News Column

LOOK productions: Actress keeps busy with three times the roles

June 21, 2013

YellowBrix

June 21--After spending a summer pretending to be a monster, a slut and a stripper -- simultaneously, at times -- performing an evening of song and portraying an actress might seem a relatively sedate way to spend the month of June.

Alixe Ward disagrees.

Ward was featured in LOOK Musical Theatre's production of "Avenue Q" last summer, when she gave voice and motion to the puppet form of characters Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut. She also appeared as a stripper in the ensemble during the company's production of "Gypsy."

This season, Ward has major parts in all three of LOOK's productions. She's the motor-mouthed Minnie Fay in "Hello, Dolly!" that opened last week, and she plays the role of Janet Van De Graaf, a Broadway star of the 1920s in the musical-within-a-musical, "The Drowsy Chaperone."

But the things she has to do in these two shows pale in comparison with her role in the company's third show, "Side by Side by Sondheim."

"That, without a doubt, is the hardest thing I've ever done," Ward said of this revue of songs from many of Sondheim's best-known -- and a few more obscure -- musicals.

"We've been joking in rehearsals that it's obvious Stephen Sondheim must hate actors because there's hardly any breaks in the music," she said. "I think it's a little like a triathlon. Right when you get settled into one thing, here comes this completely different thing you have to do."

One of the songs Ward sings in "Side by Side by Sondheim" is "Getting Married Today" from "Company" -- a fast-paced song by a woman having a panic attack at the thought of her impending nuptials.

"You have to get each line out in a single breath," she said. "And if you run out of breath ... oops! On the other hand, it makes doing Minnie Fay's opening monologue (in "Hello, Dolly!") a little easier."

For "The Drowsy Chaperone," the challenge isn't so much vocal as physical.

"There's a lot of dancing in this show," Ward said. "Doing three cartwheels across the stage and then hitting this big, high note -- it's not something you get to do every day."

"The Drowsy Chaperone" is the title of the long-forgotten musical that is an obsession of a character known simply as the Man in the Chair, played by LOOK artistic director Eric Gibson. As the man describes the action, scenes from the show begin to come to life in his apartment.

The show is a frothy concoction centering around the impending wedding of Broadway star Janet Van De Graaf, who plans to give up her career for love and married bliss.

"I'm more inclined toward the sort of comedy of Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett," Ward said. "But Janet is a character who's supposed to be beautiful and hysterical. She's an actress who's playing a showgirl, so everything is a facade in some way or another. I think she's a hoot to play."

Ward graduated in 2012 from the University of Tulsa's musical theater program.

"I grew up in Dallas, and I thought I would never go to an Oklahoma school," she said. "But I knew a girl that went to TU. I did some research when I learned that it isn't a conservatory -- that I'd get a full, rounded education and that the musical theater program is pretty intense -- it seemed worth trying."

Ward now lives in New York City, working to establish herself as an actress.

"It's an eye-opening experience," she said. "You go in for a role that's in your age, and you find there are women 10 years older than you who still look young enough to play a character in their 20s -- or even late teens. So it's just a matter of keeping at it."

'THE DROWSY CHAPERONE'

When: 8 p.m. Friday and June 26, 29. 2 p.m. Saturday and June 30

Where: Williams Theatre, Tulsa PAC, 110 E. Second St.

Tickets: $27-$32. 918-596-7111, tulsaworld.com/mytix.

'SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM'

When: 8 p.m. Sunday and June 28

Where: Williams Theatre, Tulsa PAC, 110 E. Second St.

Tickets: $27-$32. 918-596-7111, tulsaworld.com/mytix.

James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478

james.watts@tulsaworld.com

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(c)2013 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.)

Visit Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) at www.tulsaworld.com

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