Actor Trista Dollison made her Broadway debut as a replacement in Disney’s long-running smash The Lion King in 2011. Even though she’d been on Broadway before, Dollison made her debut as part of the original cast of a Broadway musical (with A Bronx Tale) and her Broadway principal debut (with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) within the span of four months.
As Violet Beauregarde in the stage adaptation of the Roald Dahl story, Dollison’s “Queen of Pop” is one of the most classic Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman tunes in the score—bold and brassy. Before the chocolate factory closes its doors January 14, 2018, Playbill asked Dollison to share a bunch of her theatre firsts, including her first audition, her first paid acting gig, and the first time she felt like she became the gum-chomping teen.
What was the first piece of theatre you ever saw?
I remember watching the older kids at my church perform plays for Christmas and Easter. I always wanted to be in the play, but the younger kids only did Easter and Christmas “speeches,” which are short, cute poems that you memorize and recite in front of the entire church—pretty cool, but not as cool as the play.
What was the first piece of theatre that thrilled you and made you think?
Casa Valentina by Harvey Fierstein. I remember talking about this play for hours after seeing it with my friend Nik. It made you think about sexuality and identity, and I was really in awe of the stories of these incredible people.
What was the most fun you ever had at the theatre?
This is hard because I feel like I have fun all the time when I see shows. I’ll pick a random one: Rock Of Ages!! Man, what a fun show. It had good singing, good jokes, and lots of sexy people!!! Anytime there is rock singing and fun, I’m there!!
What was your first audition ever?
I can remember auditioning for a play in kindergarten. It must’ve been either The Wizard of Oz or Halloween-themed, because I remember wanting to be the Witch so badly. I auditioned and even showed off my witch laugh…which clearly got me the part. Hello, special skills!!
What was your first paid acting gig?
Paid!? My first paid gig was performing in The Festival of the Lion King at Disney World. I live near Disney and always wanted to perform in the parks—and I did. I got to play Zawadi, who is very similar to Rafiki, so I got to sing “The Circle Of Life,” which was awesome.
What was the best part about your first opening night on Broadway?
My first Broadway opening night was A Bronx Tale. The best part was that I had already worked with most of the cast since its Paper Mill debut a year before, so we were one big family. We had a blast, and it really was a giant party to celebrate this amazing journey to Broadway.
What was your first response when you learned you would make your Broadway principal debut in Charlie?
MY GOD IS AWESOME!!! Cue shout music! I mean, I cried tears of joy for a while, and then it was crazy because you’re not supposed to announce until it’s official, which drives you insane…but I told my parents and like four friends (and then those people tell everybody and their Mama)!! LOL! I can remember just being so thankful to have been chosen to originate such an iconic part. Being actors, we audition all the time, and it really feels like you win the lottery when they pick you—especially when you haven’t been a principal before. I am so thankful to the Charlie team for trusting me with Violet. It really is an honor!!
What was the first scene you rehearsed for Charlie? (How did you feel?)
First scene was “Queen of Pop”! That scene/song makes me feel like a star!! Imagine if Beyoncé, Jenifer Lewis, and RuPaul had a niece... it would be me performing “Queen Of Pop.” We first did a dance lab, and it was focused on the Golden Ticket winner sequence. So, I had to quickly memorize the song so that I could work the fierce choreography to match.
When was the first time you felt like Violet?
During tech!!! There is something about fierce lighting that makes you feel like it’s real. We had been in rehearsal studios with workout clothes on for weeks, but when we first started doing it onstage, that’s where the magic happened. I was finally wearing the costume—I had only seen pieces of it—along with a brand-new wig. I feel like the transformation takes a while for you to get used to and the lighting, hair, costume, and makeup are a major part to becoming the character.
In one word, what was your first performance on Broadway (ever) like?
What was it like to see your name in a Playbill for the first time?
Praise Hands Emojii!! Let me get a stack of these so my mommy can show them off at First Baptist!!! It really was a proud moment. I started off as an insert and when the new ones arrived, it gave me chills. I think I read my bio a hundred times—as if I didn’t write it!!
What is your first thought when you make your entrance each night?
Have fun, be fierce, and don’t forget the words!! “Queen of Pop” is my entrance, so it really can feel like you’re being shot out of a canon.
Who was the first person you greeted during your first exit from your first Broadway stage door?
Oh, that’s hard!! I don’t think I had anyone at my first stage door.
What was the first stage door you ever visited?
The Lion King. I moved to NYC after the tour and the only Broadway people I really knew where in The Lion King.
What is the first thought you have when you take your bow?
Gratitude. I am grateful to be doing what I love and thankful that the people love us back. In live theatre, the end of a show is most powerful because it is when the performer and audience get to celebrate a great evening of sharing. The audience is as much a part of the show as we are! And it brings me joy knowing that I made a few hundred people smile, laugh, feel like a child, want to see another Broadway show, and want to eat lots of candy every night!!!