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Alice Ripley


Alice Ripley played Genevieve in the spring 2005 production of The Baker's Wife at Paper Mill Playhouse (page with photos).

Recordings - Ripley CDs

Interviews - including our exclusive Alice Ripley: A Songbird Speaks about "Meadowlark" and More from March 2005


Duets cover - Ripley and SkinnerDuets - (Varese Sarabande, 1998) Duets - [Amazon.com]
Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner sing Stephen Schwartz's "Two's Company" (From The Magic Show) and "If We Never Meet Again" - a song cut form Rags

imageAlice Ripley: Everything's Fine

Stephen Schwartz Album cover Alice Ripley sings "West End Avenue" Stephen Schwartz Album

album cover - Ripley and Skinner for more see: Alice Ripley CDs at Amazon.com - new and used - including Unsuspecting Hearts

Interview with Alice Ripley

Alice Ripley: A Songbird Speaks About "Meadowlark" and More

Published for an issue of The Schwartz Scene

By Morgan LaVere, March, 2005 - Copyright by MusicalSchwartz.com

I recently had a chance to chat with the lovely and talented Alice Ripley, shortly before she began rehearsals for the upcoming Paper Mill Playhouse production of The Baker's Wife - Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Morgan LaVere: When I heard that Paper Mill was doing The Baker's Wife, and they cast you, I thought that is the perfect actress matched with the perfect role. I can't wait to see it.

Alice Ripley: I am thrilled that I get to participate in this show, because I have loved the score since the first time I heard it, which was really a long time ago. And I think it's really special. I think the show is like a little jewelry box. You know, with the little dancer, you open it up and there's a little ballerina twirling? That's how I've always thought of this show. I always thought the show was the most beautiful piece. When I heard the score for the first time and I realized what the show was, I decided that Stephen Schwartz was a god.

ML: Do you remember the first time you heard the score?

AR: Oh my gosh. It was a long time ago. I was in college. I can't tell you too much, because I have to leave some imagination to people. If they want to find out how old I am, they can do it easily. But suffice it to say that the score has been inside me for a long time. And I was a fan of Pippin and Godspell.

ML: Have you done a Schwartz show before? I know you've sung his songs on a lot of CDs.

AR: I did Godspell when I was in high school. And when I heard The Baker's Wife, by the time I got to college, I just decided that he was an amazingly gifted composer, and that I had to sing the song "Meadowlark" whenever I possibly could, for any reason, because it's just so beautiful. The reason why it's become a classic is because it is musical theatre. The song is a perfect example of when musical theatre works well. And I feel that way about the whole score. I'm very picky about shows that get underneath my skin. Scores don't do that unless they're really, really professional. And this score is definitely in a class by itself, I think.

ML: Absolutely.

AR: It's so beautiful.

ML: A million people have sung "Meadowlark," and like you said, you've sung it before too. What's the difference of actually playing Genevieve, and getting into her skin? Is it changing the way you think about that song, and the way you're interpreting it?

AR: Well, yes, and I'm resisting it somewhat. We resist change. So there's part of me that's resisting the knowledge that my relationship to this song, and this score, is going to change. But I think it's going to change for the better. And it needs to. Because Genevieve is a complicated woman.

ML: Yes, she is.

AR: And the way that I've always sung that song has been from my perspective, and the way that I did it was just to tell my personal story. But when I play Genevieve, it's going to be different, because I'm telling her story. And she's different from me, in many ways. But the times I've been most successful with my acting is when I'm really just being myself. So there are parts of Genevieve that are me, and I just have to find what they are and connect with that. But I'm preparing myself for the fact that my relationship with the show is going to change by playing the role. And I'm really so excited about doing this show! I just feel like it's destiny for me, in a way.

ML: How did it come about? Have you worked with Gordon Greenberg [the director] before?

AR: No, I haven't. It seems like every few years there's an engine that gets behind this show. It's obvious that Stephen is in love with it. A few years ago, he conducted a few workshops in town, and I participated in them. In one version Joe Mantello was the director, and Matt Bogart was Dominic, and Cass Morgan was the cafe singer, and Hal Linden was the Baker. And just that little production in a room, I think we were at 890 Broadway, just that little workshop that we did was so magical. I remember the first moment when Stephen came in and sat down at the piano and said, "So, do you want to do 'Meadowlark'?" and I just looked at him like, uh, I think I'm going to pass out. And so I sang "Meadowlark" with him, and I thought I was going to faint. I knew that it was a significant moment for me, to be standing there singing "Meadowlark" with Stephen Schwartz playing the piano. Those moments? Those are few and far between. That was a remarkable moment, and I'll never forget it. And I think that might have made an impact on him as well. Maybe I've popped up in his head as Genevieve. That might be how I'm associated with it now. Because to tell you the truth, I don't think my audition was that great. I was so nervous!

ML: Really?

AR: I was so nervous, because I just wanted to play the role so badly. It's hard when you go into an audition for something that you really, really want. You have to approach it with a certain looseness in order for them to see that it's right, but at the same time, when you really want it, you just want to hang onto it so tightly. So I was pretty nervous, and I don't know how good my audition was. But I'm so glad they cast me anyway.

ML: Me too! So, what's your regimen when you're doing a role as difficult as Genevieve? Does your life change completely? How do you take care of your voice in that kind of situation, when you know you have to sing "Meadowlark" eight times a week?

AR: Usually I'll start preparing for that experience way ahead of time, so that my body has time to adjust to what's going to be demanded of it. I've been disciplining myself somewhat (for me, anyway) recently, just kind of getting into training, which is what you do when a show is coming up. Especially with the schedule that they do over at Paper Mill. It's intense. So that involves a certain discipline, a commitment to being relaxed, basically. Because if you're relaxed, and you're courageous, you can pull off an acting job and people go "that was kind of good." But if you're not relaxed, you don't really have a chance. So I practice yoga, and I've been doing some cleansing lately with my eating routine. I went on a ten day cleanse recently. And I'm really glad that I did, because it definitely focuses the mind/body connection. And if you don't have that, you can't really do your job. So I've been doing that. And watching movies with characters that are similar to Genevieve. Or actors that move like I think she might move. Doing a little bit of homework. But as far as the music goes, I'm just waiting for the moment when I can jump in. I haven't done any of that on my own, I'm waiting for everyone else to arrive.

ML: Have you worked with Max [von Essen, playing Dominic] or Lenny [Wolpe, playing the Baker] before?

AR: I recently sang at a concert with Max. He made such an impression on me, I thought "Wow, so here's the new school. Here's the new, cute hottie in town."

ML: He's making an impression on a lot of people, yes!

AR: Yeah! So I did that briefly with him, but I don't think I've worked with anybody else in the cast. So I'm excited. And I hope that people like me. That's what you always hope. I'll be on my best behavior. I've never worked out there, but I know actors who have. And when they talk about Paper Mill, there's a certain fondness that creeps into their voice when they talk about the community that's created out there for actors. From what I've heard, it's a very safe, friendly place to go create. And it's not too far away from New York City. I think it's going to be more fun than your average commercial venture in New York City as an actor. When you're dealing with a theatre that has a large subscriber base, I've found that it's more fun working at these theatres. There's less on your shoulders. There's less at stake as far as selling tickets, or getting a good review, or any of that stuff. It doesn't really matter quite as much as it might in a more commercial venue. It's a short run, and they have a subscriber audience. And that's one of my favorite environments to work in, because the people that come to Paper Mill probably see all of their shows; it's a community. And that's the reason I wanted to be an actor in the first place--because the community that I've found through the people that I worked with, it is a family. And I'm not alone. Every one of my colleagues, I'm sure, all got into acting for the same reason. Because when you become a stage actor, you do it because you love it. Not because you think you're going to be rich (unless you decide to go to L.A., and then you can make money out there). You do it for the love of it. That must be the reason, because we keep coming back for more abuse. (laughs) Being an actor is crazy!

ML: You're a dramatic actress, a musical actress, a musician, a songwriter. Which do you like to the best?

AR: Well, there's something really wonderful about creating a song, about writing, because you get to make up your own rules, and not follow anybody else's rules. And that's a really great place to start creating something. I love to write, it makes me really happy. So that might be my favorite. It's hard to choose one.

ML: Well, fortunately, you don't have to. You can do everything.

AR: Yeah, if you have enough time in the day!

ML: What's it like going back and forth between the music business and the theatre business? They're such different worlds.

AR: It's tricky. That's a good question. They are different worlds. There's a certain role that I fill as an actor in the business. People expect certain things from me, and they know certain things about me. My writing allows me to kind of shatter those guidelines and make up whatever new ideas that I might want to represent about myself to the listener. And I think that's good. But it's kind of difficult sometimes, because when I want to be rebellious, I have to remember that I need to go into band writing mode, and when I want to be a good girl . . . well, it helps when I follow the rules a little more closely when I'm acting.

ML: You started out in the music industry in Nashville, songwriting.

AR: Well, when I graduated from college, I lived in San Diego for a few years, and that's where I got my Equity card. I was working constantly. And I ended up going to Nashville. But I was writing before I came to New York City. Somebody told me that I was a songwriter. She said, "You've got to be a songwriter," and I thought that's insane. But now I'm so glad that she told me that I could do it, because it makes me so happy. It feels very liberating because I don't have to sit around for somebody else to hire me as a writer. I can just kind of do it.

ML: You're a terrific songwriter. I listen to "Everything's Fine" [Alice's first solo album] all the time.

imageAlice Ripley: Everything's Fine

AR: That's so nice. My band and I are in the midst of making a new record, so when it's done, I'll send one to you.

ML: Back to acting, do you like performing in long runs, or do you like short runs? You did Sunset Boulevard for a long time.

AR: Yes, I did the whole run. And that's not even very long compared to some of my friends who have done runs way longer than that! But to get that consecutive paycheck, it's a really nice experience. To work for two and a half years as an actor and get a paycheck every week. That's the only way that you can end up buying a house or buying a car, or those kinds of things that actors often can't do. It's a pretty rare experience, I think, to get into that position. But that was a significant part of Sunset Boulevard for me, the fact that it was a steady job, and that was really nice to have for awhile.

ML: It seems like Sunset Boulevard was a really good break for you. You did it for so long, and so many people got to see you, and your career really took off after that.

AR: Yeah, you're right. I think that I really became one of the players in town. I really became embedded in the community in that show, and I'm so grateful for the experience. And the experience of auditioning for Sunset, and getting it, was all great. The way that it happened was the way you would want it to happen. I was flown out to L.A. to see Andrew Lloyd Webber, and ten minutes after I left the room, they called my agent and hired me. Everything happened the way it would in a movie. And I loved my colleagues.

ML: And that must have been hard for you, because Judy Kuhn left [Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles] because she was pregnant, and you were the new girl in town for that show.

AR: Yeah, I was. When Judy had her baby, I sent a card saying "Thanks for being born, because you allowed my career to blossom!" She had done it in Los Angeles, and they recorded the cast album out there, which is why I'm not on the cast album. It's odd that I originated the show in New York, and I'm not on the cast album.

ML: That happens to a lot of people in Lloyd Webber musicals in New York.

AR: But in a way, it's perfect that they made the Sunset Boulevard cast album in L.A. Because that's what the show is all about. Los Angeles. The experience of being there. And I loved my colleagues. And I got to work with George Hearn, who has ended up to be one of my absolute heroes. And with all of the Normas. And Alan Campbell was incredible. And Andrew Lloyd Webber has a very strong legion of fans, and it was kind of nice to get to know that legion. And it's funny, because all of the things I've done since Sunset, I still will meet people who say "That's my favorite thing I've ever seen you do!" and "I loved you in that show!" and I think, wow, I only had like five minutes in that show. I didn't really have a huge part. But the role of Betty is instrumental. It's a device, almost. So it was a good place for me to sit and perfect that little small list of things that I was asked to do in that show. Do it every day, and try to expand, and try to do it differently every day. It's definitely a challenge trying to do a long run. But I love long runs. Because you get to really know the character that way. And no matter how long it is, it always seems like you "get" the character on the last performance. You finally figure it out on the last day, no matter how long the run. But I'm going to try and figure out Genevieve before the last day! I'll try to accelerate that process, if possible.

ML: Well, I'm certainly looking forward to seeing it!

Morgan LaVere is a frequent contributor to MusicalSchwartz.com. In New York City, he was an actor (Grandma Sylvia's Funeral), a composer (Amy Fisher: The Musical) and a director/choreographer. He is currently a theatre critic in Seattle, and is writing a new book about contemporary musical theatre.

Alice Ripley played Genevieve in the spring 2005 Paper Mill production of The Baker's Wife