DIVA TALK: Chatting With Bare Star Missi Pyle

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
11 Jan 2013

Missi Pyle
Missi Pyle

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

MISSI PYLE
Missi Pyle, who made her Broadway debut in the comedic farce Boeing-Boeing, is currently starring Off-Broadway in the coming-of-age rock musical Bare at New World Stages. The singing actress plays Sister Joan, a progressive nun who challenges the powers that be at the Catholic boarding school in which the often-moving Jon Hartmere-Damon Intrabartolo-Lynne Shankel musical is set. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Pyle — whose screen credits include "The Artist," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Big Fish" — about her first musical role in New York. The charming artist spoke about her road to New York, her Broadway bow and the importance of her current role; that interview follows.

Question: Since we've never spoken before, can you tell me where you were born and raised?
Missi Pyle: I was born in Houston, TX, and I was in Katy, TX, until I was about 13, and then I moved. My parents got divorced, and I was in Germantown, TN, which is right outside of Memphis, which is where I went to high school [and] junior high.

Question: When did you start performing?
Pyle: I started performing in high school. There was a pretty great drama department at my school, and that's when I started doing plays and musicals.

Question: Were there any actors or singers who influenced you at that time?
Pyle: Well, you know, I'd never seen a play or a musical when I was a kid, outside of the church. I was in a Southern Baptist Church… I saw the movie "The Princess Bride," and I couldn't believe it. I thought it was the most perfect thing I'd ever seen. It was so funny. I must have watched it 50 times, and I think I got some of my sense of humor from that movie. When I got to Germantown, there was this place called the Poplar Pike Playhouse, and there were all these billboards — posters — for it in my junior high. I was like, "What is this place? What is it?" And, it was actually the name of the theatre at the high school that I ended up going to, and so when I got there, it was this crazy great drama department. I just couldn't believe it. There was a man named Frank Bluestein, who ran it. Chris Parnell went to school there, and other people… I was totally blown away by the performances that I saw there at the high school, and that was kind of my first taste of theatre. I was so tall, so they wanted me to play basketball, but I couldn't do both, so I immediately quit basketball and joined the drama club. [Laughs.]

Pyle in Boeing-Boeing.
photo by Joan Marcus



Question: When did performing change from a hobby to when you knew it was going to be your career or wanted it to be your career?
Pyle: Well, I remember thinking, when I was a kid, when I watched TV, "How do people do that? How does anyone do that?" [Laughs.] And, when I was in high school I remember seeing a production of Bye Bye Birdie that I went to see that came through town. Tommy Tune was in it, and Susan Egan. And, I was totally blown away by her voice, and I just thought, "Oh my God!" I was totally blown away by that entire show, and then when I was at Germantown High School, every year they would give a junior a scholarship to go to North Carolina School of the Arts for the summer program. You had to apply for it, and I applied for it my junior year, and I got it, and I thought, "Oh, this is what I want to do. I want to get into this school, and go to be an actress." I really hadn't done any theatre — even seen much theatre — until I was in high school, and then all of a sudden I realized, "Oh, I can do this. I can do this for a living." So I went to the North Carolina School of the Arts… I got an agent early on. I moved to New York for three years and was just constantly auditioning. Doing auditions for a lot of theatre… I loved musical theatre, but it wasn't something that I had studied tremendously. I did a lot of musicals when I was in high school and college, and I did summer stock, but never was quite good enough of a singer. I couldn't actually use a certain part of my voice, and then, just in the last couple of years, I've been seeing some different teachers who have kind of showed me how to sing a little higher. It's funny because I remember thinking, "God, I wish I had known how to do this 15 years ago. I would have loved to have done musical theatre a little bit earlier."

Question: Your Broadway debut was Boeing-Boeing. Do you remember your first night on Broadway?
Pyle: Yes! [Laughs.] I remember standing there — because I had taken over for Mary McCormack, who'd been nominated for a Tony… I remember coming into town. First of all, she had been offered the role, but there was a while she wasn't sure she was going to do it, so initially, I was maybe going to do it if she didn't do it, and then she ended up taking it. I came in early to watch the show, and they were like, "No, you can't watch the show," because it is a well-oiled machine. I don't think they used those words, but they were just like, "You cannot watch it," and so I rehearsed for two weeks, and then they let me watch it. And, I sat in the third row, and I remember I was literally so terrified when I saw it because it was so good and so funny and so fast! I couldn't believe how funny she was, and I thought, "Oh, my God." And, I knew that I was coming in, and I was going to be doing a different performance. It was different, and I was so scared, but I remember standing backstage. I had this big yellow suit on with a big yellow hat and giant blonde wig — it was so big — heels and this giant bag of laundry, and I was just like, "I can't believe I'm about to go!" [Laughs.] Because I had to make this crazy-big entrance, and I walk in and kiss Christine Baranski on the mouth [and I'm] screaming in German. It was just like getting shot out of a cannon. I remember thinking, "I can't believe I'm about to go out on stage on Broadway!" I just couldn't believe it, and then "Bam!" You're just right in it. Humping the furniture! [Laughs.]

Continued...

1 | 2 | 3 Next