ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: How Anika Larsen's Xanadu Debut Almost Became a Zanna, DON'T!

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30 Jun 2014

Martin in Pippin.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Was she afraid the entire time she did it? Well, Andrea said that they would run the trapeze section before every show and she was, indeed, scared every single time. But when she was on the trapeze during the show, in character, she was never scared. Along the same lines, Chita Rivera told me that she never felt worthy to make her entrance in Chicago, where she'd rise up in an elevator as the vamp of "All That Jazz" played. She thought it was such a thrilling entrance that someone more glamorous/famous/diva-ish deserved it. So, while the Chicago overture played, she would to tell herself she was Sophia Loren or some other sexy superstar and that mantra would give her the courage to rise on that elevator and start singing, "Come on babe, why don't we paint the town?"

Speaking of Chita, she was a big reason Andrea went into the business. Andrea told us that she would vacation in Puerto Rico and her family saw Chita do her sassy 1960's club act. Andrea is Armenian and was considered extremely ethnic where she lived (Portland, ME). When she saw Chita, she thought that if someone who was dark like that could have a career performing, than so could she. And, speaking of "All That Jazz," here's a fun video I found of Chita sassing it during the original run of the show when she was a guest on Sammy Davis Jr.s' "Sammy and Company." 

Going back to entering a Broadway show on an elevator, I had recent Tony nominee Anika Larsen (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) on "Seth's Broadway Chatterbox." She was Kerry Butler's understudy in Xanadu and her first entrance was coming up from under the stage on an elevator. She told the audience how scary it is being an understudy and explained that the word itself shows how unprepared you are: "You are literally 'under' 'studied'." After I heard that word etymology breakdown a la a Stanley Kaplan SAT course, I explained to the audience that Anika went to Yale and always has an academic bent to her conversations.


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