PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Annie Potts, Ascending to a Lifelong Dream with Broadway's Pippin

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10 Mar 2014

Annie Potts
Annie Potts

Golden Globe Award nominee Annie Potts made her Broadway debut in the 2009 Tony Award-winning dark comedy God of Carnage. She returns this season, fulfilling a lifelong dream with the principal role of Berthe in the Tony Award-winning revival of Pippin.

Best known for her television work as Mary Jo Shively on the sitcom "Designing Women," Potts' film credits also include "Ghostbusters," "Pretty in Pink" and her Golden Globe-nominated performance in "Corvette Summer." Her stage appearances include the L.A. production of Aftermath, as well as The Vagina Monologues, Diva, Love Letters, Charley’s Aunt, The Merchant of Venice, A Little Night Music, Cymbeline and The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.

Potts spoke with about taking over the high-flying role of vivacious grandmother Berthe in Pippin, originally played in the revival by Tony Award winner Andrea Martin and later by Tovah Feldshuh.

While she is known for her roles on screen, Potts confessed that it was her early dream to be a musical theatre actress; however, a devastating car accident at the age of 21, which broke both of her legs, changed the course of her career. Despite still feeling the effects of that accident, Potts has now come full circle with the juicy role of Berthe.

This role has been a long-time coming for you. I understand that you originally set out to be a musical theatre performer.
Potts: Yes. I started out really as a musical theatre person and then I was in a really dreadful car accident. Drunk drivers hit me and I broke both of my legs in a million pieces, so I didn't think I would ever have a career in this again. I certainly couldn't have ever competed as an ingénue. But now that I'm an old woman [laughs] I can come back! You know, I'm working through it. What a grace note in my career! What a thrill to be out there with these extraordinary people and get to do what I'd always hoped to do as a young girl.

For fans who mostly know your screen work, it might be a surprise to find out that you're a musical theatre lover.
Potts: I always loved it and I grew up doing this; summer stock and everything. And then, I couldn’t do it anymore. So I let it go. I had a very nice career doing other things that didn't include that, but there was always a hole in my heart. I missed it. I grew up, like a lot of other little girls, with a record player in my room with The King and I, South Pacific and all of that blazing away. I mean, it's the most fun thing in the world.

Did you know what to expect when producers approached you about the role?
Potts: Pippin first came out when I was in college, but I was not quite prepared for what Berthe was asked to do in this production. So, as I watched Berthe ascend the trapeze, I thought, "Oh my God!" But of course, it's so fabulous. It's such a flight of fancy and whimsy, and an anthem for living life to the fullest. It kind of knocked me out, and I thought, "You know, who wouldn't want to do that?"


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