Audra McDonald smashed Broadway records when she won a sixth performance Tony for her tour de force as Billie Holiday in Lanie Robertson's Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill. But even McDonald's star power can't overshadow her castmate Roxie — because there's nothing more adorable than a puppy onstage.
Roxie, who was trained for her Broadway debut by renowned theatrical animal trainer Bill Berloni, plays Holiday's real-life dog Pepe. With Berloni's help, Roxie answered TheaterMania's questionnaire about her experience developing a deep onstage relationship with one of Broadway's most admired living legends.
1. What is your favorite line that you delivered?
I have no lines in Lady Day, making it my most difficult role to date. But my favorite acting moment is kissing Audra.
2. Everyone loves inside jokes. What is the best one from your show?
We all wait for someone's cell phone to go off during the show and wait for Billie to go all crazy on the person's ass.
3. Every show experiences technical difficulties. What was the worst technical difficulty experienced during your show and how was it handled?
This is not really a technical difficultly, but one show someone brought their dog into the theater. The house manager told Audra and they tried to keep it from me. Halfway through my scene I heard the tags jingle and it totally ruined my performance.
4. What was the most "interesting" present someone gave you at the stage door?
Recently a super fan gave me an Adirondack Dog Couch. Do I look like the outdoor type? If it isn't pink and fluffy I can't use it. I gave the dog couch to Trixie who played [Bullets Over Broadway's] Mr. Woofles.
5. Who is the coolest person who came to see your show? (You can't say family!)
I don't pay attention to the celebs who see the show. All they want to do is take a picture with me and post it on Twitter, blah blah blah. But I love when Audra's kids come. They come to my dressing room and we play. Now that's cool.
6. How did you develop your onstage relationship with Audra McDonald?
Audra and I spent many hours researching our characters. We looked at pictures, talked about why Pepe was really important to Billie, and then started improv. We ate, played, and napped together until we found that magic.
7. What have you found unexpectedly challenging about carrying a two-actor show for such a long time?
Audra and I don't have understudies. If we get sick the show is canceled. Neither of us wants to disappoint our fans. I thought I would miss all my high-risk activities like sticking my head out of a moving car window or going to the dog run with a bunch a strange dogs. But unexpectedly, I don't miss it. It's all worth it for the performance we bring.
8. What are the best and worst experiences you've had with audience participation?
Best experience is when the audience applauds my entrance. The worse is when they pet me. Ugh. It takes me right out of character.
9. When you're not in a scene, how do you spend your time backstage?
Backstage, I am hooked on The Leftovers on HBO. My trainer trained the dogs in that series, and it is fantastic. I watch that, nap, and I lick myself.
10. Audra lets you sip from her drink every night. What's your favorite cocktail?
My favorite cocktail is a chicken broth spritzer on the rocks. Now that's living.
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