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

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03 Feb 2012

Jill Paice
Jill Paice

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

It's been a busy season for Jill Paice, the singing actress who made her West End and Broadway debut in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White and was later seen in Rupert Holmes, John Kander and Fred Ebb's Curtains and the Alfred Hitchcock-inspired caper The 39 Steps. This past summer, Paice was featured in the Off-Broadway world premiere of the new Maury Yeston musical Death Takes a Holiday, based on the Alberto Casella play of the same name. And, now, the gifted soprano is lending her talents to a limited engagement of Tokio Confidential, a new musical with book, music and lyrics by Eric Schorr that begins performances Feb. 5 at Atlantic Theater's Stage 2. Directed by Johanna McKeon, the production also features Jeff Kready (Billy Elliot), Austin Ku, Mel Maghuyop, Benjamin McHugh, Manna Nichols and Mike O'Carroll. Last week, I had the pleasure of chatting with Paice, who spoke about her recent projects as well as her work on Broadway and in the Signature Theatre's production of the rock musical Chess; that interview follows.

Question: Before we get to Tokio, tell me about your experience with Death Takes a Holiday.
Jill Paice: That was marvelous… That was a project that I had been working on for five or six years. To see that come to fruition was really exciting. It had really been a labor of love for such a long time—and for so many people, for even longer than I had been working on it. So, it was great to step out from behind the music stand, if you know what I mean—from doing readings and to stage it, and with Maury [Yeston's] music and Doug [Hughes'] direction. It was such an intimate little piece that was amazing to be a part of.

Question: What was it like getting a new leading man midway through?
Paice: Well, Kevin Earley, who stepped in for Julian [Ovenden]...was kind of the knight in shining armor that was able to sweep in and take over the show. He never seemed nervous. He just was very confident, but very open. I mean, he's so brave, in my opinion, to take over. [Laughs.] Just watching him excel and succeed in doing that, it was invigorating.

Jill Paice in Death Takes a Holiday.
photo by Joan Marcus

Question: Had you ever sung any of Maury Yeston's work before?
Paice: I had done bits and pieces from Phantom in voice lessons… I had worked on his music before, but I don't believe I had ever been in a Maury Yeston show before. That was my first one.

Question: I know you also did Chess out at the Signature in Arlington, VA. What's it like for you to do a more belty role? Do you have a preference?
Paice: Well, I mean Chess was a blast because I got to feel like a rock star, which is not usually an opportunity that comes my way. [Laughs.] That whole piece was so exciting. It's a show that a lot of people have known about for a long time but have actually never seen onstage, including myself. So, it was fun to be a part of that and redeveloping it—shrinking it down and making it a more intimate piece. 

Question: How did you find it vocally? Is it harder on the voice to do a show like that than Death Takes a Holiday?
Paice: They each have their own challenges. Death Takes a Holiday, I would say, was more vocally demanding because I had so much singing in it, and I really had to take it easy during the day. I kind of hung out with my dog quietly at home. But then, I actually found Chess to be emotionally more demanding. It has its own way of fatiguing you, but I definitely think Maury's show was harder for me. [Laughs.]


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