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Lauren Pritchard on Songbird, Spring Awakening, and Singing as "Lolo"

Broadway's original "Ilse," now a singer-songwriter in her own right, is bringing a Nashville feel to Chekhov's The Seagull.

Nine years ago, Lauren Pritchard wowed Broadway with her smoky-voiced turn as the waiflike runaway Ilse in the original production of Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's musical Spring Awakening. Since then, the Tennessee native has rebranded herself as a singer-songwriter named "Lolo," performing with the likes of Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco. Island Records released her debut album, titled Wasted in Jackson, and her latest EP, Comeback Queen, is available now from DCD2 Records.

Under her given name, Pritchard is also the composer-lyricist of the new musical Songbird, currently running at 59E59 Theaters. Written with Michael Kimmel, the piece is a take on Chekhov's The Seagull, but it's set in Nashville. The show stars Tony nominee Kate Baldwin as a famous country singer and features an enviable lineup of actors that includes Erin Dilly and Kacie Sheik.

Pritchard herself hasn't been able to see Songbird yet — she's been on the road performing. She did, however, get to check out Michael Arden's new Broadway revival of Spring Awakening before she left town. In both cases, she says, the experience has been "emotionally overwhelming."

Lauren Pritchard, the original Isle of Broadway's Spring Awakening, is now a singer-songwriter whose musical, Songbird, is currently running at 59E59 Theaters.
(© Brendan Walter)

How did you and Michael Kimmel come to musicalize The Seagull — and set it in Nashville?
We have our own very specific take on it. Michael and I met in November 2012 and we would talk about wanting to work on something together. Michael came to me and said, "Why don't we put The Seagull in Nashville?" The process from there went from him picking my brain about the South, since I was raised there, in Nashville, and also about the singer-songwriter world in general. We let the project excite us. It's been doing that all along.

Is your score inspired by the style of music you listened to growing up?
I grew up in West Tennessee, where country music is king, but [I listened] to everything, from super pop music like the Spice Girls to old traditional country music like Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams. I had done a lot of songwriting, for me and for other people, but this is the first time I have specifically written country music. It was an easier process than I thought it was going to be, because of the musical osmosis of where I was raised.

Kate Baldwin (center) and the cast of Lauren Pritchard and Michael Kimmel's new musical, Songbird at 59E59 Theaters.
(© Jenny Anderson)

Is it in your bones?
Yeah. I think there was something very therapeutic about working on Songbird. It was me finding things [in myself] that I hadn't yet discovered were there.

And you've got such a great cast singing your work, with Kate Baldwin and Kacie Sheik leading the way.
We're really f*ckin' lucky. Kate is stunning to watch no matter what she's doing, but she is working it. She's killing it. The first song I ever presented for the show, I said to Michael that Kacie Sheik has to sing it. This was before we called to ask her to do it. Kacie has been a dear friend of mine for years, because [of] her brother [Duncan Sheik] and the Spring Awakening connection. Finally getting to work with her is a dream.

Lauren Pritchard (second-from-right) joins several other original Spring Awakening cast members at the opening night of the 2015 Broadway revival.
(© David Gordon)

You were there on the opening night of the new Spring Awakening revival. What was that experience like for you?
It was amazing. I had two moments, one watching the hayloft scene, and one watching "Totally F*cked," where I was like "We f*cking did that. Wow." And then, also, I had another moment of "I have, quite literally, done this before," which was really bizarre. It's just weird. Honestly, I just don't think about [having done] the show. I don't really know that any of us have. We did it, and it happened, and it was amazing, and we kept living our lives in the best way. To be as young as we are and have the revival come around again is very surreal.

What does that show mean to you?
Obviously, I'm partial as hell, but Spring Awakening is my favorite show and I love it. It means the world to me and I was devastated when it closed. Mostly because I believe in the message of the story. I love what opportunity it gives a very specific age gap, to be onstage and really perform. Those opportunities don't really exist. It's usually one role in the show. Here, the river is wide for what doors it opens to this age [group] of extremely talented people who deserve moments on stage to shine. For the show to be back, it's the greatest.

Lauren Pritchard as Ilse in the original Broadway production of Spring Awakening at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.
(© Joan Marcus)

Tell me about your solo career. You're currently on tour and using the stage name Lolo. Where did that come from?
It's been my nickname since I was thirteen. I got to a point where I needed the difference for me. There's all this stuff I do as Lauren Pritchard, and there's all this stuff I do as Lolo. For me and my own mind, I had to start separating them, because they don't sound alike and it was getting a little confusing. I'm in Phoenix now. We're traveling today, we have a show in Salt Lake City tomorrow, and then I will fly on a redeye back to New York to see Songbird. Finally.

You haven't seen it yet?
I have not seen it yet. I was there for three weeks of rehearsal in the actual room. I left on October 10 to start the tour. I literally have not seen my show and I am so ready. I have been operating on a three-hour time difference and really ripping my hair out being away. It's been amazing, and I have nothing to f*cking complain about, because everything is great and I'm getting to do what I love in literally every area. I'm working at my full potential and it feels amazing, but it's very emotionally overwhelming.

Kate Baldwin as country singer Tammy Trip in Lauren Pritchard and Michael Kimmel's musical Songbird at 59E59 Theaters.
(© Jenny Anderson)