DIVA TALK: Catching Up With Pippin Star, Two-Time Tony Nominee Charlotte d'Amboise

By Andrew Gans
24 May 2013

Patina Miller and Matthew James Thomas
Photo by Joan Marcus

Question: What’s it like performing on the stage now that everything has come together, with the big cast and all the acrobatics going on around you?
D’Amboise: I do have to say that I hate that Diane is not around anymore—that she left us and Chet and Gypsy! [Laughs.] You miss all that. You have people watching you and taking care of you every second, coming to give you notes every night, working to make it better, and then suddenly they’re gone. It’s so weird! You almost feel like a kid that’s been left.

But it's been great, it’s so wonderful the audience reaction to the show. I’ve never been in a show with such an incredible response. It’s like a rock concert almost, right from the beginning, from the first chords. That's just thrilling. We're all so proud of the show because we all feel like we contributed to and have been part of the whole process. I feel more proud of the show than anything, more than my part. It’s more about the show. I really do, I feel completely proud of everything that the show is and what Diane and everybody wanted to create and what it's become. It feels great. It feels wonderful; it’s a really special group of people. But doesn’t everybody say that? [Laughs]. I’m listening to myself thinking, “Hmm, I’ve heard myself say this before”…

Question: It really is an amazing cast with Patina Miller and Andrea Martin...
D’Amboise. Everybody is so professional and cares about the work, and those acrobats, the way they work and process things – they’re so professional. They’re never out. Never. That is the world of circus. They're just never out. Mind you, they don’t have to sing. They sing in the show, but singing is another whole thing.…They’re really incredible people. So that’s been wonderful to have them be a part of it all and us learning from them.

Question: What’s it like being a married couple and playing a married couple who doesn’t have the greatest marriage?
D’Amboise: It’s fun. They don’t have the greatest marriage, but they kind of have fun together. It’s all about the sex as my husband says! And, he gets to throw knives at me. [Laughs.] But, it’s a joy. I go onstage and I see his face, and I just relax and go with it. That whole process has been a joy and surprisingly good because I was a little worried about it. It’s been nice to, truthfully, just watch him in his element and how amazing he is to see him work. I notice he never says that about me. Do you ever say that about me, honey? [Laughs.] But he does watch my dance most of the time, and afterwards he'll say, "You nailed it tonight." He's always positive about my dance, even if it’s a little iffy [laughs].

Question: Had you seen the original production?
D’Amboise: I had not, but I did it in high school. I remember the commercial. I was a kid, and I remember my brother always talking about the commercial and us watching it. Then we started listening to the music, but we didn't see the show, and then I did it in high school. So it's very much a part of my life, a huge part of my life because it was this fun, social thing in high school. I remember having a good time with the Collegiate boys doing that show.

d'Amboise in A Chorus Line.
photo by Paul Kolnik

Question: The choreography for Fastrada—how much of it is new and how much is Fosse?
D’Amboise: All of it’s new. We completely re-thought that number, and it’s different music… One day I remember seeing Diane. We talked about it for a long time with Chet, and we started to choreograph it without any music. Chet was just making up steps. And, it was kind of a last-minute thing, and then finally we got into a studio with Diane and Nadia [DiGallonardo], and we had a drummer, and they just came up with this kind of groove and move. We kind of fiddled one day, and bam, it was there! It was really fast. [Laughs.] And, again, a very collaborative effort from everybody. Sometimes when things are done so easily, it’s right. And then you can go away from it and try something else, but you ultimately end up back where it was because it was meant to be that. So that’s all been re-thought completely. And from Cambridge to New York, the choreography is exactly the same, but we added the quick changes, so that was new from Cambridge, and some other changes. But, yes, it’s all been completely re-choreographed and re-thought. It’s not Fosse choreography.

Question: How would you describe Fastrada?
D’Amboise: Obviously completely self-motivated and ambitious and will kill anybody that gets in her way, including her son Louis, who she loves and adores. She doesn’t [kill him] because he’s the one that’s going to get her where she wants to be, so she adores him. But she’s able to do it. She’s done it for so many years, manipulating, she’s found it’s the perfect way to do it. She does it with love and joy and sunshine, and that’s what’s going to get her the furthest. She’s figured out a technique. That’s who she is. She’s completely self-motivated, and she does it through sex in most cases. She’s manipulative in every way she can possibly be to get what she wants.

Question: Do you have a favorite moment in the show either for her or something you look forward to watching?
D’Amboise: I have to say I love it all. I don’t have that much, you know? I love my first scene when I come out and I’m introduced, and I have that great exit, but I have to say, I love my last line in the play. I back up and whack the floor and say, “After all I’m just an ordinary housewife and mother like all you housewives and mothers out there.” I love that because it’s just how powerful a mother can be. I love it. So that’s my favorite moment, the ending of the whole dance there. And, it’s all set up so beautifully. But in the show there are so many magical moments I love and I can watch every night, like when the hand comes through. Terry, when he grabs his knife – that moment I think is so eerie and creepy and interesting. And then I love "Right Track." I love the simplicity of Matthew [James Thomas] and Patina dancing “Right Track.” I love to sit in the wings and watch that number. There are so many moments.

Question: Do you think the show has a message or what does it say to you?
D’Amboise: Yes, I do. It's interesting because everybody comes away with a little bit of a different message. But, for me, it’s saying what human nature is—that everybody wants to be extraordinary at some moment in their life, and everybody knows that feeling at some point. Some people keep it with them for the rest of their lives, and some people have it at moments in their lives. And, ultimately, in the end what you realize on your deathbed is that it’s really about family and that’s what you leave behind. Family and the people you love, not the Tony Awards you won. Ultimately, that's what life is about in the end, but we all have to strive for this, and that is human nature. And, therefore, that's why the world gets made. That’s why things get done. It’s part of our nature, and it's an important part of who we are. I feel that’s what I get from it – that’s what it’s saying. Now it’s saying it in a story where “we’re here to take your soul and have you burn so we can say we saw something amazing.” It’s told in a way that’s a fable, but that’s what I get from it ultimately. And, here we are grabbing another child, another person, and there’s always somebody you can get.

[For tickets visit Telecharge.com. The Music Box Theatre is located at 239 West 45th Street. Visit PippinTheMusical.com.]

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