August 22, 2010

Backstage with “Jersey Boys” Amazing Girls

In “Jersey Boys” there are three amazing women who play many roles. Three talented women are cast in as many as 17 parts each in the popular musical that hit the Bass Theatre stage Wednesday night on the University of Texas campus.

Denise Payne is cast as “Francine Valli” – but also plays 17 other female characters. Alayna Gallo is “Lorraine” – and plays 15 other parts. Kara Tremel plays the role of “Mary Delgado” and 11 other women. Together, their combined energies and charisma help make the hit production pop.

Thursday afternoon the women gave a behind-the-scenes tour, and talked about the frenetic pace of costume changes, wig switch-overs and the fun they have being part of “Jersey Boys.” According to Tremel, even their own parents don’t know them at times when they’re in character.

“Usually a lot of people don’t realize there are only three women in the show until the final number where the whole cast comes out, and everyone’s like, ‘Wait a minute – where are all the girls?’” Tremel explained.

“It’s just us!” added Payne, smiling.

When asked what it’s like to play a huge amount of characters, all three agreed they love it, but it’s the crew who helps them keep things straight and in order, lest they forget which character goes out on stage when.

“I personally love it. It keeps it fresh. You’re always playing something else,” said Tremel. You always have to be on your toes and you’re not kind of just doing the same character throughout the show. You can change it up and play around and play with your fellow actors.”

“What helps keep it straight for me are the dressers,” said Gallo. “If I put on the wrong costume, and do a character that doesn’t match it — it’s not going to work out. So the dressers say, ‘Hey, it’s this costume.’ ‘Oh, I know what I’m playing now.’”

“When I first joined I had cue cards to try to remember my next role,” Payne explained. “I was trying to make a story line in my head. And then I realized day one ‘just go in the quick-change booth and they’ll hand you the costume you wear next,’ and it was, ‘Oh, good, good. Just hand me my costume.’”

“Fashion changed so much, in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s – that’s why we have to have so many different costumes,” said Alayna.

The girls operate out of two different dressing rooms, one placed backstage on each side. The trio said it’s the crew who does so much of the work to make the show run smoothly, before and during the show.

“Usually the crew comes in an hour before ½ hour, when the cast arrives,” said Tremel. “The cast arrives ½ hour before curtain. And they come in and basically prepare everything. They’ll set up costumes. They’ll get all the props set up, all the pieces that have to go on, so everything is ready for the time when we come in,” said Tremel.

“But there is so much prep,” said Payne. “For all these costumes, they steam all of them. They’re shining shoes. In every single show, they do that. They’re such an incredible crew. We have our own crew and we pick up local crew in the city. It’s kind of like a crazy little world back here,” said Payne.

“They wash dishes. They clean off the piano,” Tremel added.

“And even throughout the show, as we get finished with one thing, as soon as we’re done with one thing, as soon as we’re done with that, they’ll take it and they’ll start prepping it for the next show, so it’s like a constant thing,” said Gallo.

Tremel summed it up best when she said, “It’s a well-oiled machine.”

Jersey Boys runs through September 5 at the Bass Concert Hall on the UT campus, 2300 E. 23rd St. Performances are Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m. Saturdays feature a 2 p.m. matinee and 8:00 evening show. Sunday shows are at 2:00 and 7:30 p.m. Buy Jersey Boys Austin TX Tickets for all Bass Concert Hall performances.


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