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SoCal local Trisha Rapier talks about upcoming show Forbidden Broadway

Written By: Mary McNulty Forbidden Broadway Comes to OC’s Segerstrom Center

Not many Broadway shows can boast a 33-year history like Forbidden Broadway. Opening in 1982, when Ronald Reagan was president, the entire Broadway music catalog is fair game for this parody of all things symbolizing the Great White Way. No star or show is exempt from creator Gerard Alessandrini’s treatment of past and current productions. Shows previously under the spotlight include modern classics such as Jersey Boys and Book of Mormon along with legends like The Lion King and Les Miserables. New faces like Kristin Chenoweth are mixed with icons like Liza Minnelli and Barbra Streisand.
During its run, the story has been modified a dozen or so times, which is a major attribute. The show has earned numerous awards, among them the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revue, and it has a remarkable track record. Out of five nominations, Forbidden Broadway has won the award three times. The Revue is also a two-time winner of the Drama Desk Special Award.

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts Spotlight Series begins with Forbidden Broadway running Oct. 1-4. Next up is Cheyenne Jackson performing on Nov. 21, followed by the Hot Sardines from Feb. 11 to 14. No doubt the hot ticket will be Kristin Chenoweth’s performance on March 12. The series concludes April 2 with Lea Solonga.
Trisha Rapier is a SoCal-raised, UCLA music graduate with a long association with Forbidden Broadway. Rapier has portrayed many legendary stars over her 12-year relationship with the production. She took a few moments to share her insight into the Broadway scene.

Trisha Rapier

Q: You have been with the show for 12 years. What was your history prior to Forbidden Broadway?
Trisha Rapier: I graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music, sailed around the world as the lead female vocalist for Crystal Cruises and finally ended up in the Big Apple in January of 2000. I was cast in several regional theater shows in the New York City area before joining the cast of Forbidden Broadway in 2002. 

Q: Landing such a big production is no easy task. One envisions A Chorus Line. Looking back, what gave you the edge?
TR: I have to say that my strong vocal technique was the edge I needed to get cast in Forbidden Broadway. Because each actor involved in Forbidden Broadway has to go from playing one drastically different character to the next in a matter of seconds, they look for individuals with very strong vocal stamina and agility. 

Q: Did you ever consider the production would continue for over a decade?
TR: The show has actually been around for over 30 years and I believe the reason it continues to thrive is because of Gerard Alessandrini and all the creative efforts of the Forbidden Broadway family to keep up with the ever-changing climate of Broadway musicals. Whether a show is a huge hit or huge flop, Forbidden Broadway has managed to parody the best of Broadway over the years in such a unique and accessible way. 

Q: It must be great to have such a long run with such a great show. What techniques do you employ to keep it fresh?
TR: First of all, it is always a wonderful challenge each time I get to step into the characters of Forbidden Broadway. I have gone months, sometimes years, in between performances with Forbidden Broadway due to other theatrical projects I’ve been involved with, but I always try to revisit the material on a regular basis to keep the impressions and lyrics fresh in my mind. 

Q: The show is constantly updated, which accounts for its success. Any idea as to what is in the works for the next production?
TR: I know that part of the draw with the new versions of Forbidden Broadway is the mystery leading up to what new shows we will parody. I can only imagine what Gerard has in store for spoofing Hamilton or Fun Home, two of the most cutting-edge musicals that premiered on Broadway this year, but it’s sure to be a fantastic roast! 

Q: What is the most demanding aspect of the performance?
TR: Again, I believe the vocal demands the show requires are the most challenging. Sometimes I will go from playing Carol Channing in one number to Sarah Brightman in the next which requires me to use a low, more raspy tone for Carol and then switch to a pure lyric soprano tone for Sarah. I have to rely on my strong classical technique to keep my voice healthy and free from damage.

Q: Without giving away too much, which Broadway legends will be featured this year?
TR: We have put together a great mix of new and old parodies with this version of Forbidden Broadway at the Segerstrom Center. I believe that Idina Menzel, Liza Minnelli and Mandy Patinkin will be making appearances in the show as well fabulous new spoofs of Matilda and Once, to name a few.

Q: As a parody, many of the greatest Broadway stars have been spoofed, such as Julie Andrews and Carol Channing. Who have you played and whom have you enjoyed the most?
TR: I love spoofing Barbra Streisand and Idina Menzel. It’s thrilling to get to step into their skin and try to impersonate their voices while bringing out the humor in their unique and powerful vocal stylings and mannerisms.

Q: You’ve performed at some amazing venues throughout the world. Which are the most memorable?
TR: I remember performing in Park City, Utah, a few years back, during the Sundance Film Festival. I was able to perform in a beautiful place and go skiing afterward, two of my favorite things. 

Q: The production is international. In your experience, how does the audience, say in Austria, differ from those in the U.S.?
TR: What’s always interesting to me when performing for an international audience is that we’re never sure how the joke is going to land. When performing in the U.S. we have a good sense of what Americans will find funny, but because of language barriers, sometimes we’ll get laughs in the oddest of places.

Q: Going from the sunshine of Southern California to the seasons of New York must have been a tremendous adjustment. Any words of wisdom for those considering a similar transition?
TR: Invest in a great winter coat! Since I moved to NYC in the winter of 2000, having no idea what winter was growing up in SoCal, I froze my buns off that first year. I definitely learned to love the seasons, however, but I’m still not a fan of the extreme winter here in NYC. I will always be a California girl at heart.

Q: The cast is extremely small, composed of two men, two women and a piano. That certainly is a challenge and requires a tremendous amount of energy. How do you maintain that strength?
TR: The show is such a fast-paced, wacky whirlwind that as soon as the lights come up in the opening number we all just band together and say, “Here we go!” Before we know it, we’re singing the finale and taking our bows, so since we don’t have time to think about how exhausting the show can be, we don’t get exhausted. The laughter the audience gives us is the adrenaline we need to give a high-powered performance night after night!

Q: Give us a little information on your co-stars for this production. How long have they been involved?
TR: Kevin B. McGlynn has been involved in several productions of Forbidden Broadway both in New York and on the road. His extensive theater credits include Guys and Dolls, Les Miserables and 9 to 5, to name a few. Gina Kreiezmar has been involved in nearly all of the Forbidden Broadway productions in New York City and truly does one of the best Liza Minnelli impressions I have ever seen. Marcus Stevens is our newest member of Forbidden Broadway and received rave reviews for his roles in the latest rendition, Forbidden Broadway Alive and Kicking in NYC. He’s also a Richard Rodgers Award winner for his excellence in musical theater writing.

Q: As a local who fulfilled her dream of being on Broadway, what suggestions do you have for the aspiring drama students at your alma mater?
TR: I would say go to a great performing arts college, train/study/perform/learn everything you possibly can about theater from a business perspective as well as an artist’s perspective.  Take advantage of your college showcase. Big name casting agents attend the majority of those showcases and the sooner you can make connections in New York City the better. Finally, if you don’t give New York at least five dedicated years of your time, you haven’t tried hard enough. A tiny percentage of actors arrive in New York and are on Broadway within a year. The rest of us have to work a bit harder and wait a bit longer for that dream to become a reality, but it can be done and once you get there it is truly amazing!

Segerstrom Center for the Arts
600 Town Center Dr
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714.556.2787 | www.scfta.org