DIVA TALK: Chatting with Mermaid's Chelsea Morgan Stock Plus News of Rivera, Marshall

News   DIVA TALK: Chatting with Mermaid's Chelsea Morgan Stock Plus News of Rivera, Marshall
News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.
Chelsea Morgan Stock
Chelsea Morgan Stock

With the imminent closing of The Little Mermaid — the lavish Disney musical will end its run Aug. 30 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre — it seemed a good time to check in with the show's new leading lady, Chelsea Morgan Stock. Stock, who made her Broadway debut in Mermaid's ensemble, succeeded original star Sierra Boggess as Ariel, the golden-voiced mermaid who longs to "be where the people are," June 2. I recently chatted with the young singing actress, a graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music, about her Broadway bow, working onstage opposite Tony Award winner Faith Prince (Ursula) and TV and film star Drew Seeley (Prince Eric), and her plans for the future.

Question: Let's start at the beginning. Where you were born and raised?
Chelsea Morgan Stock: I was born and raised in San Jose, CA.

Question: When did you start performing?
Stock: I started dancing when I was probably two. I started doing musicals when I was eight or nine.

Question: Were there any singers or actors at that time who may have influenced you?
Stock: Actually, my aunt [Janie Scott] made her Broadway debut in Peter Pan at the Lunt-Fontanne in the eighties. She got me dancing and singing: She was probably my first inspiration in that sense.

Question: Did you perform in high school shows?
Stock: I did tons and tons and tons of shows! Question: What were some of the most memorable for you?
Stock: I definitely played Annie once. I worked at TheatreWorks in Mountain View [CA.], and I played Young Violet in the West Coast premiere of Violet — that was pretty amazing. And then in high school I got to play Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street and Sally Brown in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Ariel in Footloose.

Question: Back then, were you were more a belter or a soprano?
Stock: Belter, definitely.

Question: When did performing change for you from a hobby to knowing it would be your career?
Stock: I think I always knew that this is what I wanted to pursue, so my intention was to go to college for it, which is what I did. It was kind of a build-up getting ready for college, and in college it was a build-up getting ready for a career. It was a pretty quick move for me right out of college.

Question: What college did you go to?
Stock: I went to the Boston Conservatory.

Question: What was the training like at the Conservatory?
Stock: It was very rigorous, but I loved it. It was perfect for me. . . . I got out of it exactly what I needed. I had never had any really intense vocal training and, I think, at the school that's definitely what I got and that's definitely what I owe the most to.

Question: Has your family been supportive?
Stock: Oh, yeah! They're super-supportive. They've seen [Mermaid] a million times.

Question: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Stock: I have one sister. Whitney Danson.P> Question: Does she also perform?
Stock: She did. She went to Millikin [University] for musical theatre as well. She was out here for a little bit. Then she got married and moved back home, and she heads up the dance department at our high school.

Question: Is she older or younger?
Stock: She's older.

Question: When did you get to New York?
Stock: I got to New York May '07.… I got the [Mermaid] job during my Christmas break senior year of college. . . . I got to do my showcase in May, I got to graduate at the end of May, and then I started rehearsals for Mermaid in June.

Question: What was the audition process like to take over the lead role?
Stock: They didn't have me go back in to audition. I was actually on understudying that week for Sierra [Boggess]. I didn't know they were having this whole nationwide search – no one ever actually told me. [Laughs.] So I was surprised to know that. They were gonna have me come in, but they realized that since I was on that week they could come watch me. So the producers and people who hadn't necessarily seen it before, or seen as much as they wanted to, came and saw me, and that was pretty much my audition. . . . I played Andrina and was an understudy since the beginning. I was kind of the understudy who would go on all the time. There were two of us at the beginning, and one of the other understudies left. I was the one who had really been around since the beginning, so I was kind of the go-to girl for awhile.

Chelsea Morgan Stock and Drew Seeley in The Little Mermaid
photo by Joan Marcus

Question: What was your reaction when you found out you would be taking over the role permanently?
Stock: I was very relieved! [Laughs.] I knew that they could go so many different ways. It's still a business. They could have thought it would be easier to find somebody else just to replace that role than to replace my role and the understudy and all that. So I was ready to hear any answer, but I was definitely relieved when I found out. Question: What's it been like playing Ariel eight times a week?
Stock: It's great. It's so fulfilling to be able to play a role in the first place and not be in the ensemble. It's amazing to have that direct effect on audience members and obviously the little girls and everybody who look up to Ariel so much.

Question: I went back last night and there was a little boy behind me who, every few minutes, said in this tiny voice, "Is that Ariel? Is that the real Ariel?" What are some of the comments you've heard from the stage or do you not hear much?
Stock: I hear a good amount. [Laughs.] There's one point where [Prince Eric is] asking me, "What's your name?" and that's the first part of Act Two, and I can't speak. Often there'll be a little kid out in the audience that yells out, "Ariel!" and answers for me. [Laughs.] That's a common one.

Question: Is it hard not to laugh when you hear these little voices?
Stock: Yeah, it's hard not to get distracted.

Stock takes her opening-night bow
photo by Aubrey Reuben

Question: Do you have a favorite moment in the show for Ariel?
Stock: I would have to say "Part of Your World" because it's all my own — I'm the only one out there. It's kind of something I always dreamed of or enjoyed when I was younger in a show, if I was out there and the spotlight's on you, and it's all up to you to make it all work. It's kind of amazing to be able to do that now on a Broadway stage. It's sort of surreal. Question: How would you describe Ariel?
Stock: Ariel is a go-getter. She knows what she wants, and she's not gonna give up. She fights for what she wants. She's a teenager, so she maybe doesn't have everything under control like she thinks she does. She's gonna go for what her heart desires. I think everybody has a little bit of that in them — always wanting what they don't have and always yearning for more.

Question: Tell me about working with Tony winner Faith Prince.
Stock: She's amazing! She's really, really sweet offstage. That's the number one thing. She's been really supportive, and she's really nice. And, onstage it's a blast because she's always there with me. We're always playing off each other. It's never the exact same thing every night, so it's fun and exciting and new. It keeps it fresh.

Question: You also have a new co-star, Drew Seeley. What's that been like working opposite someone new?
Stock: It's been great. I took over the role a week before him. It was nice that we got to start at the same time and create our own thing. It's definitely different than working with Sean [Palmer]. I did do it with Sean a lot as an understudy. They're both great in their own ways. It's different, but it's really great that we got to build this together, our own thing. He's great, too. He's really sweet offstage. We're both pretty down-to-earth, so it's nice to have this relaxed relationship.

Question: Is Seeley in the show through the end of the run?
Stock: Yeah.

Question: How did you react to the news that Mermaid would be closing at the end of the summer?
Stock: I knew it was coming in the next year. I didn't know exactly when. I think it was a little sooner than I had anticipated. I was pretty upset. I think I'm more nervous than anything. I've been so lucky to come right out of college with an amazing job and move right up to the principal role. So I'm a little nervous having this whole no-job thing going on. But I'm sure it'll be fine. I just need to keep auditioning and see what happens next. Question: Do you have any other projects in the works?
Stock: Just auditioning at the moment.

Question: Where would you like to see your career go from here? What are your goals?
Stock: I want to do everything. That's the thing — I kind of want to dip my toe in everything. I would love to do TV or movies. I would love to become a recording artist. I have interests in all aspects of [performing].

[The Little Mermaid plays the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, Broadway at 46th Street; visit DisneyOnBroadway.com for ticket information.]

Chita Rivera
photo by Paul Kolnik

Tony Award winner Chita Rivera, who will be presented with the Medal of Freedom Aug. 12 by President Barack Obama, will return to Birdland in the fall. The famed singer-actor-dancer will play the intimate cabaret Oct. 14-17. Birdland is located in Manhattan at 315 West 44th Street. For more information call (212) 581-3080 or visit www.birdlandjazz.com. Michelle Federer, who created the role of Nessarose in the Broadway production of Wicked, will return to that Stephen Schwartz-Winnie Holzman musical later this month at the Gershwin Theatre. Federer will again play the wheelchair-bound sister of Elphaba beginning Aug. 18. She succeeds Cristy Candler in the role. A few days prior, on Aug. 11, the hit musical will welcome its newest Glinda, Erin Mackey. Mackey will succeed Alli Mauzey in the role originally created by Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth.

Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole — most recently on Broadway in the revival of Blithe Spirit — and her 42nd Street co-star Billy Stritch will reteam for several upcoming concerts. The talented duo will perform Aug. 21 at 7:30 PM the Boulton Center for the Performing Arts in Bay Shore, NY; Aug. 22 at 9 PM at the Brandon Fradd Theatre, Whyte Hall in Fire Island, NY; and Aug. 23 at the Steppingstone Waterfront Theatre in Great Neck, NY. Ebersole and Stritch will also play the famed Manhattan jazz club Birdland Dec. 5-8, according to Stritch's official website.

Lindsay Thomas

The entire cast of the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of Hair will take to the intimate stage of Joe's Pub for a Sept. 14 benefit entitled With a Little Help From My Friends. The 9:30 and 11:30 PM concerts will help celebrate and benefit Broadway and Stratford Shakespeare Festival actress Lindsay Thomas (Hairspray, Jersey Boys), who was recently diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer and is currently undergoing chemotherapy in Toronto. The concerts will help raise funds to contribute to the cost of Thomas' medical care. In addition to the Hair cast, the evening will also feature the talents of Nikki M. James, David Reiser, Ryan Silverman, Karen Burthwright, Leslie McDonel, Miles Johnson and Jamie McKnight. Lon Hoyt is musical director. Special items — including a walk-on role in Hair; dinner with Caissie Levy (who is producing the concerts), Kacie Sheik and Allison Case; and a dinner with Gavin Creel, Will Swenson and Levy — will also be auctioned during the evening. VIP tickets, priced $250, include two tickets to the benefit in VIP Table Seating, and a Hair poster and cast album signed by the entire cast; VIP tables are sold in pairs and only through Joe's Pub office (212) 539-8778. There are also $50 table seats and $35 standing room tickets available by visiting joespub.com or by calling (212) 967-7555. Joe's Pub is located within the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. Multi-platinum country music star Lorrie Morgan has joined the cast of the Broadway-bound musical Pure Country, which is based on the 1992 film of the same name. Morgan joins the previously announced country music star Joe Nichols, who will play the role of Rusty. Morgan will play Lula, Rusty's ruthless manager. Additional casting and dates for Pure Country will be announced in the coming weeks. For more information visit www.PureCountryOnBroadway.com.

Gay Marshall

Gay Marshall, who played a year-long run in the heralded revival of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, will return to the Metropolitan Room in September. Marshall will reprise her critically acclaimed Piaf tribute, Piaf: Queen of Heart, Sept. 15, 22 and 29 at 7 PM and Oct. 1 and 8 at 7:30 PM. The singing actress will be backed by Eric Svejcar on piano, Deni Bonet on violin, Bill Schimmel on accordion, Steve Gilewski on bass and Peter Lewy on cello. Marshall, according to press notes, will present "a unique view of her subject at odds with the popular perception of Piaf as an overwhelmingly tragic figure; Marshall portrays the joy and mischief of her subject as well. Marshall translated many of the show's songs herself, and she has woven the repertoire in a way that makes it as accessible and meaningful for non-French speakers." Marshall's solo recording, "Gay Marshall Sings Piaf, La Vie l'Amour," is available by visiting www.cdbaby.com. The Metropolitan Room is located in Manhattan at 34 West 22nd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. There is a $25 cover charge and a two-drink minimum; call (212) 206-0440 for reservations. Visit www.metropolitanroom.com for more information. The 5th annual Broadway Cabaret Festival — created, written and hosted by Scott Siegel — will play Manhattan's Town Hall in October. The weekend of concerts will kick off Oct. 16 with A Tribute to David Merrick. The 8 PM concert will feature Emily Skinner, Robert Cuccioli, Stephen Bogardus, Lee Roy Reams and Jim Caruso. The evening will celebrate fabled showman Merrick, whose six-decade career gave Broadway the original productions of Gypsy; Oliver!; Hello, Dolly!; 42nd Street; Mack & Mabel; and I Do! I Do! Linda Eder will take centerstage Oct. 17 at 8 PM with her newest concert act, All of Me. The singing actress will be backed by a seven-piece orchestra led by Billy Stein with Dave Mann on saxophone and Dave Finck on upright and electric bass. In addition to new arrangements, expect such signature songs as "Vienna" and "Someone Like You." The series will conclude Oct. 18 at 3 PM with Broadway Originals. Nearly 20 artists — including Alexander Gemignani, Julia Murney, Kerry O'Malley and Sharon McNight — will come together to revisit the songs that they made famous on the Broadway stage. Tickets are $55 and $50 and are available through Ticketmaster.com, (212) 307-4100 or the Town Hall Box Office (123 West 43rd Street). For more information visit www.the-townhall-nyc.org.

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.

PHOTO OP: Backstage at the Hollywood Bowl following the recent <i>Guys and Dolls in Concert</i> with (l.-r.) Jessica Biel, director Richard Jay-Alexander and Ellen Greene.
PHOTO OP: Backstage at the Hollywood Bowl following the recent Guys and Dolls in Concert with (l.-r.) Jessica Biel, director Richard Jay-Alexander and Ellen Greene. Photo by James Kinney
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