Once a month, a member of the theater community will pull up a chair to our cyber table and join us for a little conversation. I’ll edit the transcripts (removing the truly libelous parts) and post the results here every second Wednesday. For June…
Photo by Nancy Opel.
Nancy Opel is the real deal, an actor/singer with fearless comedic instincts and a resume that can’t be contained by a mere 100-word program bio. (She was the matinee “Eva” in the original Broadway Evita for goodness sake!) She’s got an Obie–as well as Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics, Lucille Lortell nominations–and a whip smart theatrical mind that makes her a writer’s best friend. Case in point: by some miracle, she agreed to be the titular lead in a Fringe Festival show I co-wrote called For the Love of Tiffany: A Wifetime Original Musical, about a washed-up TV diva angling for a comeback amidst her soap-operatic life. With little to no budget, we had been lamenting how we’d love to have publicity shots from some of “Tiffany’s” TV movies. At the next rehearsal, Nancy marched in and announced she had gone out on her own, found the perfect Meredith Baxter-Birney wig and posed for a series of photos “in character”. Not only were the pictures hysterical (“gauzy” doesn’t even begin to do them justice), they were a testament to Nancy’s absolute immersion in her work. Funny and fiercely committed, she’s the performer you want on your team.
We caught up recently, battling allergy symptoms and recording difficulties, to discuss her current role in Broadway’s Memphis, uvulas and some composer guy named Steve.
You’re appearing in Memphis now as “Mama”, a role that was originated by Cass Morgan. Is it daunting to step into a role after someone else?
I didn’t feel like the creators were asking me to copy Cass’ show exactly. I’d worked with these writers before [Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, who also wrote Toxic Avenger] and had done several readings for the director, Christopher Ashley. I was quite delighted that they called me and asked me to join the company. They know what I can do and trusted me to bring that certain something to the role.
That must have given you a great sense of freedom.
I didn’t change the timing of the show or anything. But little things. I felt that I had a lot of freedom to try what worked for me. Plus I only had two weeks of rehearsal.