Theater Buff: ‘Big River”s Andrew Cristi
Every month, a fabulous actor/singer/dancer fills out editor Matthew Wexler’s questionnaire and offers a glimpse of what he looks like from a bit closer than the mezzanine. We’re sailing downriver this month with Andrew Cristi, who will be appearing in the New York City Center Encore! production of Big River. It’s been more than 30 years since the show first premiered on Broadway and will be directed by Lear DeBessonet.
Big River reinterprets Mark Twain’s classic tale of Huckleberry Finn. What are some of your favorite books and authors?
The Road (Cormac McCarthy), The Giver (Lois Lowry), and The Last Lecture (Randy Pausch & Jeffrey Zaslow).
What was your audition like for director Lear DeBessonet and choreographer Josh Rhodes?
I sang “Rain Song” from 110 In The Shade. Lear was very quiet and most of my interaction was with casting director, Jay Binder. After I sang Jay said, “You are the first person to ever sing this song at an audition and make it work.” It was a great confidence booster.
Next, I had to read a scene. I was extremely happy to do a Southern accent considering I’m almost never asked to do one. Big River is not a dance show, so the dance callback was very simple. (My favorite kind!) It was all about energy and personality. I can’t jump into the splits, but I will shatter the glass with my chutzpah. That’s Yiddish for “shameless audacity.”
Later that night I told my boyfriend that I was pretty sure an offer was coming. I’m not one to verbalize things like that usually, but sometimes you just know. Chutzpah!
Huck’s adventures include discovering new regions as he drifts down the Mississippi. How have your own travels—growing up in the Chicago area as well as Thailand—influenced your perspective on life, both professionally and personally?
I have been incredibly fortunate in my upbringing. I went to an international school in Thailand until I was 13. I was surrounded by kids and teachers from all over the world.
We moved to a Chicago suburb when I was in the eighth grade and thankfully, my middle and high school experience was very diverse. I went to NYU for college. All my life I have been surrounded by diversity, which is ironic because I have chosen a profession in an industry that often times is not very inclusive. I’d say my upbringing influenced my advocacy, empathy and support for groups who are overlooked.
If I wasn’t a performer, I would be:
An ASL interpreter! I have taken 3 semesters at the Sign Language Center and I am hooked. I can say all the dirty words.
Places, Intermission or Curtain Call?
Places! Hearing that overture before the curtain rises is the most exciting thing to me. And it’s the perfect time to harness my chutzpah (OK, I’ll stop now).
The best post-show cocktail in New York City is at:
I’m not a big drinker because I become embarrassingly intoxicated after very little. But I will tell you that the Frozen Pomegranate Margarita at Rosa Mexicano is delicious.
After you’ve hit all the traditional sites of New York City, you should totally go to:
My favorite restaurants! I will list them for you. Grab a pen!
Pye Boat Noodle
Pure Thai Cookhouse
Rosa Mexicano (18th St Location)
The Stanton Social
Jing Fong (Dim Sum)
If I could live anywhere else in the world it would be:
Anywhere warm and there’s a beach close by.
My workout “secret” is:
I eat what I want when I want.
When I’m looking for a date, nothing attracts me more than:
A sense of humor! My boyfriend makes me laugh every day.
My favorite website to visit that you may not have heard of is:
People would be surprised to learn that I . . .
Pulled a knife on my older brothers when I was about 10. I think it was a butter knife, which makes it even more hilarious. Boys will be boys!
When I was 10, I wanted to be just like:
Mariah Carey. Sans knife.
Ten years from now I’d like to be:
Married, 10 to 15 pounds heavier (muscle or fat, I’ll take either), and blissfully content.
Big River plays at New York City Center’s mainstage February 8-12.