An Interview with
In the days following the Atlanta premier of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flahertyís epic musical Ragtime, I had the chance to share a few moments with its star Lovena Fox.
Harper Strom: Are you enjoying Atlanta thus far?
Lovena Fox: I love Atlanta. I lived here a couple of years ago. Itís nice to be back.
HS: How have things been at the Fox?
LF: Well, we opened last night [April 18], and the audience was very receptive. Itís a really nice theatre.
HS: How long have you been involved with Ragtime? (Fox, right, with Lawrence Hamilton in Ragtime)
LF: I did the first workshop in í95 in Toronto when they were developing the show. Then I did another one in í96 ... actually, two in í96, and then I did the show in LA in í97. So Iíve been involved with it since í95, off and on.
HS: Did you ever do the show on Broadway?
LF: I did Broadway for a couple of months understudying Audra McDonald. Her understudy got hurt, so they flew me there for a couple of months to replace her. Then I understudied in Vancouver before taking over the role in Chicago.
HS: I also understand that you have some experience in TV and film. How does that work compare to the whole eight-shows-a-week routine?
LF: Eight shows a week is a lot harder. Itís been awhile since Iíve done any TV or film because of the theatre and travelling, so Iíd like to definitely go back sometime and maybe get settled in one place. But thereís nothing like a live audience. Itís wonderful to get feedback from the audience every night, and theyíve been just wonderful. They really seem to take to the show. Itís also nice to work with such a great cast, so many talented people. And itís a great story, too.
HS: Youíve just released a new album., too.
LF: Yes Ė itís eleven tracks that I co-wrote with my Canadian producer. Itís only available at the Ragtime concession stands right now. Iím really excited about that, and itís been selling very well.
HS: Thatís great! What kind of music is featured?
LF: Itís R&B, dance, and some ballads. Before I got involved in theatre, I was really into the dance thing, and I had a record deal with BMG. I was part of a girl group called Love & Sas. We had four top ten singles in Canada, and we won four Juno Awards, which are like the Canadian Grammys. The group did end up splitting, and thatís when I moved to Atlanta. Iíd heard that for R&B music, Atlanta was the place to be, with LaFace Records and such. It didnít exactly pan out, but thatís when I moved to LA and got involved with Ragtime.
HS: Does the CD feature only original R&B or are there some classics, too?
LF: Nope, all original. But one of the songs was recorded by a French-Canadian singer, and she sold 250,000 copies in Canada and half a million in Europe, so Iím really happy about that!
HS: Now, youíve also performed in Sophisticated Ladies and Ainít Misbehaviní. Where did you perform those shows?
LF: I performed Sophisticated Ladies here in Atlanta at the 14th Street Playhouse, directed by Tom Jones. And I did Ainít Misbehaviní in Vancouver. We ran for two years straight Ė that was my first big theatre job. It was a big hit and kind of got me on the map in Vancouver. We did two tours with it, and I did the show off and on for several years, over 1200 performances. It was such a fun show.
HS: The music in those two pieces is considerably different from Ragtime, which is a very challenging piece, especially since you have a starring role. How do you keep going for eight times a week?
LF: I donít party, donít drink, donít smoke. Try to exercise and eat right. If you choose to do something like this as a career you have to make sacrifices. I feel obligated to give the audience, who pay their hard-earned dollars, a good performance every night. The tour schedule is actually a lot harder than what we did in Chicago. Weíre now doing two shows Saturday and Sunday, and I find that Iíve had to change how I think about certain parts; like Iíve had to change to a mixed tone rather than a high belt for some parts in order to save my voice.
HS: What was your major in college?
LF: Actually, I didnít go to college. This all just kind of fell in my lap, really. If Iíd known that I was going to pursue a career in music I definitely would have gone to college to study. But Iíve been very blessed.
HS: Were you active in the show when the whole Livent debacle went down?
LF: Yeah, I was in the show in Chicago when Garth [Drabinsky] was fired. But I donít know much about it, all the politics of it. A lot of us were nervous about our jobs, but we were just glad that it all worked out.
HS: Did you ever have much contact with Garth? He liked to have his hands in the creative aspects of his shows, as I understand it.
LF: Before there were any problems, heíd have meetings, and the whole cast would come down and heíd tell us what the plans were. I feel that, if it wasnít for him, I wouldnít be a part of Ragtime. Being a Canadian, I happened to be in Toronto recording an album when I got the call to audition for the workshop. Because of his vision Iím where I am today, and Iím very grateful for that.