Girl of the Night: Sharon Brown
Critics shun it. Fans adore it. And audiences continue to pack theatres in New York, Germany, and across the US to witness one of the most extraordinary phenomena to hit the scene in quite some time. Frank Wildhorn’s musical smash Jekyll & Hyde launched its first national tour last spring, starring Chuck Wagner as the hair-flippin’ title character, Andrea Rivette as his fiancée, and Sharon Brown as the man-hungry girl of the night Lucy.
Miss Brown is no stranger to the stage (at age 13, she starred as 'Dorothy' in the national tour of The Wiz), and her career has been filled with many diverse and exciting roles: 'Effie' in Michael Bennett's final version of Dreamgirls; the Narrator in the national tour of Joseph ... Dreamcoat; and the HBO film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, just to name a few.
I recently spoke with Sharon from her dressing room at Baltimore’s Mechanic Theatre.
HS: How has the touring life been so far?
SB: The show is going well. Touring life is always hard, but the show is going very, very well. We’re six months into the tour and have another six to go, for those us who signed for a year.
HS: Have you enjoyed playing the part of ‘Lucy Harris’ so far?
SB: It’s lovely. I wanted it very badly, got it, and I’m having a great time with it. She’s wonderful.
HS: In the past, you’ve played many diverse roles, which included working with the late, great Michael Bennett. He was such an influence on Broadway for so many years, and his death was such loss for his fans, friends, and family.
SB: In a way, I think that Broadway is still feeling the effects of people like that and people like Bob Fosse being gone. I think that when you have these shows like Chicago and Fosse, it reminds you of what you’re missing in a way. You think, “Boy, if Fosse were alive today, he’d still be coming up with great shows, ” and I feel doubly about Michael Bennett. It’s nothing you can really emulate or copy, he just was the best. I was so fortunate to work with him. A lot of times a season will go by and I think, “God, what he could be doing right now, what he could be bringing to the table.” I really miss his vision, his creativity
HS: In the last, say, 10-15 years, Broadway has lost Jerome Robbins, Fosse, and Michael Bennett, and I can understand how the loss is still being felt. Have any of the new, up-and-coming talents excited you?
SB: Yeah. I’m still deciding, though. There are a lot of exciting things in the works, and it’s not just about one season or two seasons but the whole body of work, the career. It takes time to see what direction someone is going in. It’s really about the people who ten years from now are still on top of the game.
HS: Would you be interested in taking on Dreamgirls again? I believe that there has been a new production discussed for a couple of years now.
SB: If it were the film version, that would be something different, but I really think that I was fortunate to be the last ‘Effie’ with the original team. The only thing that could top that would be to do the movie. That would be a whole different medium. To do it in theatre is like ...
HS: Where do you go from here?
SB: Right. I mean, where do you go after you’ve already worked with the original team, and they’re no longer there. Unless you’re going to do what Ann Reinking did and preserve everything, which is not being done [with Dreamgirls]. I’m one of the people who believe that Michael Bennett and Michael Peter’s (co-choreographer and Sharon’s godfather) vision should be preserved in its entirety. So, I probably would not be interested. If I were going to do it again, it would have to be a whole new setting, not in theatre.
HS: I know that you’re very familiar with the film industry. Recently, you did HBO’s hit Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and What’s Love Got to Do With It? a few years back. How do you feel working in film versus working in theatre?
SB: I’m fortunate that I have a background in the theatre because when everybody else is out of work, whether the TV shows are on hiatus or whatever, I always feel like I have a way to work. I don’t really have a preference because when I’m making a film, I’m wholeheartedly a film actress and into the role. I don’t really have a preference. I’m fortunate that theatre was my foundation first. There have been just too many seasons where all of my friends on television series’ were out of work, but I could pick up a play. Really, it would be frightening if I only had to depend on the work I’ve done in TV and films and nothing else. It’s great that I can not only do a straight play but a musical, too. I want to do even more films, but I just want to be sure that I’m well-rounded enough that I can always work.
HS: That’s a great way to look at it, so you’ll have a diverse background and experience.
SB: Yup. Gotta pay the bills! (laughing)
Now, let’s talk Jekyll & Hyde. It has become quite the phenomenon since its inception 10 years ago. The following it has gained over the years is amazing.
SB: They really had a following before it ever premiered because of the music and the concept albums.
HS: Not only that, but the show is somewhat renowned for its fans, the infamous ‘Jekkies.’ What do you think of that facet of the show?
SB: Rent prepared me for the Jekkies. Rentheads came first when I did Rent. I just thought, “Oh, I know these fans!” Some of the Rentheads are Jekkies, so I’ve gotten to see them cross over. As a performer, I really don’t have an explanation for it. It just is what it is. A lot of people try to explain it, but I just can’t, as someone who’s onstage eight times a week, explain what makes somebody come to a show 15 or 20 times. I met this person in Boston who’d seen it 114 times. I can only say that it’s great support. I can make my role fresh eight times a week, but sitting down in the audience 114 times ... I don’t know how they do it. But I know Frank Wildhorn is very glad that they do. His music is gorgeous, so it’s a plus for the show.
HS: The show has a treasure trove of pop songs, and you have several of them.
SB: Got most of ‘em, yeah! (laughing)
HS: Do you have any favorites?
SB: Oh, man ... it’s funny because I really enjoy them all. It’s a complete journey for the character. Not only do I like them all, but I happen to like the order they’re in. I know that sounds funny, but they’re in a really great order. One of my favorites now that wasn’t my favorite in the beginning is “Sympathy-Tenderness.” It’s not at all a hit, just a little link song actually to “Someone Like You,” one of the more well know. “Sympathy-Tenderness” isn’t going to be played on the radio or anything, but it’s a perfect song for a music box, you know? I love it. And, my favorites tend to change from month to month.
HS: [Director] David Warren has changed the show considerably since Broadway. How do you like some of the changes?
Frank Wildhorn’s Jekyll & Hyde, starring Chuck Wagner, Andrea Rivette, Sharon Brown, and Brian Noonan plays November 9 – 14 at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. Single tickets are available by calling Ticketmaster at (404) 817-8700. Groups (20+) contact (404) 881-2000. Tickets may also be purchased on the web at www.ticketmaster.com.
Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg
Also see Harper's review of Jekyll & Hyde.