|Photo by Joan Marcus|
Question: In doing the research, how close did you get to her inner circle? Did you get to talk to people or did you rely on books? What was the process there?
Smith: I did. I mean, I talked to people in her inner circle [including] her musical director Larry White, who did her musical direction for several years and he was at Royal Albert Hall with her… I talked to people who knew her personally who were in her life. I knew people who were lovers. I did as much research as possible on anything on the internet, any material that I could get my hands on… But I did speak to people who actually knew her, and one of the stories about Royal Albert Hall that ends up in the musical—about her being two hours late and she was out shopping for shoes—is a true story. [Laughs.] It's really funny! She had enormous stage fright… I talked to Ronnie Spector, and she came to the opening, and she shared a dressing room with Dusty, and she talked about how Dusty would go buy cheap plates, and they would throw them against the wall before she had to go on stage. She's a fantastic character. I mean, it doesn’t get much better than that. Ronnie Spector said to me, "I shared a dressing room with her, and you did her proud." She just really had a great time, and that, to me, means [so much]. Paul Huntley, who is doing our wigs, knew her personally and did her wigs, and he came into my dressing room, and he just had tears in his eyes and said, "Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful," and honestly, that means more to me than anything. That's what it is. It's touching people. I mean, I had another man who knew her personally who came up to me last week with tears in his eyes…and he was like, "You're bringing her back. I was with her when she was dying." It seems that the people who knew her personally are the most moved…and that just means the world to me, it really does. I mean, that's what it was for… Younger audiences are loving it, too. I think you're seeing rock 'n' roll history on stage, which is always, I think, fascinating. She was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame by Elton John two months after she passed. She's a historic rock 'n' roll figure, and you see that… When you're a young person, or maybe you don't know the story, I think it's an important story to know. This is sheer rock 'n' roll history. [Laughs.] It's powerful in that way as well.
Question: What are the challenges in the role because you do do a huge amount of singing?
Smith: More of the challenge than anything else, I think, is just singing as much as I'm singing. It's landing in the scenes, I think, too—making sure I land in the scene. I do a warm-up, I do a cool-down. I gargle. I'm sleeping as much as I can sleep! [Laughs.] And, I'm taking excellent care of myself, physically and emotionally. It's like being an athlete in a way. If you were an Olympian or something, you have to take really excellent care of yourself and know what your limitations are. There's no way that I could go out and party in any way right now. [Laughs.] That's just not in the scope. It has to be pretty focused on my craft and what I'm doing every day because I just want to make sure that the audiences are getting the best show that they can, and that means me being in the best shape I can be in.
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