INTERVIEW: Heidi Blickenstaff Goes For Seconds With First You Dream
The popular star discusses the Kennedy Center production of the Kander and Ebb revue, as well as the future for Now. Here. This and [title of show]
THEATERMANIA: How did you feel when you got asked to be part of this production at the Kennedy Center?
HEIDI BLICKENSTAFF: It felt pretty spectacular. When we first did the show at Signature, we all felt we had fallen into something very special, and what we thought was this little special thing grew into a beautiful, unexpected masterpiece. And when it was over, we all thought, "this can't be it, there has to be another life for this show. " There was a little buzz about moving to Broadway, but the landscape wasn't right -- The Scottsboro Boys was on its way and also Sondheim on Sondheim, which was a similar kind of show. So I am thrilled not only that the show has another life, but that we're here at the Kennedy Center. I did a national tour of Dreamgirls here when I was 25, but this feels like my debut.
TM: The Kennedy Center cast includes some of your Signature castmates, and some new players, like Leslie Kritzer and Patina Miller. Has the dynamic changed?
HB: It is a totally different dynamic, but the great thing about Kander & Ebb is that their work is sort of one size fits all. So the material that Julia Murney originally did -- which was stunning on her -- is now equally stunning on Leslie and Patina, in part, because they are both such wonderful actresses. In a way, it's like I'm taking the same ride as before, but there are different people in the car.
TM: Are you doing the same material as before?
HB: I did get to keep most of my same material -- especially all of my big juggernauts, like "Ring Them Bells," "Maybe This Time," and At The Rialto." Some days, I think I'd love to sing some of the other girls' songs, but I'm lucky to sing this material.
TM: You're doing a lot of Liza Minnelli's songs. Have you ever sung for her?
HB: Yes, a couple of years ago, I performed at a Vineyard Theatre gala where Julia and I did this medley of "The Money Tree/Maybe This Time." And in the wings, stage left is Liza, and stage right is Chita Rivera. And it doesn't get more surreal than that. I was so grateful and so shocked my path had led me to that moment, and I was also shitting my pants. I had to really focus and use all my therapy to get through that moment.
TM: What would happen if Liza showed up at the Kennedy Center?
HB: We have a strict rule backstage: loose lips sink ships -- which means no one can tell anyone who's out there. But I think Liza walks around with this aura, or I'd probably see her sequins from the stage, so I'd probably know if she was there.
TM: What are your earliest memories of the music of Kander & Ebb?
HB: When I was a kid, my mom got me the original cast recording of Chicago, and I used to go around the house singing "He Had It Coming, He Had It Coming," even though I had no idea what they were talking about. But somehow, I knew it was so smart and satisfying. Many years later, the first Kander and Ebb show I saw was the Broadway revival of Chicago, and I was just floored by it. As an aspiring actress, it's the kind of show you connect with and just know you want to do someday.
TM: So, why haven't you done it?
HB: It doesn't work that way, but Julia Murney and I would love to do Chicago together for the Weisslers as Velma and Roxie. I would love to shimmy into that black dress!
TM: Do you think your fans will get another chance to see you in Now.Here This.?
HB: I honestly don't know if that show has another life, but I do know we're going to record it shortly. I don't know when -- I sent a stern email that I am not opening my mouth for two weeks after this show is finished. I need a vacation.
HB: There has been some buzz about a London production. In fact there was a space for us in early July on the West End -- I would have had to leave the day after First You Dream ended -- but Hunter Bell is still working on The Great American Mousical with Julie Andrews. We are a very committed group of collaborators and we love making stuff together, but it can also be a little complicated to get all of our schedules to come together. We have to carve out that time, and we will, since our favorite place to be is all together in one room.