|We were recently able to interview theater veteran Christine Pedi who is now in Talk Radio with Liev Schreiber. She discusses her long-standing relationship with Forbidden Broadway and the perils of NOT being typecast.|| |
This week we interview Christine Pedi who will be appearing in “Talk Radio” with Liev Schreiber. Christine is perhaps best known for her work with “Forbidden Broadway.” She has also worked frequently in New York Cabaret where she has won a MAC award, a Show Business Weekly Female Cabaret Singer of the Year Award, and many more nominations. She recently directed and appeared in “The Vagina Monologues” at the Forum Theatre. She also can be heard everyday on Sirius Satellite Radio’s “Broadways Best.”
Not only do we have a great interview with Christine, but we also are playing two songs from “Forbidden Broadway”: “Liza One Note,” “Ethel Merman and Sunset Boulevard.”
“Talk Radio” is now in previews and will open on March 11th. For more information please visit their website: www.talkradioonbroadway.com
For more information on “Forbidden Broadway” visit their website: www.forbiddenbroadway.com
You can listen to this interview and many other great features for free on Broadway Bullet vol. 103. Subscribe for free so you don't miss an episode.
Broadway Bullet Interview: Christine Pedi
BROADWAY BULLET: I’m with a theater veteran, that I’ve been a fan of for many years, who is currently appearing in the new Broadway production of Talk Radio; but has also done, among other things, numerous editions of Forbidden Broadway in the past. Christine Pedi, how are you doing?
Christine Pedi: Am I a veteran? I’ll go put my teeth in. Is that what I am?
BB: I don’t think veteran has to do with – should I redo the intro? I don’t think veteran has to do with ancient.
Christine Pedi: No, no. Everyone calls me a Forbidden Broadway veteran.
BB; I guess that’s it.
Christine Pedi: I have been called that. But I guess a theater veteran? Sure, why not, it’s been awhile now. Especially if you include community theater.
BB: So, how much community theater did you do before?
Christine Pedi: I did a lot, I did good community theater. I did good stuff, I really did. I did up in Chappaqua, New York – where the Clintons live now. You know a very affluent community with a lot of money in the community theater coffers there. I did a gorgeous production of Evita there; with John Treacy Egan, Broadway’s most recent Max Bialystock, before Tony Danza. He was my Che, I was Ava; oh, and a lot of people in New York who are working actively in the theater and in community theater with me. I did Little Shop of Horrors up there, I did A Little Night Music, did a lovely production of My Fair Lady, and Funny Girl. I had all these great roles when I was really young, you know my early 20s. And that was my theater school, because I majored in communications at FordhamUniversity; which I loved, and I love radio and I loved what I was doing. Because I was working at the radio station, at FordhamUniversity, a logical path for me to take was to be the arts editor. When that happened, and I realized I could get free theater tickets as a member of the press, I started going to the theater three, four, five times a week. I was absolutely insatiable. I went to school on the campus in the Bronx, and their mascot is the ram – the Fordham Rams, so they had the “Ram Van”. And the “Ram Van”, which still exists, would take students from the Rose Hill Campus in the Bronx to the Lincoln Center Campus. I’d hop out there, it cost like a dollar, I’d hop out there and walk into the theater district, see my plays, go back to LincolnCenter, and take the “Ram Van” back into the Bronx. And that’s what began my addiction to wanting to perform, for sure, and after college I started doing Community Theater. And I did a lot of it, and got fabulous parts. And after a couple years of that, and working simultaneously, I couldn’t take it anymore. I quit my full time job, I’m not going to say how long ago – I never let numbers slip, I never tell numbers – but it was long ago. You know what? I am a veteran, taking us right back to the beginning of this interview. I am a veteran.
BB: Well, I think in this business really anything longer than like eight years is a lot. A lot of people make it go for a good couple of years, but I think after that… I don’t think that veteran is being ancient, I think of a veteran as being someone who has managed to prove more than just a pacing fancy that they can weather.
Christine Pedi: I keep on forgetting, and everyone reminds me – even my parents remind me I mean God bless them, that it’s been now I’m into my second decade now of only making money, essentially, in the business. With a side bar at, for the past four years I’ve been working at Sirius Satellite radio.
BB: But even that’s pretty related.
Christine Pedi: Well, certainly because I’m on the Broadway channel. And thank God, because what I realized was after a year or so of it, my college was not an expensive college – of course I paid for it all myself. I realized that I actually made back my college tuition in income, in what I majored in. Which is kind of nice, a nice little sense of closure. It’s not like all that time was wasted. And I really do, I do do do do do love radio. I really enjoy it. I love being in the studio in a booth like this.
BB: Through all that, what ended up drawing you into your long history with Forbidden Broadway?
Christine Pedi: I had been going to open calls, after I had decided I wanted to try this professionally, but I knew no one in the business. I knew nobody, nobody. I didn’t have a friend who was an actor, I knew nothing, I just knew you buy Backstage. And I went to every open call I could, and I couldn’t get arrested, and I didn’t have an agent – obviously . But I finally said that’s it, I can’t take it anymore. The cattle calls were depleting, they were exhausting. I said “I’m not going on another open call until I get an agent, I can’t do this. I need an agent to submit me, like a human being. And I’m just going to stop it, and make finding an agent a full time job, and if I don’t, I don’t.” Then I opened Backstage, that very day, and there was an open call for Forbidden Broadway, and I went “Well, one more! I’ll go to one more, cause that – I think I could do that, I think I could do that.” And I had sent them a picture and résumé years earlier, a long time before, but of course it was unsolicited. And now, knowing the people involved as intimately as I do now, God knows, they must’ve thrown darts at it. I went to this open call, and they must’ve seen 250 girls, and I was the first on the list – they said. As a matter of fact, I discovered that Gerard Alessandrini wanted me for the New York show – this was a national tour, a non equity national tour that I auditioned for – but I discovered long after the tour was over, that Gerard wanted to see me to put me in the New York production, but they needed me in the national tour. And after that, they needed me for the Detroit Company, where I lived for about 11 months – in Detroit – and then they put me in the Denver Company, and at that point Gerard had said that he’d put me in the New York Company as soon as there was an opening. I was in Denver, we were rehearsing, and I hear that they’re having a new opening, they had lost one of their cast members, and that they’ve recast the role. I went “What? But he promised, he said he’d put me in the New York Company. I don’t believe this, I don’t believe this!” So I called up Gerard Alessandrini from Denver and went, “Hi Gerard, it’s Christine Pedi. Um, I don’t know, I mean I’m in Denver and we’re opening in a week or so, and I know you mentioned that if you could, you would put me in the New York show, and I just wanted to know, I mean I don’t have to stay in Denver. I don’t have my heart set on staying here, if anything comes up I’d be happy to come back to New York, if anything happens.” And he says “Oh”. Everybody does an impression of Gerard like this, because he has a very deep voice. So we all sound like Kermit the Frog or a Disney character because nobody can get his voice as deep as his. But he’s like, “Well Christine, um, actually we are doing a new edition and I was going to call you in a day or so and ask you if you’d like to be in the new edition. But we wanted to wait until after you opened the show in Denver and you got that out of the way, and sort of you know finished concentrating on that.” And I went, “Oh, Okay.” Because I was all set to go “What do you mean you’re not going to use me in the new edition? “ I was all set to really, you know, show a lot of gumption, and then I actually got what I had hoped to get. So I came back to New York – and the funny thing is I called up a friend of mine, Michael Levine, who everybody in the business knows, he’s a major vocal coach. I called him up to tell him the good news, and I went, “Hi!” and he went, “Hi!” and I went “I have to tell you something” and he went “You got the show in New York!” and I went “What?” he went, “Oh I’ve known about it for days!” Everybody at the TKTS booth, the flyer boys, everybody knew I was coming into New York , everybody knew but me!. Anyway, so that’s how I started with it in New York. And then I got into it and it ran for two whopping months and closed. And then we took it to Los Angeles and did it there. And then we opened with it in Hollywood, started it down in San Diego and brought it up to LA again, it was a big hit in LA, it was well received. And we brought it back to New York City and then, when that closed we started with a brand new edition of Forbidden Broadway, you know, it was called Forbidden Broadway: Broadway Strikes Back. And it was back in New York, for the first time in a bout a year or two. But it hadn’t been, it has never not been in performance somewhere for 25 years now.
BB: Before we continue, I’d like to play one of my favorites of yours from Forbidden Broadway. Does this need any setting up, “Liza One Note”?
Christine Pedi: No, none of them really do. That’s what a good parody is, it doesn’t need a lot of setting up; but the song itself, it sets itself up. Just know that it’s Liza Minnelli, please God I hope they can tell that it’s Liza Minnelli. Geez! I’d be a pretty miserable veteran of the show if I had to explain it.
Click to Listen to "Liza One Note" in Volume 103 of Broadway Bullet
BB: You’ve done so many parodies in Forbidden Broadway, and we’ll get into Talk Radio, but from what I understand that’s a lot of what the different voices and different characters is a lot of what brought you into Talk Radio on Broadway. But what goes into creating such a spot on parody of these performers?
Christine Pedi: It gets easier, I will say that. It’s so much easier now than it was in the beginning, because in the beginning I had never done any of them. For my audition they said “Do you do impressions?” and I said, “Well no, but I do my Italian grandmother.” So I said “Oh Christine what are you doing over here? Come, come give me a bunch of bunch of kisses!” that was my Italian grandmother. And they said, “Can you do Carol Channing?” and I said, “Well anybody can do Carol Channing” I mean, that’s pretty extreme. Then they gave me Merman and a Patti LuPone, and I did the best I could and they were very happy. But as the years went on, it just got easier, I don’t know why, I think I really just developed a muscle, I really do. Like for instance, Angela Lansbury, they said they were going to put her in the show – and who doesn’t love Angela Lansbury? But I went, oh god, okay, well I guess I’ll, I don’t know how to do Angela Lansbury. And I thought it was going to be mediocre to passable, and it would just be a number that would have to rely upon the familiarity of the song they were using and the costume. And then I open my mouth, and I went “Wow! That sounded like her!” And our producer is obsessed with Angela Lansbury and has been since he was a boy, and his eyes just tripled in size. He went “Wow”, and I went, “Yeah, I don’t know, where did that come from?” I don’t know, I just don’t know, I think it’s a muscle, I really do.
BB: Because, I mean so many, not just yourself, but so many performers are just spookily on. It’s not like “Saturday Night Live”, and even to me “Saturday Night Live” a lot of people do impressions, it’s just the costumes or general gestures. But a lot of times, the costumes and gestures generally help; but other times vocally, I’ve listened to the cast albums so much, and on there I don’t see and still so many times all of the various people that everyone does it’s kind of mind boggling how you channel these voices.
Christine Pedi: They have ability, at Forbidden Broadway, to hire – almost without exception – the nicest, loveliest, most talented people. I mean I’ve worked with this show for so, so, so, so many years. I have done, quite literally, countless performances, there have been so many that I can’t count how many, I have no clue. We all get along, we all enjoy each other. There’s no reason we should because we’re exhausted, we’re racing around like chickens with our heads cut off; and yet despite that, you know, there’s something about the temperament of the people, maybe it’s connected to it’s just their talent, I don’t know, but for the most part they are intuitive people. They are intuitive mimics, obviously. And they too, I think after a while, particularly after a while, they just know how to zero in on something specific and just bring it into the front, bring it to the surface of the character, you just figure it out.
BB: With something like Forbidden Broadway the same hand, does something like that ever seem like a double end sword for you when you’re auditioning for things?
Christine Pedi: It’s a cobra, absolutely. When they see me, they don’t know what to do with me. I went in for a major Broadway musical, to replace somebody, and I walked in and there was a table of very happy looking gentlemen, I mean it was a very lovely vibe from the table. And one of them looked at me and went, “It’s Liza Minnelli!” and I went, “that’s very sweet that he would – “ and then I went, “oh my god” and now I have, looking at my watch, two and a half minutes to prove that I’m not. Because Liza Minnelli had no place in this old fashioned musical that I was auditioning for. And if I can’t change his mind in two and a half minutes, and flush the Liza memory out of his head, it doesn’t serve me. And as a matter of fact, I didn’t get the part. I mean I didn’t think about that till after the audition was over, thank god I didn’t obsess about it, but my opinion is that people don’t really know where to put me. I should be playing the crazy secretary or the wise cracking soccer mom, there are a lot of categories I could fit into; and if they see you too much, they don’t know how to characterize you, and actors often say, “I don’t want to be pigeon holed” but you work when you’re pigeon holed. My pigeon hole is a strange hole without any pigeons in it, and you don’t get asked to do very much outside of the funny voice. They just don’t think. I did an evening of Condon and Green that I worked very hard on, and it was a wonderful evening with a lot of high powered, character driven songs – which is why I chose it, so when people came to see me, in a cabaret show, they got loud fast and funny, but they also got character and not impressions. And then I threw in some lovely ballads and some serious songs I had Condon and Green wrote, and this is exactly why I did this show. People would come up to me and say “you have a good voice, you should sing, you should sing in your real voice more often, Christine” as if it was their bright idea! I didn’t have a clue that I had a real voice. You have to tell them what they think they know, I am able to do it through my work as a cabaret performer, and because I’m not given a lot of other opportunities because these people don’t see me do anything but goof. And so it is limited, but happily, like in Talk Radio, I’m happy to do it.
BB: And that leads right into Talk Radio.
Christine PediE: You know, we’re creating characters from the written page who, literally, have no sound yet. Well, I’m sure that there’s something from the text that will guide you down a certain path as far as rhythm, and texture, and attitude, and so forth. But, I’m playing a fifteen year old girl, who’s pregnant, who’s having a conniption fit, which is a fifteen year old term, and that’s certainly not me. That’s certainly a challenge, I’m playing an acrophobic woman who doesn’t leave the house because she is petrified of germs.
BB: Let’s just make it clear for any of our listeners who don’t know, you play many callers on this-
Christine Pedi: Yeah, I have to explain to people that I’ve been involved with Sirius Radio for four years now, so when I say “I’m doing Talk Radio in New York” they always say, “Oh yeah, how’s the show going?” “We haven’t started yet&