PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: 50 Shades! Star Amber Petty Talks Disney Princesses, Cold Stone Auditions and S&M Crash Courses

Amber Petty, who stars in 50 Shades! The Musical, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Amber Petty
Amber Petty

Petty is a performer with Baby Wants Candy, the UCB Theater and a graduate of AADA. She is the voice of Sirius/XM’s Radio "Margaritaville."

Full given name: Amber Nicole Petty
Where you were born/where you were raised: Mesa, AZ/Puyallup, WA
Zodiac Sign: Taurus
What your parents did/do for a living: Mom was mostly a mom who specialized in driving me to multiple dance classes and community theater shows. Dad is an accountant.
Siblings: Two younger sisters, Micaela and Haley.
Special skills: I can twirl a baton, am a dialect coach and I fall down really well. Seriously. I have a true gift for falling to the ground.
Something you're REALLY bad at: Cleaning my apartment. See my empty dresser and piles of clothes on the floor for details.
First Broadway show you ever saw: Beauty and the Beast. I saw it on a high school choir trip to New York. Though it was a lovely show, I was mad I couldn't see The Producers, which was still in previews at the time. But The Producers did not have a man with a flame-based costume, so I think I won out.
If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be? Mostly things Angela Lansbury was in, especially Gypsy and Sweeney Todd. I also wouldn't mind seeing the Astor Place riots. The sight of people rioting over Shakespeare probably involves far fewer monocles than my imagination would suggest.
Current or recent show other than your own you have been recommending to friends: What I Did for Love or Grandma's Ashes at the UCB Theater or Big Black Car at the Pit
Favorite showtune(s) of all time: What a question! I love "How Glory Goes" from Floyd Collins, "Franklin Shepard Inc" from Merrily We Roll Along (especially watch the Raul Esparza version on YouTube) and all of West Side Story
Some favorite musicals: Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, Into the Woods
Some favorite modern plays: I loved Stones in his Pockets, a two-person play where they play multiple characters, about a big Hollywood film that shoots in a tiny Irish town. One of the actors from the Broadway production is the eunuch on "Game of Thrones" now. He's great with or without stones.
Broadway or screen stars of the past you would have most loved to perform with: John Candy
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget:

Gypsy with Patti LuPone. When I watch a show, I'm often distracted by thinking things like "where is their mic pack hidden?" or "how are they belting that note?" or "they missed a ju glide, which is necessary even for an Americanized cockney accent." Basically, I'm a lot of fun to see a show with. In Gypsy, which I'd seen many times with many casts, all of those thoughts were gone and I was amazed not only with Patti LuPone, but by every single person. Even the old strippers were unique and hilarious! I couldn't give my standing ovation fast enough.

Music that makes you cry, any genre: Muppet-based songs. Honestly, "Rainbow Connection" often makes me tear up, and the "Inchworm Song" from "Sesame Street" always makes me cry.
You personal acting idols: Kathy Bates is the best. She was just a head for half of "American Horror Story: Coven" and was still great.
MAC or PC? MAC
Most played song on your iPod: Right now, "Let it Go" From "Frozen." I am constantly on the edge of making a YouTube video with me singing it. Fortunately good sense wins out. For now.
Most-visited websites: Other than hotmail.com (keeping the 90's alive!), Mental Floss and New York Magazine are top sites.
Last book you read: "Song of Spider-Man," about the Spider-Man musical. It's very interesting. Who knew webs would be so complicated?
Must-see TV show(s): "RuPaul's Drag Race!" It's the best competition show and it has lip synching and wigs. What else do you want?
Last good movie you saw: "All is Lost"
Some films you consider classics: "Spinal Tap" and "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." NOT "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," just "Willy Wonka" with Gene Wilder.
Performer you would drop everything to go see: Alan Cumming
Pop culture guilty pleasure: Any baking show. I've watched the "Great British Bake Off," "Great Irish Bake Off," "Great Australian Bake Off" and the "American Baking Competition." I'll watch any English speaking nation's bakery show. It's time to step up to the plate, British Virgin Islands!
Three favorite cities: Edinburgh, Scotland, Montauk, New York... and Disney World
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: Up until high school, I only listened to musicals and some of those tapes were inherited from my mom, so it was probably West Side Story. The first CD I ever bought for myself was "Stunt" by the Barenaked Ladies.
First stage kiss: I was in an Off-Off-Off-Off Broadway play where I had to make out with someone when I was 22. That's the only time I've ever had to kiss someone onstage. The show I'm in now, 50 Shades! The Musical at The Elektra Theatre is based on erotica and I still don't kiss my leading man. He's pretty happy with that choice.
Favorite or most memorable onstage role as a child/teenager: I played Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret when I was 18 in college. It was one of many over-50-year-old roles I played when I was 17-19, but it was my favorite. An audience member said, "I usually hate your part of the show, but this time I liked it." And another said, "You're better than the mom from 'Happy Days.'" High praise indeed.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living:

My neighbors asked me to be in a play they were doing in their driveway when I was 6. They needed an extra person and I lived the closest, so I was cast. In the show, I had to have underwear dumped on my head (don't question the complexities of a play based on an American Girl novel) and thought this was all going to be pretty terrible. But once we did the show for our families and neighbors, I was thrilled. Being onstage was so exciting and perfect to me, I knew I wanted to be an actor ever since.

Favorite pre-/post- show meal: Pre show, I love having salads, especially from Chop't, or quinoa. Sadly that health kick ends after the show, when my favorite meal is nachos.
Favorite liquid refreshment: Orange juice. Or champagne. But not together. Mimosas are always a brunchtime disappointment for me.
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: I do a basic vocal warm and gargle salt water. Both are very fun to listen to for the rest of the cast.
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: Part of one of my lines in 50 Shades! is "sometimes I like when you're in charge." For some reason one day I couldn't remember if the last word was "in charge" or "in control" and I ended up saying a word that sounded like "Urine Trarge." I tried to get through the rest of my lines as quickly as possible.
Worst costume ever: In Godspell in high school, we were all circus performers, for some reason. I was a magician with a gold sequin jacket and horrible tight black pants. It was somehow blinding and unflattering.
Worst job you ever had: I worked at Jamba Juice for 9 months in college. It seems fun, until you clean up fruit bits for hours at the end of your shift and have a 3-hour meeting about a new smoothie.
Craziest audition story: I went home for the summer after college and was looking for a job. I had to audition to work at Cold Stone Creamery. You had to be in there for an hour, where you'd tell fun facts about yourself, have to "bust a move" i.e. dance on command, then make up a little routine to go with one of their ice cream-based parody songs like "I've Been Working on the Coldstone" and "Drop It Like It's Cold." I was not cast.
What drew you to this project?

50 Shades! The Musical was developed while I was part of the improv group Baby Wants Candy at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I never get to be anything like the ingenue normally and I loved the idea of playing such a sweet, naive girl within very risqué situations. Plus I got to really help develop the role and be involved in the entire process. Doing a musical from the very beginning is quite a process, but I've loved seeing my own character develop over time and how the show has shaped and changed to get sharper and funnier each time we do it. Plus doing an original musical is the best and a fairly unique experience.

How familiar were you with the original source material prior to this experience? As soon as I heard we were doing 50 Shades! The Musical, but before I was officially Anastasia Steele, I started reading the first book. Eventually I read all three and now know all shades of "50 Shades of Grey."
What sort of research did you put into playing this role? Reading the books was the biggest thing. As we were choreographing certain numbers and looking for different comedy bits to put in, I had to look up S&M tools. I never knew there were so many ways to tie up boobs!
What has been the biggest challenge so far? It's been awhile since I've done a musical and I've never been the lead like this. The brief moments I'm not onstage, I'm changing costumes, so maintaining my stamina is sometimes a challenge. Also, it's a little more pressure being the lead and being able to let go of that and just trust myself is sometimes hard. But I'm very grateful to be Ana in a show that fits me so well, so it's worth getting over any challenges.
What has been the most fun or fulfilling aspect of this show/character? Anastasia in this show is like a Disney Princess who happens to get spanked. I sing a lot of very sweet songs and it's the closest I'll ever get to being The Little Mermaid, which I love.
Most challenging role you have played onstage: I had to do the least interesting scene from Hedda Gabler in college and pretty much sucked at it.
Leading lady role you've been dying to play: Mrs. Lovett and the Baker's Wife
Leading man role you've been dying to play: Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar
Something about you that surprises people: I skipped 8th grade
Career you would want if not a performer: Person that catalogues and records dying dialects from America and Great Britain
Three things you can't live without: My husband, cheese and podcasts
"I'll never understand why…" … people put water into almost empty hand soap bottles to fill them back up. No one is fooled and I certainly don't want your slimy scum water.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: Try to identify what makes you unique. I used to think I could play anything on Earth, but I cannot, and most casting directors aren't interested in my take on the seductive temptress. But there is something that you do better than most everyone else, so cultivate that. Also, if you're in musical theater, there's no need to be singing all of the time. Sometimes we all need a break from your rendition of "Out Tonight."