Happy holidays, diva lovers! For the next two weeks "Diva Talk" will feature short holiday chats with several of this column's favorite gals. This week I had the pleasure of speaking with [title of show]'s Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff about their favorite holiday memories and songs, their New Year's resolutions, what they were thankful for in the year that is about to come to a close and their work plans for 2009. Read on!
Susan Blackwell, the funny, wry and charming actress who made her Broadway debut earlier this season in the often-hilarious and surprisingly touching [title of show], says she has two favorite memories, one "then" and one "now." "When I was growing up," explains Blackwell, "my mom was an ICU nurse, and she frequently had to work on Christmas. My high school friends and I would go to the hospital and carol my mom, the nursing staff and the patients. [Now], the [title of show] family has a Secret Santy gift exchange every year where we make each other's gifts... everyone secretly hopes that Jeff Bowen will pick their name, because his gifts are fierce!"
This holiday Blackwell — whose favorite seasonal tunes include "quiet/sad/spooky Christmas songs like 'Silent Night,' 'Little Drummer Boy' and 'Do You Hear What I Hear?' . . . [and] any Christmas music associated with Charlie Brown — will be found "someplace quiet with lots of books, food, pillows and blankets."
Blackwell says she is especially thankful this year for her "wonderful husband, friends and family. . . I [also] got to share so many creative adventures with the people I love most in the world. SuperBonus: Those creative adventures brought me closer to my loved ones. SuperSuperBonus: As a result of those adventures, I got to meet so many more interesting, engaging, fascinating people. In summary, 2008 was a creative love-fest that keeps expanding, unfolding and multiplying exponentially! I'm really excited to see what 2009 will bring!"
And, does Blackwell have any New Year's resolutions? "Remain grateful, positive, humble and self-expressed," she says. The New Year will find the gifted performer "rocking some teaching! On Jan. 10, I'll be teaching a 'Die Vampire, Die!' workshop in NYC for performers who want to write, writers who want to perform and all creative challenge-seekers!"
It's been some year for Heidi Blickenstaff, the big-voiced big talent who not only opened on Broadway earlier in the season in [title of show] but also recently made her Carnegie Hall concert debut and will soon step into the role of Ursula in Broadway's The Little Mermaid.
About her favorite holiday memory, Blickenstaff, who begins her Mermaid run Jan. 27, 2009, says, "As a kid, I would always sucker my cousins into putting on plays or concerts with me after we opened all our presents on Christmas Eve. They weren't exactly the performing types, but somehow they always indulged me and played along. (I was very persuasive and bossy.) Megan played the flute while I sang 'Silent Night' and/or 'Tomorrow,' and Allison, Lauren, and Jenny would sing back-up. They were always such good sports."
This holiday will find the singing actress — who says she's a "sucker for the entire Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown Christmas album. I can't wait to start playing it every year and I never get sick of it" — with her boyfriend in Seattle, where he's "doing a show. He's got the 24th and the 25th off, and I think we're going to go get lost somewhere in the Puget Sound."
Blickenstaff, whose Broadway resume also includes The Full Monty, says she is especially thankful this year for "our President-Elect, my healthy family, the best friends in the world, my boyfriend, my Helen Hayes Award, my dog, learning how to scuba dive, The Little Mermaid, and that [title of show] made it all the way to Broadway." As for New Year's resolutions, the upbeat actress simply says, "Enjoyment."
Blickenstaff adds, "I'm thrilled to be playing Ursula in The Little Mermaid on Broadway beginning in late January. We ([title of show]) just played Carnegie Hall as special guests of The Gay Men's Chorus, and I'm still reeling from that. That was, sincerely, one of the biggest thrills of my life to sing a solo on that stage. I'll never forget it. I have a tiny part in a Catherine Zeta-Jones movie coming up called 'The Rebound,' but I'm secretly guessing my part is going to end up on the cutting room floor, so don't hold your breath for that one, but it was super fun to shoot! I've got some other stuff cookin', but it's a little half-baked, so I gotta keep my trap shut. Maybe an album...? Why? What have you heard?!," she laughs.
If I hadn't just spent $400 on my parents for Christmas, I'd totally be going to Susan's workshop. And an album for Heidi? PLEASE let it be true!