Quick Wit: Merle Perkins
Bobbie Steinbach finds out what makes the world go 'round for this Boston stage favorite.
You recently finished a run in Avenue X at Merrimack Repertory Theater, the only Boston actor in a cast of eight. Are you on your way to New York? I don't think so. While I enjoyed working with all the (New York-based) actors, I got a glimpse of what their lives are like: a lot of traveling, no time at home. I like being near my husband. You're opening soon in And the World Goes Roundat the Lyric Stage Company. That's quite a switch in style, from doo-wop to Kander & Ebb. But I understand you come to musical theater from a classical background. I studied voice at Boston University in an intensely serious program, but I've loved show music since I was a child. I grew up in Philly, and I saw Pippin, The Wiz, A Little Night Music, almost all the pre-Broadway try-outs. What's interesting and fun for me now is the opportunity to exercise my vocal range. In And the World Goes Round, I get to sing high soprano with the ensemble as well as big belty numbers. You've been quite busy over the past few years developing your range in a variety of styles, most notably as a member of a band and an opera lab. I sang with The Medicine Band, which was directed by Steve Cummings. The group was made up of people from diverse cultural backgrounds and the [repertoire] was very eclectic. We did some world music and some gospel, but R&B was finally our calling card. That's when I started to cut my gospel chops. Like many African-Americans, I was exposed to gospel in church when I was a child. [Working with the band] helped me become a more versatile performer. I was also a member of Roland Tec's New Opera Theatre Ensemble, an opera improv troupe. In opera everything is usually very set and specific. This was a bridge for me, between [the rigidity] of classical training and the freedom there is in show music and pop styles. What role in a musical would you like to play, but probably never will? Sweeney Todd or Tevye. If you wrote an autobiography, what would its title be? I'm simple; I would just say Merle.