Audra McDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Patti LuPone, Lin-Manuel Miranda and More Answer Jimmy Nominees' Burning Questions

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30 Jun 2014

Kristin Chenoweth
Kristin Chenoweth

The 6th Annual National High School Musical Theater Awards, also known as the Jimmy Awards, take place June 30. In anticipation of the awards, Broadway's best answered some of the Jimmy nominees' burning questions.

At the Jimmy Awards meet-and-greet, Playbill.com asked Jimmy nominees what they wanted to know from their favorite Broadway stars. Via email, Tony winners Audra McDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Billy Porter responded.

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Ryan Borgo, who won the Pittsburgh CLO Gene Kelly Awards for his performance as Frank Abagnale, Jr. in Catch Me If You Can, to Billy Porter: "What's it like being from Pittsburgh and making it on Broadway?"
Billy Porter: It's a dream come true. It's the original dream. I can remember being a teenager and watching the Tony Awards on TV or checking cast albums out of the Carnegie Library and thinking, "That's gonna be me someday. I don't know when or how - but it's gonna be me!!!"

Jai'Len Josey, who won the Georgia High School Musical Theater Awards for her performance as Effie White in Dreamgirls, to Tituss Burgess, whom she worked with at Broadway Dreams Foundation in Atlanta: "What inspired you to be on Broadway, and what's keeping you going?"
Tituss Burgess: First, let me say that that young lady has a gargantuan talent. She will terrorize the Broadway community in the best possible way. I wasn't so much inspired to be on Broadway as much as it was a necessity. There are a few things I need to survive… water, air, food, love and THEATRE.



Mekhai Lee, who won The Blumey Awards for his performance as Shrek in Shrek the Musical, to Billy Porter: "How do you make it through an entire week on heels, and how have you been doing this for over a year?"
Billy Porter: Lots of rest: seven-ten hours a day give or take. Two sessions of physical therapy per week and a two-hour massage every week. It's the only way...

Kaycee Murto, who won the DSM High School Musical Theatre Award for her performance as Lady in the Lake in Spamalot, to Patti LuPone: How do you make each role your own? You've done roles that stars have taken on before, such as Rose in Gypsy and Lovett in Sweeney Todd, and they are completely different from anyone who came before you.
Patti LuPone: I simply read the script and I read it several times. If it's a good script all the answers to developing the character are right there. My impressions and instincts will be different from another actor's because we are all different. However having said that, I always try my best to decipher what the playwright intended and then I begin to create the character. You mustn't forget that between the actor and the playwright, there is the director. If he is good he will guide your interpretation.

Aliya Ryan, who won the Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards for her performance as Cinderella in Into the Woods, to Laura Osnes: "What was your favorite role you played?"
Laura Osnes: I like to say that choosing your favorite role is like choosing your favorite child. Honestly, every role has a very special place in my heart for a different reason. But if I have to choose, I think it would be either Peter Pan because I got to fly or Bonnie Parker [in Bonnie & Clyde] because I got to create and originate her in a brand-new musical. 

Ashlyn Uribe, who won The Blumey Awards for her performance as Maria in The Sound of Music, to Audra McDonald: "What are six steps to taking care of yourself to perform eight shows a week on Broadway?"
Audra McDonald: I wouldn't say there are six specific steps you have to take when doing eight shows a week. But because it's such an intense schedule, you have to be very cautious, especially when it's a singing role. You definitely can't smoke or drink, and you're not supposed to talk a lot. You also have to take voice lessons all the time. Unlike other instruments, like a trumpet, that you can put down at the end of the day, your voice is always with you. When I'm on Broadway, I live a bit of a monkish life. I also try to be as quiet as I possibly can be before a show. I don't like to chat before I get on stage. With that being said, I do a full operatic warm up before the show, so that my voice is fully engaged and as open and supportive as it can be. I then go back to being quiet and inward, so I can prepare myself to turn my soul inside out.

From Nyles Washington, who won the Tommy Tune Awards for his performance as Usnavi in In the Heights, to Lin-Manuel Miranda: "For you to work on a project like In the Heights for so long, what was the final motivation to finish? What was the last thing on your mind to push you to the finish line?"
Lin-Manuel Miranda: First of all, congrats, Youngsnavi! The final motivation was the same as the initial motivation: Get my show up on a stage. I worked for eight years on it, there was nothing to do but give it everything I had. My last thought, as I stood in the wings to chase off Graffiti Pete on opening night, was not Usnavi's but Nina's: "Beathe."

From Abigail Noble, who won The Bobby G. Awards for her performance as Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical, to Kristin Chenoweth: "What do you base your characters on, and how do you make them unique? What tools do you use to portray your roles?"
Kristin Chenoweth: I always base a character in reality. Especially if it's a big, over-the-top type of role. If any song or scene is portrayed by me, I need to know the root of who this person is. If I were playing a dental hygienist, I would go to my dentist's office and meet the person. I would try to find qualities I can relate to and look for aspects of this person that make me different from that role or character. Best advice? Find your truth in whatever past you're playing.