EF - When you first heard the music and read the show, what were your thoughts?
JP - I really didn't hear the music until the first day of rehearsal. My final callback was to sing "Lady's Maid", which I liked very much. I used a very country, folksy song originally for my audition and, not knowing the score at all and what role I was auditioning for, I just picked it because it reflected me. It just so happened that "Lady's Maid" was very similar. I really did like that song and felt that I had something to contribute to it. I wanted to sing it my way, and they would either like it or not. The first day of rehearsal, I remember Maury Yeston sitting down at the piano, and all 45 of us sat around and listened. He played the opening number and did everyone's lines so we could hear what it would sound like. He sang everyone's part. We were all just weeping at the beauty of it. It was amazing. The more I heard, the more I was swept into it. Brian's duet is so beautiful. It gets you emotionally, the way the music is shaped.
EF - When you first heard the music for the show, did you feel it had what it took to be a success?
JP - Yes, but it had a long way to go. There were moments that didn't work but the essence of it, we all really believed in.
EF - What makes a show a success, in your opinion?
JP - Well, good material for one. I think a real team spirit is important. This is a cast - a team - that knows how to play as an ensemble. Everyone knows when to throw focus and when to take focus and how to balance that. I've never worked with such a group that throws you the ball and lets you have it, and then you throw it back and they have it. It is that way in every group scene.
EF - I believe David Garrison said in an interview that the fact that most of the principals are still in the show is a credit to the power of the show and the quality of the ensemble.
JP - Not only are most of the principals still there, but some of the people are big time players and are playing some very small roles. It is because they want to work with this particular director, who is fabulous and visionary (Richard Jones). He is really a unique guy. He has such a wonderful vision that you trust him.
EF - Was the cohesiveness among the cast always that way from the beginning.
JP - Oh yeah! I guess it had to do with the casting. Somehow they picked and continue to pick the right people. Everyone is very embracing and supportive of new cast members.
EF - How does your performance differ with cast changes?
JP - It does change because it has to. It is a different person's energy. It takes about a week to feel the timing and their energy. Anytime an understudy goes on for Clark (Thorell), who plays Jim Farrell, it is completely different. It has to be. You have to be on your toes. It keeps it fresh and exciting.
EF- How has the show affected you - personally, career-wise?
JP - Career- wise, this is my first Broadway show so it is a break for me. It is a principal role in a production contract. I'm now getting things I wouldn't have been seen for prior because I did not have a Broadway credit prior to this. I've been seen for films. I did my first TV in the fall. It was Dellaventura. They had an Irish story line so I played another Irish girl. Doors definitely begin to open. Everyone in the city comes to see the show so you get massive exposure.
In terms of the show itself, it makes you wonder if you were put in a life and death situation like that how you would react. You would hope to be the honorable one, but who knows? It makes me think, if this was the last day would I be have been proud of how I lived until now or would I regret it? You feel a certain responsibility to honor those lives. So many of the third class died in the accident that it was scandalous.
EF - Did you know there was a TV special on which focused on a high school class that was assigned a project of how to save more lives from the Titanic?
JP- Yes. I heard that from Alma (Cuervo), who plays Ida Straus. I hear they came up with great ideas.
EF - Does it ever just get so routine that you forget what the show is really about?
JP - I'd by lying if I didn't say that sometimes I'm very
distracted and don't feel I'm having a great show. But you get paid to do
this job, and you focus. You also know that there are people seeing it
for the first time.
EF - I assume you have seen the movie?
JP - Oh yeah, they invited us to the press release.
EF - What is your opinion on the movie, and how would you compare it to the show?
JP - The movie was great. I really enjoyed it. It is so visual and literal. You see the big boat that we only imagined and have seen pictures of. I appreciate it because those of us that have done a lot of research and looked at all the snapshots realize that he incorporated all those shots into the movie. I think for us it was that much richer. I don't know that the love story was my favorite. I've never really watched our show, but it is my feeling that we give a sense of the mass tragedy because you get to know so many more people on all levels. You feel more for the mass tragedy than the tragedy of these two people in the movie. You see tragedy around them, but I don't think you feel it emotionally like you hopefully feel it across the board in the show.
EF - Do you have a favorite part or verse in the show? Do you know Rosie has a favorite part, and it is one that you sing?
JP - Yeah, I know. Clark told me that the other day. It is "Let all our children's children know that this day long ago, we dreamt of them and came aboard this ship." I think what moves me is that the audience knows it is a horrible tragedy, but we (the cast) don't know it - especially in that opening number where everybody is so hopeful. There is something very moving about that. You see the hope, the glory, and the magnificence of this amazing technology, and we are going to be on it. We are going to make a better life. It is all very moving to me. It is not a particular verse or word but the hopeful spirit in the face of what will be a tragedy.
EF - I've read that there are a lot more kids now coming to the show. How important do you think it is for younger people to be attending theatre?
JP - I think it is amazingly important. For some kids, this is their first live event. You know what is good, too, is that since most kids today have seen Titanic the movie it is beneficial to experience it in another medium. It makes them see how theatre does it opposed to how movies do it. Kids now are studying Titanic as a unit. I've been contacted by a lot of teachers putting together programs and lessons. They are having these big bus trips come up and see it. A lot of choirs come to see it because there is great choral stuff. My own high school has come up twice with another trip planned in the fall.
EF - You have been thrown into the limelight now. You are getting more opportunities. People recognize you and are waiting for your autograph. How does all of it make you feel?
JP - It's magical. It is really amazing. I still feel silly - like it must be a mistake wanting my autograph. It feels funny to me and wonderful, too. It takes a lot for someone to come up to somebody they don't know and say how great the show was and ask for an autograph. Some of my friends from college who came to see the show asked me to sign something, and I'm like, "It's just me!"
EF - Do you think an actor has an obligation to the audience beyond the show?
JP - I don't know if I would call it an obligation. I would call it an honor to be a representative that someone wants to talk to. I go to just about every talkback we have in the theatre. It is fun to hear what people thought and the different questions they have. You learn how and when it touches people.
EF - How would you define success in terms of being an actor?
JP - I would define it as doing work that is challenging. It should feed your soul and make you grow.
EF - How long are you in the show?
JP - Well I just re-signed till next March. When you sign you have outs, so I have an out. For film, TV or if I booked another theatre job they would let me out of my contract. They want the best for you, too, so if it was going to be a career-enhancing opportunity they would let you go.
EF - What's your message to all your fans out there?
JP - Thank you for caring enough to read this interview. I didn't know I had fans really. I get
the sweetest letters sometimes from young girls, and I think back when I
was a teenager and came and saw my first Broadway show and what that did
for me. I think, wow, how honored am I that I might have that spot in
their life to inspire them to go on in this industry because they loved
that first experience. I don't know what to say except thank you.
Thoughts and Reflections:
I know a "people-person" when I see one. There is a sparkle in the eye, a sincere interest in others - in what they are saying and feeling - and a genuine charismatic quality. Jennifer is a "people-person". She brings out the best in people. It is this quality that you notice when you are around Jennifer and sets her apart from some performers. This ability to read other people and bring out the best in them not only makes her a sensational actress but a special individual. It is not something that can be taught but that comes from within. No matter where Jennifer goes or what project she will be involved in, she will give her all and exceed any expectation an audience may have.