How did you get involved into the world of Broadway? What was your first show you’ve ever performed in?
John: What was your big ‘breakout’ moment? I was taken to my first Broadway show by my parents when I was ten years old. My first public performance was a role in a first grade show. It was a big role with 4 or five songs. I kept on singing and performing and also took up playing the drums. I wasn’t really bitten by the theater bug until I heard and then later saw “Les Miserables” when I was in High School. My breakout moment and still the most thrilling moment of my career was making my broadway debut in Les Miz!
Kathy: I grew up dancing with a small ballet Company in Johnstown Pennsylvania. When I was in high school my parents took me to see “Les Miserables” on tour, and I was hooked from that moment on. I suppose my big break out moment was my sophomore year of college when I was cast as a lead in the musical. I was the Baker’s Wife in “Into The Woods.” I was scared out of my mind because I truly had no idea what I was doing. But I had a great director and a wonderful cast of upperclassman to guide me through it. From then on I wasn’t quite as scared anymore and was able to audition more regularly for more roles.
Where did you grow up? Did that kind of environment make pursuing your dreams easier or harder? If harder, explain why.
John: I grew up in Toms River, NJ. I think it made pursing my dreams easier because I was so close to New York City. So when I knew it was time to move there, it didn’t feel like such a huge leap.
Kathy: I grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. My parents were very encouraging as far as taking lessons in whatever was available. They let me take piano lessons, gymnastics, and ballet. I’m a terrible pianist and I wish I had stuck with it longer but those early lessons (which I sometimes groaned about) certainly instilled a love of music from an early age.
At what age did you know that this was the career path for you? Were you ever skeptical of the career because it’s very up and down? (From what I’ve heard)
John: I knew it was for me when I heard Les Miz for the first time. That was the moment that all the pieces came together. I loved music, I loved singing, and i loved performing on stage…this one show had it all. After that moment there wasnt anything you could tell me about how hard it was that would’ve stopped me from going after being in that show. Frankly, I’m still skeptical of this career path because there is never an end goal. I’ve been incredibly lucky to do a lot of shows- many of them on Broadway-and to be working consistently, but that can all change in an instant.
Mostly I am just thankful and grateful that I have been able to be a full-time actor since graduating from college.
Kathy: I had no idea what this career would be like. I didn’t know anybody who was a professional actor. I didn’t know anybody who was a professional singer. All I knew was that I was absolutely hypnotized in high school by “Les Miserables” when I saw the actors telling such a powerful story through song.
What is the hardest thing about performing in the Broadway world? Are there any downfalls to being in the limelight?
John: I put a lot of pressure on myself to be my very best all the time. Sometimes your body won’t or can’t cooperate due to illness or injury. When you’re in a show that performs 8 times a week 50 weeks a year, maintaining a high level of performance is very hard on the body and can be on the spirit as well. As the roles I’ve been blessed to play have gotten more difficult and more ‘prestigious’ the pressure to be better increases too, so that is a kind of a downfall, though its part of chasing the dream of playing big roles.
Kathy: I think the hardest part about performing on Broadway is doing eight shows a week. I know that sounds basic, but when you think doing the exact same thing eight times a week and trying to make sure that it is fresh and interesting for every single audience (since it is the first time many will see the show) even if it’s your 300th time doing it. I don’t know if there are many downfalls for Broadway performers of being in the limelight, I think that’s more of a problem for people who are in TV and film.
What is the easiest thing about performing in the Broadway world?
John: That when you get right down to it, its playing with your friends for a job and getting paid for it. There are lots of wonderful people in this profession and having a good time is not difficult to find.
Kathy: I think the easiest thing about performing in the Broadway world is that it is a relatively small community, and there are many friends at every corner. Also the quality of the costumes, the magnificent sets, and the extraordinary professionals backstage make coming to work every day a privilege.
Would you say that the answers to questions 4 or 5 helped shape who you are as a performer?
John: Yes, because you can only improve when you put the pressure on yourself to do so. I hope that my work and self criticism makes for a better “product” for the audience.
Kathy: Yes, but I also think that I was shaped by all the people that I watched. I watched people behave badly and learned lessons from that, and I watched people behave professionally and learned much better lessons from that!
Out of all the roles you’ve performed in, which is your favorite and why? Is it hard to let go of a role/show whenever it is over?
John: Hard to pick a favorite role. So many shows become about the whole experience…where you did the show, and with whom and and what time in your life. Luckily I have found something to love about almost every role I’ve played. Honestly though, I think I had the hardest time letting go of Tony in “West Side Story.” I did it in college and really busted my butt just to be able to attempt singing it and the experience with my classmates was so special that i was truly and deeply heartbroken when it was over.
Kathy: One of my favorite roles I’ve done so far is Clara in “Passion” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. I loved working with Gary Griffin, our fabulous director, our fabulous cast, and the entire onstage team, backstage team, and production team. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much is because it was a part that scared me to death to take on. And I absolutely loved playing Christine opposite my future husband as Raoul! For me, it’s not so hard to let go of a role as it is to let go of a great cast of friends who feel more like family.
How long have you been involved in the Broadway world? Are you in any current productions right now?
John: I made my broadway debut in 1994 and my most recent performance on Broadway was in 2013 with “Evita”…
Kathy: I did my first Broadway show (“Oklahoma!”) in 2002. I’m currently on Broadway in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”
For singing, what is your voice part? Do you think this helps or hurts you when it comes to auditions?
John: I am a tenor. and this does make audition difficult as most good male roles are baritones. I fake a really good baritone but most of the roles in my voice type are character or juvenile (boy) roles so there’s not a lot to choose from if I want to stick to type.
Kathy: I’m a soprano who can also belt a bit. I always joke that I will sing whatever voice part gets me the job! (Unless there is excessive riffing, that I can’t do!)
What do you think your ‘biggest’ role has been over the past years? Do you ever reflect back on that role?
John: Definitely the Phantom on Broadway. I don’t reflect on it as much now but when I do, it is with great appreciation for getting to play that most famous character.
Kathy: I suppose my biggest role was Eva Peron in “Evita”. More than reflecting on the role, I think I look back fondly on working with Hal Prince. He is extraordinary and it was a dream come true to work with him every day on that show.
How is life living in New York?
Kathy: New York is crazy and expensive and I’m so grateful to have a job. However, John and I live in New Jersey with our kids which feels more like home.
Do you still travel and perform to this day? If so, does it ever get tiring?
John: I travel a lot for concert work and for regional theatre shows. It is tiring and stressful to travel, always. I try to make the traveling schedule as friendly as possible so I don’t get overstressed. For example, I try to never fly and perform on the same day if it can be avoided. On the other hand, life as a full time parent is pretty stressful too, so a trip away can be a welcome diversion!
Kathy: I travel all the time. Even while I’m working on Broadway I sometimes get personal days to go do Symphony concert work all over the country and occasionally out of the country.
Yes, it certainly gets tiring, but it is never, ever boring.
How does it feel knowing you’re one of the very few people who have had the opportunity to score both Phantom in the Phantom of the Opera and John ValJean in Les Miserables? Do you think this opportunity has helped your acting career?
John: Well, yes it has helped tremendously. Particularly in the world outside New York in concerts and regional theaters. Concert audiences really appreciate that they are hearing someone who has performed those roles and does the songs from the shows for them. I get hired as a concert soloist primarily because of my connection with those roles. I also am able to audition for a lot of shows based on my experience too. Phantom and Les Miz aren’t the new, “cool” shows anymore however, they made so many people like me pursue this career that most if not all of my colleagues respect the accomplishment.
What are your dream roles? Have you been able to accomplish those dreams?
John: Ive always wanted to sing Billy Bigelow in Carousel. Other than that, i just want to be a part of music that moves me.
Kathy: I feel like I’ve done a lot of roles that are dreamy, but I always fall in love with whatever I am currently working on.
What advice can you offer to any aspiring performers or people in general who are trying to chase their dreams?
John: Believe in yourself. Stand up for yourself. Work hard. Ask for help. All experience is good experience. Be kind, courteous and prepared.
Kathy: Don’t go into the arts. Did I talk you out of it? If anyone can talk you out of the arts, then you should go do something else. The arts are hard and uncertain and you have to love what you do every single day. If someone can’t talk you out of being in the arts, then it might be something you should pursue.