PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Paper Mill's Little Mermaid Star Jessica Grové
By Matthew Blank
June 18, 2013
Musical theatre favorite Jessica Grové, currently starring as Ariel in Disney's The Little Mermaid at Paper Mill Playhouse, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.
Grové has appeared on Broadway in A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George (Celeste), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Miss Dorothy) and Les Misérables (Eponine).
She starred as Dorothy in the 1990s national tour of The Wizard of Oz opposite Eartha Kitt and played Polly in the Julie Andrews-directed production of The Boy Friend.
I did not add the accent over the e to make my name fancier... my dad is Afrikaans!
Where you were born/where you were raised:
I was born in Royal Oak, Michigan, and raised in Columbus, Ohio.
What your parents did/do for a living:
My father is a financial advisor. My mother was a realtor while I was growing up, then my "stage mom" (but not the terrible kind!) and now she designs bags and accessories. Shameless plug: www.abrigobag.com.
I have one older brother who is a video game designer living in Vietnam.
Current audition song/monologue:
One of my favorites is "Is It Really Me?" from 110 in the Shade.
A couple of them are eye crossing (which I have subtly worked into this role) and scuba diving (which is also coming in handy under the sea).
Something you're REALLY bad at:
Did you have any particular mentors or inspirations when first starting out as an actor?
I grew up watching all of the old Judy Garland musical films, so she was probably my biggest inspiration.
First Broadway show you ever saw:
The Secret Garden, and it is still one of my favorite shows of all time. I think I ended up seeing it 3 or 4 times as a kid.
If you could go back in time and catch any Broadway show, what would it be?
The original West Side Story
Current show other than your own you have been recommending
Once ... loved it. And I really enjoyed Kinky Boots, too. And everyone should see Mamma Mia! because my husband is really great in it!
Favorite showtune(s) of all time:
"Till There Was You" from Music Man, "You Are Love" from Show Boat, "Say It Somehow" from Light in the Piazza and "Sunday" from Sunday in the Park
Some favorite modern musicals:
The Light in the Piazza, The Drowsy Chaperone, anything Sondheim.
Some favorite classic musicals:
Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, Anything Goes... I could go on... I love the classics.
Broadway or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with:
I have had amazing opportunities working with some living legends (Julie Andrews, Shirley Jones, Mickey Rooney, Eartha Kitt [who is no longer with us, sadly], but I would have loved to have worked with Gordon MacRea and Judy Garland.
Your personal vocal idols, living or dead:
Living: Judy Kuhn. Dead: Ella Fitzgerald.
Music that makes you cry, any genre:
Anything that is a mother singing to her child. That song from "Dumbo" - "Baby Mine" - gets me every time.
MAC or PC?
Most played song on your iPod:
"ABC" by The Jackson 5. We have dance parties to MJ with our son, Gavin, daily.
NY Times Real Estate page (I have a small obsession with real estate), Amazon.com and Playbill.com, of course!
Last book you read:
Well, this is kind of embarrassing, but I just read my first James Patterson, "Now You See Her." I read it in 2 days... it is a page turner!
Must-see TV show(s):
"New Girl," "The Voice," "American Idol," "So You Think You Can Dance," "Grey's Anatomy." And anything on HGTV that satisfies my real estate hunger.
Last good movie you saw:
"Silver Linings Playbook"
Some films you consider classics:
"The Sound of Music," "Gone with the Wind," "Beatle Juice"… that is a classic now, isn't it?
Pop culture guilty pleasure:
"The Bachelor"… I know, it is terrible, but it just sucks you in.
Three favorite cities:
Other than NYC: Chicago, Boston and San Francisco.
Um...sports?! I really am not into sports at all! But I am always happy for NY when the Yankees are doing well.
And I care a little about how OSU's football team does since I am from Ohio.
First CD/Tape/LP you owned:
Les Misérables cassette tape, but I also stole my brother's Counting Crows ("August and Everything After") cassette and have been a big fan ever since.
What are some of your most memorable roles as a kid or
teenager and how old were you?
"Rosie" in Really Rosie when I was 10 in Ohio. "Anne Frank" in Yours, Anne - 14, "Dorothy" in Wizard of Oz, 15-17 years old.
First stage kiss:
Yours, Anne (a musical of The Diary of Anne Frank) when I was 14, right before I left Ohio to do Oz. My good friend Andy Jobe played Peter and we had a sweet, innocent peck.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living:
I don't know that there was a moment, per se. I think I just always knew it was what I wanted to do. I performed in community theatre shows with my family from the time I was 3 years old, so I caught the bug early.
I suppose I realized it could be a career upon seeing the national tour of Les Miz when it came through Columbus. I dreamed of playing young Cosette after that. And that dream morphed into wanting to play Eponine, which I got to do in the Broadway company when I was 19! That is why I always tell people to follow their dreams.
How you got your Equity card:
Dorothy at Madison Square Garden in 1997
Favorite liquid refreshment:
Iced coffee with soy milk
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups:
I don't really have any rituals. I am not superstitious. I do vocalize and stretch and I use the time when I am pin curling my hair and putting on my makeup to quietly focus and prepare.
Once I feel settled in and comfortable in what I am doing, I like to try and make the rounds before the show, touch base and connect with my coworkers. To me it feels very odd to see someone for the first time that day onstage.
Most challenging role you have ever played:
Amalia in She Loves Me
What has been the biggest challenge about this project?
So far the challenge for me has been living up to my own expectations of this role... I grew up watching the animated feature and want to do the role of Ariel justice.
What has been the most fun or fulfilling aspect?
Working with Glenn Casale as a director. He manages a perfect balance of keeping the room light and fun, but still focused. He hires lovely human beings who are fun to be around, crazy-talented and inspiring to watch, and he encourages specificity and doesn't let anyone get away with just playing attitudes.
It is so rewarding because he is molding us into full-fledged, real people -not cartoons - which makes all of the relationships deeper and the characters completely relatable to our audience.
Five favorite Disney characters, not counting Mermaid:
Belle, Baloo, Flower, Bashful, Dumbo
Worst job you ever had:
There are no bad jobs, just bad attitudes :-)
If you could trade roles with anyone in the cast for a week, who would it be?
Liz McCartney - it looks so fun to be evil! I would copy everything she does because she is brilliant.
Any upcoming or side projects you can talk about?
I have been invited to do a concert at 54 Below, and I am in the process of choosing material for my debut album.
What show would you most love to star in opposite your husband, Dan Cooney?
Sunday in the Park with George
Leading lady role you've been dying to play:
Leading man role you'd like a shot at:
Jack Kelly, hands down. I have been a huge fan of Newsies since I was a kid.
Something about you that surprises people:
My actual age (Not telling! But it is easy enough to look up...)
Something you are incredibly proud of:
My husband, Dan Cooney, and the life we are creating together.
Career you would want if not a performer:
Anything involving animals or little kids. So, like a zookeeper or a preschool teacher?
Three things you can't live without:
1) My son, Gavin
3) Love (that includes Dan, since he is sitting right next to me and got all offended when he read this!)
Words of advice for aspiring performers:
Follow your dreams, work hard, be kind, and have a good balance between work and personal life.