Today, we speak to Lizzie Klemperer on her extensive performance career, including her current work on the new Broadway musical, Bright Star. Lizzie tells us how her passion in the arts began, her process, and some wonderful insight of her most memorable moments on stage.
Are here any shows you did growing up that made you seriously consider this as a career? Any particular role that is most memorable to you?
I'm not sure I was ever certain about pursuing acting as a career because I knew how hard it could be. When I was about eleven though, I did a A Christmas Carol at Syracuse Stage and that gave me a peek into what professional theater was like and I thrived on that whole experience. Several of the out of town actors have had huge Broadway careers since. We were lucky to have that caliber of a theater in Syracuse.
The most memorable role that I ever played in Syracuse was probably "Charity" in Sweet Charity. It was totally out of my comfort zone vocally and physically. It was a huge challenge especially because the show is basically just her from start to finish and I had never done something like that before. I think I grew immensely as an actor and really fell in love with that character.
Did you study performance in college?
I studied musical theater in college, at the University of Michigan. I wanted the full college experience while also being In a conservatory type program. Those were the greatest four years. Go Blue!
What brought you to New York City?
At the end of your senior year at Michigan, the graduating class performs in a showcase that the school produces in New York for agents and casting directors. After mine, I met with an agency and signed with them. I moved into an apartment in Queens and started auditioning for shows.
Do you train with anyone in the city?
I should be taking more class than I do! I want to get back in ballet class soon and there is an acting class that I am eyeing. I have studied voice for years with an incredible teacher named Matt Farnsworth (who was actually in A Christmas Carol with me in Syracuse back in '97. I have studied on camera acting with a genius man named Bob Krakower and also Ellen Novack.
You toured extensively for two very different types of shows. Could you let us know what those shows were, and how each experience was?
I first toured with a production that was a musical adaptation of The Little House on the Prairie. It was an amazing first job out of college. I joined Actors Equity and got to see the country. A lot of the cast was young and a couple of the others actually went to college with me so it was very comfortable. It definitely felt like an extension of school in a lot of ways. I enjoyed working with the all female creative team and doing a show that nobody had ever seen. It was pretty unique when I think back on it.
After that I toured with The Addams Family for over a year. The experience was really similar in many ways, except we hit a larger number of big cities on that one. It was a fun rehearsal process because the creative team did a lot of major changes to the Broadway script and score and they were very happy to see these changes implemented. The show itself was really fun to do. It was high energy for the ensemble and the audiences ate it up. It always kept me on my toes. Even after a year of doing it, I can honestly say I was never bored.
I should also mention I did the musical A Christmas Story (based on the movie) the year after it was on Broadway and did a three- city tour that culminated in a six week stint at Madison Square Garden. It was a whirlwind and a total blast!
What was the most rewarding experience, and what was the most challenging? Any horror stories from the road?
Understudying, and understudying. I understudied three roles in Little House; Ma, Nellie, and Laura. Each which came with its own challenges. Although I never got to go on as Ma or Nellie, I looked forward to playing them in rehearsal every week because I always had something to work on and that kept the show fresh for me. I did get to perform Laura and also Wednesday Addams on the road. Going on as a role you cover is a lot like jumping out of an airplane (which I did do on tour, in Phoenix, AZ). You just have to do the preparation and jump. It is the most thrilling thing I have ever done. Afterward you have this crazy high... I was all giggles!
How did you get involved with Bright Star?
I was on the west coast doing Hair this summer and my agents got me an initial audition for the production which at the time was only playing the Kennedy Center with broadway dates TBA. I had my eye on the show for a while and was fascinated by it so I knew I had to somehow get seen! I sent in a video of me doing the material in my hotel room. I got a callback and booked a last minute redeye to New York, which was not cheap! A few weeks (and another video) later I came in for a dance session with the choreographer and assistant choreographer. It was just me... At that point I was led to believe the job was probably mine if I didn't completely mess up. At the end of that hour Josh Rhodes hugged me and said "Welcome to Bright Star". I was still unsure so I just laughed and hugged him back! Then I got the call from my agent that afternoon saying it was official! Every audition is like an investment and this one paid off big time.
Can you tell us a little about what the show is about, in your own words?
The show tells the story of a female magazine editor in North Carolina in the 1940s. The show goes back and forth to the 1920s, and we discover that she had a baby when she was very young and that the baby was taken from her. The show depicts her search for the child as she reconciles with her past.
How was the development and rehearsal process for a brand new show?
Being a Swing on Bright Star, I got to witness a lot of the creative process in a really unique way, because I was sitting behind the table for basically all of it. It was an incredible learning experience because I got to observe the actors and how they conducted themselves while also seeing the big picture and how they fit into it. I definitely think it will change how I approach my next role. It's also interesting doing a new show as a swing because when things change, they change times 4 for me. They added a new opening number during tech and so I had to learn all new blocking for all of my tracks.
What has been the most important thing you've learned in being a part of Bright Star?
The most important thing I have learned doing Bright Star is how to bring myself into every role I understudy, instead of trying to reproduce another person's performance. I can't get away with it because they are so different than I am in size/age/vocal quality.
What was it like working with Steve Martin?
Working with Steve Martin was everything you would want it to be. He is the most hard working, talented and generous person. He was always sitting behind the table rewriting and being generally quiet, then every so often, when the timing was right, he would say something to make the room erupt with laughter.
You've recently went on in the role of Florence in the show. What was that experience like?
I found out in the morning that I was going on for this role and it was the one I had rehearsed the most so I felt very confident, but of course nervous. There are a lot of elements in the show that are hard to rehearse alone (props, costume pieces, set pieces and partnering) so I came in very early that day and walked through as much of it as I could with my dance partners and dance captain. It was nerve wracking because the show is such a well oiled machine at this point and I didn't want to do anything to disrupt that. I got through it and when the curtain came down, I was on top of the world.
What do you hope people will take away with them after seeing the show?
I hope people leave the theater feeling a sense of peace. The performances are very honest. I hope it reminds people that there is beauty in simplicity.
What advice would you give aspiring performers?
I would relay the piece of advice that I was always given: be your own authentic self. Pretending to be somebody else won't serve you. Try to have confidence in the person that you are and be FEARLESS. This is something I am always trying to master.
What is next for you?
Hopefully Bright Star will run for a long time! Also, I want to find a commercial agent and start branching out into that whole world.
Where can we find out more about what you do?
Visit: www.lizzieklemperer.com or search my name on YouTube!
For more info on Bright Star, CLICK HERE.