DIVA TALK: Chatting With Death Takes a Holiday/Tokio Confidential's Jill Paice, PLUS Carol Channing

By Andrew Gans
03 Feb 2012

Paice and Euan Morton in Chess.
photo by Scott Suchman

Question: That's interesting because you always hear for women singers that belting is not great for the voice.
Paice: Well, yeah, but Chess picks its moments to go into that voice, so it wasn't constant. You have songs like "Heaven Help My Heart," which are lighter. "You and I" can actually be sung more classically—it's not belted out the whole time. Because I'm not a full-time belter, as I will call it now, I pick and choose my moments to use that part of the voice so that I don't fatigue it.

Question: Out of curiosity, what kind of dog do you have?
Paice: I have a Yorkie. She's very scrappy though, she's not a girly dog. She's the most awesome dog on the planet, in my opinion. [Laughs.]

Question: What's her name?
Paice: Lolly.

Question: So, now, tell me how Tokio came about for you.
Paice: I got a phone call. [Laughs.] It's very different from Death Takes a Holiday, where I had been a part of it for such a long time because this didn't come through for me until a couple months ago, so I'm very new to the project. Some people have been working on it longer than others, but I'm definitely in the newbie group.

Question: Tell me a little bit about the show and your character.
Paice: It's a new and original musical. It takes place [after the U.S. Civil War]. I play an American widow, whose husband was always very fascinated with Japan, and after his death, she chooses to make the trip to Japan, which, back then, meant two weeks on a boat. She arrives in Japan to connect with a part of her husband that is now missing [her husband had spoken of Japan while they were courting ]. While she is doing that, she meets a tattoo artist and begins to get a tattoo, which covers her entire back.

Question: What is the score like?
Paice: The score is complicated. [Laughs.] It definitely keeps you on your toes. It takes a lot of twists and turns even within the music. It's definitely unique. It's written by an American, but there is something about it that sounds Japanese at times.

Question: Would you say it's more…
Paice: It's legit. Is that what you're wondering?

Question: So, more soprano-y than part-time belter?
Paice: Yes.

Paice and Meredith Patterson in Paper Mill's White Christmas.
photo by T. Charles Erickson

Question: It's such a limited run. Is there chance for an extension…?
Paice: You know, I haven't heard anything like that. I think it's here to have its little life. [Laughs.] I haven't heard anything of playing it beyond its closing date.

Question: Does that factor into deciding whether or not you want to take a role? Putting in a lot of time to learn something for a limited engagement…
Paice: Because we rehearse three weeks and then we play three weeks, what's great, in a way, is it's not a huge time commitment. Of course, then, I'm immediately unemployed afterwards. [Laughs.] But, sometimes, it's good to keep changing jobs and mixing things up and keeping you on your toes, so I appreciate the length of this run, actually. I think it's good timing, and it will be nice to have worked on it as hard as we have and still have three more weeks to perform it.

Question: Since we've never spoken before, I just want to go back a bit. Where were you born and raised?
Paice: I was born in Minot, North Dakota, but I grew up in Ohio mostly. My dad was in the air force, so we moved around quite a bit, but I grew up in Ohio.

Question: When did you start performing?
Paice: I started performing when I was eight years old in the high school production of Oklahoma! My mom took me to that audition because we had been moving around a lot, and I was having trouble—showing up at a new school, and she thought maybe this would be a good way to meet people. She dragged me to my first audition, and ever since then has maybe regretted it—I don't know! [Laughs.] Sending your child into theatre, willingly, is not easily done.