INTERVIEW: Farah Alvin Fights To Be The Last Smoker In America

The star of the new Off-Broadway musical previews her role and shares some behind-the-scenes anecdotes.

Farah Alvin (center) and company
in The Last Smoker in America
(© Joan Marcus)
Farah Alvin (center) and company
in The Last Smoker in America
(© Joan Marcus)

Farah Alvin has wowed audiences in such shows as Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Nine, The Look of Love, and The Marvelous Wonderettes, for which she received a 2009 Drama Desk Nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical. Currently, she’s co-starring in the new Off-Broadway musical, The Last Smoker in America, at the Westside Theatre, as Pam, a woman desperately trying to quit smoking. TheaterMania recently spoke to Alvin about the show.

THEATERMANIA: How would you describe the show?
FARAH ALVIN: It is a very broad comedy in the style of Avenue Q. It has this equal opportunity vibe of making fun of everyone.

TM: Do you think this is a topical subject?
FA: I think one of the reasons this show came about is because there have been a lot of bans and laws over the years; the latest is banning large sugary soft drinks. It’s about people not minding their own business. Stay out of mine and I will stay out of yours!

TM: Why has Pam been so committed to smoking?
FA: Pam is a college professor, who is married to Ernie and they have a son, Jimmy. Their marriage is a bit strained, because Ernie is unemployed and is going through an early mid-life crisis. You then have Jimmy, who is a teenager going through an identity crisis. This is what makes Pam smoke! And we all have vices and smoking happens to be one of Pam’s. She isn’t hurting anyone but herself.

TM: Throughout the musical, Pam is fighting for her family. What does family mean to her?
FA: There is a throwback number, “Hangin’ Out in a Smoky Bar,” where Pam and Ernie remember where they met. Things were different in those days. Everyone was allowed to smoke. There was a time they all got along, and Pam believes that if she were able to get her family to see eye-to-eye on everything, they could be happy again. That’s her mission. All of these characters are very selfish people.

TM: The production showcases a few different genres of music, from disco to rap to rock. Which is your favorite number?
FA: I like singing “Fight for the Right to Light Up.” It’s a rock song and I get to let my inner Mick Jagger out, which I never get to do! I love listening to “Let the Lord Be Your Addiction.” It’s a gospel song which another character, Phyllis, mostly sings — but I get to sing a little bit of it.

TM: Do you have any funny stories from behind the scenes?

FA: Yes, oh my! I got hit in the head with a “Wanted” sign and was sent to the hospital on the night of our dress rehearsal! We are a funny group of people and try to make each other laugh. During one of our numbers, we have a cookie jar (which is an important hiding place for Pam’s cigarettes). John Bolton, one of my co-stars, was swinging his belt and he knocked the head off of the cookie jar. So our Assistant Stage Manager went over to a box and just pulled out a new one!

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The Last Smoker in America

Closed: September 1, 2012