DIVA TALK: Chatting With NYMF Stars Jenna Leigh Green, Karen Mason, Jane Summerhays and Lynn Wintersteller

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12 Jul 2013

Jane Summerhays

Jane Summerhays
Marry Harry at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center; July 19-28

How did you get involved with this production?
My agent called with an offer to play Francine in Marry Harry. Having served on the board of The National Music Theatre Network in the early days, I am very committed to the mission of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. I read the play, loved the character and thought the show would be great fun to do.

What other NYMF productions have you been a part of?
In September 2007, I appeared in Sympathy Jones, the Secret Agent Musical, conceived by composer and lyricist Masi Asare, with the book by Brooke Pierce. I filled in at the 11th hour for another actress, so it was a bit harrowing - but very exciting.

How would you describe the character you're playing?
Oh, she’s a hoot! She’s a society-conscious, suffocating, "mother knows best" sort of woman who does everything in her power to run her daughter’s life - which she does with the very best intentions. Fun!

Why do you think audiences should attend this particular production?
Marry Harry has great heart, while dealing with life issues we must all face and come to terms with. It is beautifully written, has a terrific cast and creative team, and it’s funny.

Why do you think NYMF is so important?
The musical theatre is one of America’s greatest art forms. I cannot imagine New York City without it. It is essential to the vibrancy and soul of this city and the American culture. But for it to thrive, it must be nurtured. NYMF exists to "revitalize musical theatre culture by discovering and promoting new musical theatre artists, producers and projects; nurturing a vibrant and innovative artistic community; and connecting one of America’s greatest art forms with a diverse, contemporary audience." That is its mission statement, and I believe it fulfills it.

NYMF celebrates new musicals, but which role in a classic musical would you most like to perform and why?
The King and I was my mother’s obsession. She must have seen the film 20 times. As a young child, I went with her. My mom has a gorgeous voice, and I grew up listening to her singing the songs from the score. So, I guess I have always wanted to play Anna - a challenging role with such gorgeous, soaring melodies.

What is your most memorable onstage mishap?
Oh, that’s an easy one. As the soubrette in Sugar Babies, I performed a number with 14 white doves. I was dressed as a Grecian statue and I sang a lovely ballad, "Warm and Willing." After singing the song once through, I turned toward the wings and motioned for the doves to make their entrance. The first four birds flew in one at a time and landed on various perches that were sewn into my costume. Then came the rest - in a deluge. I turned so that my back was to them and they landed all over my shoulders and arms, with one on my head. I then faced the audience, a statue covered in birds, to finish the song.

One particular night, as I was just about to sing the high note, the bird that was perched on my head deposited a calling card right on the tip of my nose. I slammed my mouth shut, unable to finish the number. I remember seeing the conductor’s baton fly through the air as he collapsed in hysterics over his music stand. The orchestra ceased playing and the curtain rang down to an audience that was convulsed in laughter. ("What, and leave show business?")



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