An Interview With An Actor from "Mary"
Here's the third (and final) of our e-interviews about the holiday musical Mary, now playing in Charleston.
Melanie Larch is an actor who's appeared in quite a few shows, and here she talks about Mary:
Q: Tell us the basic story of the show and the part you play in it.
A: On the surface, it's easy to say that it's a musical version of the Christmas story as told in the book of Luke. But as told through the eyes of the archangel Gabriel - little heads up to the purists, our Gabriel is played by a woman (Tonya Dillon-Page) - Mary is the story of a young girl (Molly Means in the title role) coming to terms with her destiny as the mother of Jesus Christ. I play Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, who is pregnant at the ripe old age of 80, with a son destined to be John the Baptist.
Covering the nine months leading up to the birth of Christ, it not only tells the story of these two very different women, but their men (Jonathan Tucker as Joseph and Donnie Smith as Zechariah) and Herod (Eli Chambers), whose power and position ultimately plays into the fate of the two children.
What I really love about this show is the humanity of these biblical figures. Sometimes I think we tend to see Mary, Joseph, etc. as completely flawless people who accepted their fate happily and without pause. As Dan Kehde and Mark Scarpelli have written them, there are emotions people can identify with - Mary's trepidation at being chosen for such a great task, Joseph's dismay when he first learns of her pregnancy, Elizabeth's sorrow over her childless state and Zechariah's skepticism at finding out his 80-year-old wife is going to have a child... you get the idea.
But there's also great faith, humor, love, and strength there, too. Combine all that with some beautiful songs and I'll just say bring your Kleenex! You will need them at some points in the show, trust me!
Q: The show has been around for more than a decade - do you feel any pressure stepping into a show that's become a tradition?
A: Oh, definitely. Probably the most pressure I felt was coming into the first read-through, knowing that there were two current cast members who'd played Elizabeth before! (*LOL*).
One of the biggest challenges for me in playing this role is that I've never given birth to a child. So there are things like 'what is it like to feel your baby move in the womb' or how you convey giving birth. Tonya is a mother of two who played Elizabeth in the 2006 production and she's been a big help to me with that aspect of the part.
Maddy Gourevich is another previous Elizabeth who's been a source of help as well. I can't thank her and Tonya - as well as the rest of the cast - enough!
Q: How have rehearsals gone - fun, or lots of hard work?
A: Both. Even though most of the cast members have done this show before and are very familiar with the material, you've still got to put in the time and effort to make a great production happen.
Dan and Mark are always very encouraging and respectful of their actors' time and talent. It's the kind of rehearsal setting where we can have our fun along the way, but check ourselves and say 'ok, we've had our laugh for the moment, now we've gotta get down to business.'
The people who've done Mary before are also a key part of why the rehearsal process has been so much fun. CYAC is full of intelligent, very talented, and fun young performers who are full of enthusiasm for this company and the shows it produces. If they ask me if I've seen a particular production and I say, "No, I haven't," they can't wait to tell me all about it!
And they've been very supportive of people like me and Jonathan who are performing the piece for the first time.
It really is a great atmosphere to work in as an actor. As I said a few weeks ago, Jack The Ripper was my first show with CYAC, but hopefully it won't be the last.
And hopefully this won't be my last Mary! Elizabeth has some wonderful songs and I love singing Lord of Mercy (The Trio) way too much for my own good.
Thanks, Melanie! A reminder that Mary is at the WVSU Capitol Plaza Theatre at 123 Summers Street in Charleston, WV, Thursday - Saturday, Dec. 4,5,6 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are available at the door - $9.50 Adults, $5.50 Students and Seniors. Call (304) 342-6522 for more information.