ALICE RIPLEY: BROADWAY’S SUPERWOMAN

Alice Ripley is a musical theatre superhero and she has a Tony to prove it. In her career she has managed to play many iconic roles such as Fantine in Les Mis and Janet in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, to name a few. Her most recent Broadway role was originating Diana Goodman in the critically acclaimed Next to Normal. So anyway, (yes that is a double entendre because there is a song in Next to Normal called “So Anyway”), enjoy reading this interview with the lively Alice Ripley!  

MC: When did you catch the theater bug?

AR: Guess I was born with it.

Were there any performers that inspired you to pursue a life in the theater?

In Cleveland at Playhouse Square, I saw a fantastic production of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris when I was 14. I was so inspired by the passion and skill that I witnessed, that I decided to GO ALL THE WAY with my talent.

What kind of training did you do as a college student to prepare you for going out on professional auditions? How did you train to become a triple threat?

I sang in church and competed in school choirs, took lessons, and graduated from Kent State with a BFA in Musical Theatre. But, success comes from DAILY PRACTICE of your various crafts.

How was it for you making the transition to “The Big City” after college? Was there any real point of being a “struggling actress”?

It is a struggle, always! That is part of the deal of a creative life. But, the rewards are worth it. You’ll see!

Can you describe the night you made your Broadway debut in The Who’s Tommy?

I remember thinking a dream had come true, and that hard work and courage had put me there.

The day you got to go on as Mrs. Walker for the first time, what was it like? 

It felt like falling backward into an abyss, and being caught by my fellow cast mates.

Was getting work pretty consistent for you after Tommy?

Yes I didn’t leave Manhattan for years, working constantly.

You have been so lucky to star in some pretty iconic shows! How special does if feel to know that you have gotten to play roles that thousands of girls dream of?

I feel so happy to think that my work inspires hopeful artists. It makes me feel like a billion bucks, and keeps my passion alive.

Okay, let’s talk about Next To Normal. How did it come about?

Tom Kitt says he wrote Diana for me after seeing me in Side Show.

The cast is made up of some pretty big Broadway names, too! What was it like working with such a talented cast and did it make you improve as a performer?

I feel like my colleagues are always the best. I like being on the BOTTOM of the totem pole. Looking up to George Hearn, Glenn Close, Robert Prosky, Blair Brown. That is a powerful way to learn

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Alice as Diana Goodman in Next to Normal

Do you have to tackle a script or develop a character in a certain way when you play someone with mental illness?

Nope, you get into trouble if you think too much. Diana does not think she is sick. She is just being Diana. However, performing Diana eight times a week requires the actress to protect her soul, as it seems the whole world wants to own a piece of Diana, since her nearly universal story has never been given its due till now.

Where were you when you found out that you were nominated for the Tony?

On the couch in my underwear, remote in hand.

On June 7th, 2009 you won the Tony for playing Diana Goodman. You have probably been asked this a million times but what went through your mind when your name was called?

“Okay now don’t trip on the steps in this dress. Smile. Walk tall. Thank the audience, cause without them you wouldn’t be here”

Once you won the Tony was there any change in the way you performed?

But why would there be? I believe every audience deserves my best effort, and that is what every audience gets from me. However, I do keep my Tony Award DUST FREE!!

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Alice accepting her Tony

On a different note, you are an extremely talented singer/songwriter (no pun intended)! What kind of outlet does guitar and songwriting give you?

THANK YOU!!  Playing and singing reminds me of the joy of simply making music. Writing my own music connects me with the soul of why I sing.

You have been performing quite a bit in the NYC with your band. Do you experience a different kind of thrill playing your own music rather then being is a musical?

I feel like my own music reveals ME instead of a CHARACTER I am playing.

What’s your biggest advice for aspiring Broadway performers?

NEVER GIVE UP. YOU ARE NEXT!!

What’s your current favorite Broadway show? 

The Book Of Mormon.

How about all time favorite musical?

LES MIS!!!!

Do you have a dream role?

My dream roles are unwritten till they come to me! ♦

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus, Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images North America

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