I had just closed a successful run of Side by Side by Sondheim when my manager called with an audition for [title of show]. I hadn’t seen the show and knew very little about it except that it been nominated for a Tony. Although I was originally called in for Heidi as soon as I read the script I knew I was more of a Susan. I knew because of her quick wit, and just the very concept of [title of show], I had to be part of this brilliant piece.
The musical [title of show] has music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and a book by Hunter Bell. The musical documents its own creation by two Broadway fans and follows the team’s struggle to complete the show in three and a half weeks with the help of their two actress friends.
The first round of auditions involved singing various songs from the score that music director Greg Nabours flipped through and requested. I sang a couple of songs, then they told me I didn’t need to do the monologue; they had seen what they needed to see. I thought, well, that’s either really good or really bad.
It must have been good because I was called back. “We danced, we sang, we danced some more,” to quote the show, then they paired us to read. I remember reading with Carey Peters (who is playing Heidi) and it just clicked. It was honest to god fun.
The rehearsal process was like being shot out of a cannon. Callbacks were June 8th and the first rehearsal was June 11th. After a three-and-a-half week rehearsal process, we opened. We were learning the choreography from Ameena Kaplan at the same time we were learning the music. The music is no joke: tight harmonies, complicated lyrics and rhythms. The next step was breaking down the scenes with director Michael Shepperd; then, at that point, it just became about repetition and fine tuning.
Susan is a smart and sassy gal who’s been disappointed by failures and temporarily in deep need of creative inspiration. Her friends in the show help to serve that purpose. This is a show about friendship, killing the vampires in your head (your insecurities); it’s about following your dream especially if it’s being sidetracked by a soul-sucking day job.
I really believe in the message of the piece, and I love playing each night with the cast so I’d be happy if this show continues for a long run. I’ve spoken with several audience members afterwards, and my favorite is when they tell us how much they connected to the piece and how it really resonated with them. They tell me about their vampires and how they’ve been lacking inspiration lately but came to the theatre and found it once again. Die Vampire Die.
Jennifer Blake is originally from Montgomery, Alabama and moved to LA from New York after working successfully in various Off-Broadway and regional productions. She attended The Boston Conservatory where she received her BFA in musical theatre. Blake’s previous credits include Off-Broadway: The Donkey Show, Original Cast; Regional: Hair, Bay Street Theatre, NY (Jeannie); Jesus Christ Superstar, Attic Theatre, LA (Mary Magdalene); Bukowsical, King King, LA & NY Fringe Festival (Swing); Grease, West Virginia Public Theatre (Marty), Room, The Met Theatre, LA; Chess, Lyric Stage Boston; The Crucible, Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Film credits include: Simon, Saturday Night and The Stepford Wives.
[title of show], presented in association with David Elzer, continues Thurs.-Sat., 8 pm; Sun., 3 pm; through Aug. 29. Tickets: $25. Celebration Theatre, 7051 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; 323.957.1884 or celebrationtheatre.com.