Spotlight On Christiane Noll

EF - Now, you have been in many roles. You have been in Grease, Miss Saigon, City of Angels. Do you have a favorite?

CN - All for different reasons. City of Angels... I enjoyed the show. I adored the show. I'm sorry the show is not commercially more successful. It is witty, funny, sharp. The music is just hysterical. That was my first production contract and it was great.

Saigon touched a lot of people. It is a memory that is still close. I marinated on that tour for almost two years. I knew if I came back I wouldn't necessarily get something better. I wasn't going to go back to the chorus. I didn't want to. I was marinating. I was living. I was aging. I was experiencing. Those are the kind of things people want to see when you come in for an audition. You feel like you have some life experiences.

Grease was hysterically wonderful, and fun and silly and crazy. I did it between two different versions of Jekyll and Hyde. I adored it. You get to wail your guts out. It was gloriously fun, silly, and light. I know a lot of people think its awful. It is not brain surgery. It is fun. You don't leave thinking you have been cheated. You leave feeling you had a good time. I liked being a part of that. Jekyll has brought me to Broadway in a vehicle written by Frank (Wildhorn). I've always enjoyed his music. To actually work with him and have him be a part of my life is very important. It is a real blessing.

EF - Did you ever have a part that was really demanding, really stretched your ability?

CN - I did South Pacific. I was Nellie Forbush. I did it with Christopher Renshaw and Brian Thompson, the same producers for The King and I. It was an Australian production. The range of emotions she goes through is extraordinary. She used to be manic at one point and at by the end of it is a sniveling shell of a human being. Because of her selfishness, she had destroyed another person's life. It is a very demanding part. That was great. We are doing a concert version of Chess in December. I always wanted to do Florence. That is going to be a hoot. I get to scream my guts out. That is what so funny about this Jekyll and Hyde. People think of me as a soprano and how I sing like a bird. I thank them but anyone that has known me before this show says it is great you are singing all this high stuff but you are a middle, meaty thing. I've never been thought of as a soprano, ever.

EF - How did the opportunity for Jekyll and Hyde come up?

CN - Through an agent. I went in for some auditions and I didn't hear anything. I went and did a little show in Alabama. While in rehearsal, I learned they wanted to see me. I said I couldn't at the time. After this show in Alabama opened, I got another call. I had to fly to Atlanta at 7:00 am for an 11:00 am audition and then get to the airport at 1:30 PM to return to Alabama. They faxed me "Once upon a Dream" the night before and I'm learning it and trying to memorize it on the plane. When I get there, I took a peek at the list and knew every name that was auditioning for this part. Not personally, but knew them by name and I'm thinking who is this little person (me) at the bottom of the list? I went in and sang it in a couple of different keys. They more or less just said thank you. I'm thinking, look what I went through to get here. I even waited outside to see if I would get called back - nothing!

I called my agent when I got to the airport and said why did you make me do this, this was a waste of my time. She responded with they want to see you this afternoon. Finally, in September, I got another call for Jekyll and Hyde. I'm like, fine, now what? They want to fly me to LA because they are finishing up the album. Jason Howland, our musical director and conductor, took me out to Frank Wildhorn and Linda Eder's house in the hills. I was taught the entire show. I went into the studio and met the entire music team, Frank's little family. Linda came in and I met her. I sang with Jeremy Roberts at the piano and Frank pacing back and forth with his baseball cap on, his dark glasses sort of doing his intimidating thing and asking me to do various things. I'm trying to be very earnest and still having no idea of what is going on.

I flew back home the next day, on my birthday. My agent had called and said there was an offer. Frank called my house later and just said Happy Birthday, welcome to the family. I was in my parent's living room talking to Frank all the time jumping out of my skin pointing to the phone, whispering to my parents that it's Frank Wildhorn and that I got the part. Of course, all the time trying to be professional on the phone. That was in the fall of 1994. I've been doing it ever since. We went into regional production which was in Houston and Seattle. I took a few months off and did South Pacific. We then started a 9 month tour. I went to China for fun and did Grease and then we started again this past January.

EF - How has the show changed over the years?

CN - This version versus the other two I was involved in was done by a different director. It was a different concept, a different focus.

EF - Do you think this version is better than the others, or just different?

CN - Different. There are things people do like more and there are things people miss. Change is hard especially with such a big fan base who felt they were part of the process, part of the birthing of the work. They have their favorites. It becomes difficult from their perspective to embrace something else. People have very strong opinions. Look at the whole Norma Desmond thing in Sunset Boulevard. You look at the wonderful women who got to play that part. Everyone is going to have their favorite for whatever reason.

EF - Some say Jekyll and Hyde is a non traditional musical in that the songs are very concert like and contemporary. What is your view on that?

CN -I think this director (for the critics benefit) tried to make it more of a story. If you go back and read the novella, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" there is not a lot there. It's 79 pages. It's not a 1,000 page Les Mis. It is a journal and there is not a lot going on in the first place. Frank's music is the unifying force in this piece. That is the reason people became passionate about it in the first place and the reason people continue to come back. It's that passion that Frank would call "blood on the microphone". Those people that don't have any preconceived feelings of the show are the people that have been enjoying it and come back over and over again.

EF - Who is Emma Carew?

CN - She is Jekyll's (depending on the mood Christiane Noll is in) sassy, beautiful, patient, understanding fiancee, impetuous at times. When they were writing Lucy and the Emma characters they tried to fuzz the line between them. Emma wasn't all sweet, pure, pristine good girl and Lucy wasn't just the hooker with the heart of gold. She had some elegance about her. Emma had more hutspah than the average Victorian girl. She tells people off and yells at Hyde.

EF - How would you compare and contrast yourself to her?

CN - There is certainly a lot of me in her. I try to draw from myself. I haven't gotten to the point and am not the kind of person who leaves myself in the wings and just becomes this person. I'm drawing from my own experience. That makes it more real for me. Emma is very much like me. I don't think I would have been as forgiving as she. I'm not nearly as patient as she is.

EF - In all aspects, even in rehearsals?

CN - Yes, I'm very quick . I have a brain like a steel trap. If you tell me something I will remember it. I will be very sensitive to do whatever it is you want me to do. I've gotten so much better. When I was younger, I got in so much trouble because I expected everyone else to have the same work ethic as I do. I could be a nuisance. When you come into this business you can be naive. For whatever reason, people don't work the same way. It may take some people longer to catch on. I didn't get popular. I'm very demanding of myself. I have gotten a lot more forgiving about those around me. I realize that it is their job too and everyone has a different process. What I have learned is that if it is not directly involving me then it is none of my business and I'm not going to worry about it.

EF - Do you feel your performance has been eclipsed by Linda Eder and Robert Cuccioli?

CN - I won't say eclipsed, not my performance. I will honestly say the notice of my performance has been overshadowed. I can't say eclipsed because people come to see the show and see what I do. Very few people have wanted to write about how Christiane Noll is not getting what she deserves or how she is a real find and can't wait to see the next thing she does. I'm being honest. That has been a difficult part of the journey. The piece has not been conceived, focused or mounted about me. That is okay. I still have been given a job and a wonderful part that I have to do every night. Sure, I wish everyone would come and say wow at me. It is perception. Sometimes I do feel like I'm lost. I appreciate people support though and enjoy talking with fans.

EF - What is the relationship like between you, Linda, and Bob?

CN - We are close, we laugh around. The three of us have shared a lot. We have seen each other at our best and worst. You definitely bond as a result of that. There is definitely support for each other and with Rob Evan too. The average age of the performer in this company is older. It's more about coming to do a job, saying hi how are you. We do get along very well. We may go bowling for the bowling league, then we go home. As opposed to being on the road where you live , breath, eat, sleep, work with the same people. It is more intimate. You are with them all the time.

EF - Does a good show depend on unity among the cast?

CN - Hmmm... Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. You don't have to be in love with your leading man. You can find an element about him that you love. If you are dealing with professionals then you are dealing with people who are committed to what they do and try not to make it personal. If someone delivers a line that is personally attacking me, that is OK if it causes an appropriate response. As long as I don't leave the stage and go back to his dressing room and yell. You have to have a balance. It is like a marriage. Some days it is wonderful and somedays it is not, for whatever reason.

EF - You mentioned before that you have the Jekkies - What do you think it is about this show that attracts this core group of people?

CN - What is really interesting is that there is a core group. The repeater fans who have joined since opening on Broadway, who are waiting by the stage door, are not necessarily those familiar faces that we have known since 1990. It has grown. This show has fans. If they get fanatical in that they see it 20, 50 times, Lord love them. I think we have wonderful people who are involved that take time to talk to them. Passion drove this piece from its creation to putting it into production. When you encounter audience members who are as passionate about the piece as you are, we take the time to talk to them. They feel like they are part of the process. We know people by name. This woman, Linda, has seen every show that Rob Evan has done. There is a new young girl who came to the flea market and spent everything she had on Jekyll and Hyde stuff. She has seen the show 10-12 times which is nothing compared to some of the regulars. She comes every week now.

EF - We talked a bit before about people who support the show and wait outside. Let me read something that I found interesting. Someone said "actors strive to become good in their art and become famous at the same time - with fame comes a price." Obviously, you get recognized. People want autographs, want to talk with you. Do you mind that?

CN - Most of the time, no. If someone wants to talk with me, I'll talk with them. If I am having a bad day sometimes it is harder to do that and be open and friendly. I'm a real person. It is part of the show as well. It is their opportunity, in addition to their applause, to show their appreciation. They want to be acknowledged like I want to be acknowledged for what I do. I think I owe it to people who want to talk to me to respond.

EF - That brings up this question, Is there any obligation an actor has beyond the show to fans?

CN - No. As long as you come to talk to me at the stage door, as far as I'm concerned, still falls within the realm of the show. They have paid for the tickets, seen the show, waited outside to say hello, beyond that, no. If you come up to me on the street and compliment me on the show, I will certainly respond and say thank you. As far as obligation, no. It has to do because I want to. If a fan thinks they deserve something from someone they admire, he/she needs to reassess why it is that they appreciate the performance.

EF - How long will you be in Jekyll and Hyde?

CN - Right now I have a contract until the end of April. I believe Bob, Linda, and I all signed up for the same time period.

EF - Have you thought about after that?

CN - If I do this album, I will probably stay a little bit if they will have me. I certainly am wanting to do something else.

EF - Jekyll and Hyde is supposed to go on tour, right?

CN - Yes. I'm not doing that though.

EF - What do you like to do in your spare time?

CN - I have my acting class. I try to go wall climbing once a week. I do the bowling league. I'm very busy. I get a massage every week. I also go to the chiropractor three times a week. Of course, I do demo sessions. I will be going in next week to finish The King and I which was wonderful.

EF - When I told people I was going to interview you, there was much positive response in how well you act, how beautiful your voice is and how you are wonderful in your role... This is your opportunity to relay any messages you have to your fans.

CN - Oh, wow. Thank you so much for your kind words and support. To know that I am able to share something that I am passionate about with people and know they are touched by it means I have done my job and more. It means a lot when someone comes up to me and says they know it is about Bob and Linda but I really like what you did . That means a lot. People are starting to notice. Not everybody does. That is exciting.

EF - It is exciting about the album because people were asking about that.

CN - I will be recording again in January or try to. It should be out by April or May, ideally. It will be some time this year.

EF - One last question, any advice to people who want to go into acting?

CN - Do it because you have to. You should love and be passionate about it. Don't do it just because you can. Do it because it is who you are. You will be committed and you will have an inner confidence necessary. Worry about what you do and not about what everyone else is doing. That is also true for people who are already acting. It is a hard lesson to learn. Do it because it is fun and it gives you joy.

Thoughts and Reflections...

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