Sunday, 11 September 2011

A Dazzling Place I Never Knew

Today I'm very happy to present an interview with Princess Jasmine herself, Courtney Reed!  But before we start I just want to say a very special thank you to both Courtney and her mom as they've both been incredibly supportive and offered me a lot of encouragement with this blog.

Hi Courtney,

Thanks again for agreeing to an interview, I really appreciate you giving up your time to do this.

Firstly, I’d just like to say how great you were on New Day Northwest last week. "Call Me a Princess" was probably the last song that I expected to make it back into the show, but the new context you put it in is fantastic and you looked like you were really having fun with it.


Finally!!! My answers are below your questions. I hope this works! ;)

Thanks for the "Call Me a Princess" compliment!!!  I truly appreciate your and the fans' support and encouragement.

When did you first decide you wanted to be in musical theatre, and who (or what) would you say have been your biggest influences?

I always wanted to be like my sister growing up. She took dance class, so I took dance class. She performed in our hometown community theatre shows, so I did the same. I think the moment I knew I wanted to do this forever was when I was cast as Annie (yeah I know...ethnic Annie). The feeling I got after hitting the money note in "Tomorrow," was IT for me. It was over, I knew there was nothing else for me to do. I don't think I have a singular person or people that most influenced it. I have always admired Lea Salonga. Her voice is magic to me!

How did you get your first big break?

This is a funny/long winded story. I will give you the short version. Shorty after graduation from The Theatre Conservatory of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University (yeah long name right?) my agents (in Chicago) called me in for Mamma Mia! I went to the audition (thinking it was for the tour), and got a callback. Then a few days later my agent called and said "You wanna be on Broadway?" My life changed in an instant! They said, you will be in the ensemble and understudying Ali. You will have to move to NY in two weeks. I had never been to New York or seen a broadway show! The first show I ever say was the show I was going to be in! I STILL can't believe it!

Courtney Reed as Princess Jasmine, Photo by Mark Kitaoka
On New Day Northwest you called Jasmine a dream role. Were you a big fan of the Disney classics growing up, and if so did you have a favorite film or character?

Aladdin was definitely one of my favorites! We actually have a room in my basement that was called the "Aladdin room," (toy room) because there is an Aladdin mural with the Genie and Abu on it. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, and Peter Pan were my other favs! I have to admit, Jasmine was always my favorite character! She was just the coolest! So sassy, sexy and strong! Definitely a force to be reckoned with!

You auditioned for the reading last year, then had to audition again for the Seattle production. What was the audition process like to get the role?

The audition was actually really easy! I already knew the material (hehe), so it didn't take much to re-memorize them. However I did make sure I was 100% prepared. It was super quick and easy and the only new person in the audition room was Casey, and I must say it is not hard auditioning for a room full of happy and supportive people. They are all the best!

When you finally heard that you’d been successful what was your reaction like?

I guess I considered my first paying acting job a success. The only thing I ever wanted from being an actress was to make a living doing what I love. This in itself is a huge success for me! So I guess my reaction to that is HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!!!

With all the changes to incorporate the "lost" Howard Ashman songs how similar is Jasmine to the animated version? Does she get a bigger character arc or more layers in the show?

I would have to say that Jasmine has a little feature that shows off another side of her that you don't get to really see in the movie. However the show stays pretty close to the animated film in all of the good ways (if that makes any sense).

How much freedom have you been given in (re)creating Jasmine for stage and what are the challenges of originating such a famous character in a new show?

We were sooooo lucky to have lots of freedom from Casey to play, of course within certain limits. The challenge for me was to stay true to the essence of this beloved character but to also make it my own. I guess I feel in any role you play you always have to make it your own, but for this particular character that I love and admired so much I wanted to stay true to the film but put my own self in it (which I feel was not too difficult because Jasmine and I are not very different hehehe).

Apart from "Call Me a Princess" do you get many other new songs? Adam teased that he has at least a line or two in 11 songs, so obviously there’s a lot of new numbers in the show!

Well I got to sing the "Call Me a Princess Reprise," and Adam and I got to sing this gorgeous new duet called, "A Million Miles Away."

Courtney Reed as Princess Jasmine with Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Chris Bennion
The show is said to have some spectacular dance numbers. With your extensive dance training, can we expect some big dance numbers for Jasmine?

I must say that I get to actually dance a little bit in "Call Me a Princess." It is by no means a big dance number, but she certainly dances more than in the movie ;)

If you can say, what is the most rewarding part of the show for you, and which part do you find most challenging?

The most rewarding part of the show for me is seeing the audience and hearing them respond. Seeing the little girl's faces at the stage door with their Jasmine costumes on, or watching the audience jump to their feet for the curtain call is the most rewarding part for me. If I can make a contribution in any way to making people happy or job is done. I don't find too much challenging about this show, I love it so much it feels more like a luxury than a challenge ;)

How do you prepare before a show? Do you have any superstitions or routines that you do before you go on stage each night?

I like to warm up to the radio! I either warm up to the radio or to pandora (Beyonce is always a good channel because she uses her whole vocal range in many of her songs). I also like to hit the gym before a show, it warms my body and voice up. It gives me a jolt of energy. I chose the gym over coffee or energy drinks!

Looking to the future, do you have any other dream roles that you would love to do?

Jasmine is pretty much the pinnacle of dream roles for me at the moment. I have always wanted to play Kim in "Miss Saigon" though!

Courtney Reed in In The Heights, Photo by Joan Marcus
And finally, looking back over your career so far, do any moments or performances really stand out as something truly special that you’ll always remember?

Closing night for "In The Heights," was possibly one of the most memorable experiences of my life next to my broadway debut (as far as my career goes). However my Aladdin experience as a whole may have topped those. I had an incredible experience one day in rehearsal when they decided to give "A Whole New World," a face lift (for lack of better words). They decided to make it new and fresh. The next day when our musical director (Michael Kosarin) played through the brand new arrangement for us, I couldn't stop crying. To top the experience off, Alan Menken was there as well and it was just a huge rush of emotions. It sounded like the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. Adam and I really connected that day. My other favorite day was the sitzprobe, hearing these original orchestrations for the very first time with the full piece orchestra, and getting to sing along was electrifying!

Courtney, thank you so much for your time, it’s been a pleasure.  I wish you all the best for the future and look forward to hearing what you're doing next (and hopefully seeing you as Princess Jasmine on Broadway one day...)

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