones"
"True Blood"

Oh yeah, and "The Vampire Diaries." Go ahead, judge me again. You canít go wrong with hot Vampires. Just saying.

Some films you consider classics: MY classics: The ORIGINAL "Star Wars" Trilogy. "Tootsie." All of the Brat Pack films of the 80ís. The Indiana Jones movies (the first three, the last one was a little boo).
Performer you would drop everything to go see: Bette Midler. Who is at the theatre next to ours. She is literally steps away from me. My stalking possibilities are high.
Pop culture guilty pleasure: "Dance Moms," "Drag Race," "Toddlers and Tiaras" and yesÖ The Kardashians.
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: The first LP I ever had was "Barry Manilow LIVE!" I loved him. HmmÖ says a lot about me, really.
What are some of your most memorable roles as a kid or teenager and how old were you? From about 10-12, I screlted ďTomorrowĒ in every Annie production I could. I then moved on to playing Peter Pan a bunchÖ until I looked like I was smuggling two lost boys under my shirt. I went from Peter Pan to Peronís Mistress in 6 months.
First stage kiss: I was 15, playing Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street. The guy opposite me was in his 20s. I thought my father was gonna go ďGodfatherĒ on him.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: I saw Annie in San Francisco when I was 7. I remember one of the orphans messed up a step, and I was like, ďUgh. Seriously? I wouldnít.Ē Hahaha. (Side note: I have since messed up MANY. Karma.)
How you got your Equity card: I was a freshman in college, and I did a show at Disneyland that gave it to me. Toontown gave me my card. Fitting.
Favorite pre-/post- show meal: Well, I've never lived in NY before this, so I'm still finding places. In London, I became a Pret A Manger junkie. I have continued the tradition here. I canít eat a ton before a show, or I will barf during "Loud."

After the show, I love Bar Centrale for the people-watching, and I love Becco for the spaghetti. (Iím Italian, I gotta.)

Favorite liquid refreshment: Wine. Umm, I also like wine. Oh, and wine.
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: I warm up with the kids in the show. Most of us do, actually. Itís great.

I canít believe Iím admitting this- I have a life-size Robert Pattinson cutout in my dressing room (long story). Before I go onstage, I have to touch him. WaitÖ this doesnít sound rightÖ thatís not what I meanÖ

Most challenging role you have ever played: There are two. Aldonza in La Mancha, and Inez, my role in Zorro. It is a marathon. When I would (spoiler alert) get shot near the end, I would crumple onstage (center, of course) and say ďoh thank GodĒ because I could rest for a minute.
What are you most looking forward to, making your Broadway debut after working so extensively around the country and London? This has been such a long time coming. Iím a sap about it all. My entire cast has been so amazing about it. They filmed me going into the stage door for the first time (and crying), standing onstage for the first time (and crying)Ö you get the picture. Lots of crying. Iím looking forward to everything, signing up for all the Broadway community events, being a Bway dork, honestly.
How did you get involved in this production? A friend of mine in London sent me a message saying he had just seen the show, and there was a role I needed to play. I knew it was coming to Broadway, so I bought the cast recording.

I heard the song "Loud" once, drove to my friend's office, burst in on her workday, and said, "I'll die if anyone else does this." (I'm not dramatic or anything).

I basically went after it like a rabid dog. I auditioned in NY and LA. Jim Carnahan and his casting office were rock stars. It was a really long process over a few months. I was willing to do anything to get it. Rabid. Dog.

Were you familiar with the book previously? Oh yeah. I am a big Dahl fan. I had read the book numerous times.
What has been the most fun or fulfilling aspect of the experience? We are gonna need more space. I know I hit the performer jackpot having this show be my Broadway debut. This team, and this cast are EVERYTHING. I've never been in a show that I have been completely in awe of as well.

Also, Iím very Mrs. Wormwood-esque (the good parts), in that I love sparkles, big hair, makeupÖso getting to play her is a dream, ha. I get to keep my acrylic nails.

Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: Ooh, so many.

1. I was doing a staged workshop, and we all entered behind a scrim. As I walked behind it, my tights were a little twisted, so I hiked my skirt up around my waist and tugged them around quite violently before putting my skirt back down... nobody told me the scrim was fully lit and see through.

2. The very first day of rehearsal for Zorro in London we were doing choreography. Everyone was there and I raised my hand and asked loudly, ďSorry, but is there any way to get me a rehearsal skirt? I just canít wear pants when I dance.Ē There was deafening silence. In Britain, ďpantsĒ is the word they use for underwear.

If you could trade roles with anyone in the cast for a week, who would it be? Any member of the adult ensemble who gets to do "Revolting Children." I peek from the back of the house every night and cry, itís so good. I've just outed myself to stage management, haven't I...
Leading lady role you've been dying to play: Velma in Chicago. Adelaide in Guys and Dolls. Fred in Once Upon A Mattress.

Everyone says it, I know, but I have to- Iím dying to play Evita- although I thought my friend Elena Roger was stunning.

Leading man role you'd like a shot at: Please. There is no way I could play a man. There isn't enough duct tape in the world to tape me down.
Something about you that surprises people: I am a "Star Wars" fanatic. I had Stormtroopers at my black tie wedding.
Something you are incredibly proud of: My nightclub act, "All Hail the Queen." (yeah, total plug. Deal with it).

My closest friends and I created it, and it will always be us having a blast. Always. We have been nothing but true to what weíve wanted to do onstage, and that is all that's important.

Write and create your own stuff. Even if you are scared to. Not everyone is gonna like it, I guarantee. Everyone's a critic. But who cares? You took a chance and created something, they didn't. (Sticks tongue out, makes raspberry noise).

Career you would want if not a performer: Writer. Although after reading this, you may disagree...
"I'll never understand whyÖ" Ö some actors complain so much and call out of their shows when they just don't feel like doing it. Boo. You work your whole life to get to Broadway or wherever, you have to be grateful you get to live your dream.

Donít you dare give anything less than 100%, and be kind to everyone. Your reputation precedes you, and it's a small business. Seriously, you are one bad attitude (or diva tantrum) away from being the Hello Kitty in Times Square. Donít forget that.

Words of advice for aspiring performers: Have a life. Show business is not your life. Itís what you do. These are very different things.

Also, donít read message boards. Especially when drinking. You will go down a shame spiral no one can bring you back from. Well, maybe hot Vampires.