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- Great Motivations
Racquel on Acting
Racquel on Photography
Racquel on Singing
Interview with Racquel
Interview with Racquel Roberts
conducted by Nadine Paatz
- What do you like about the genre "musical” and what's been the reason for you to choose the job of a musical actor?
I must say that becoming a musical theatre actor has chosen me. I have always loved to sing since my older sister Natalie introduced me to her love of music. I never really believed it could be a profession for me though. Then it happened that I auditioned for the Broadway musical RENT with some friends of mine while I was in college at The University of California at Irvine in 1999. We were all studying to go to New York City with a school program that would introduce us to theatre life in NYC and the audition process. The Musical Theatre program at UCI was outstanding with professors who were active in the same field. I could not have asked for a better education and preparation for working in this business.
- You are from the USA – why did you choose to go to Germany and do a show?
Since I first saw The Lion King in Los Angeles, I have been interested in performing it. So when I landed the job with Der Konig Der Lowen I was thrilled. I auditioned for this show while doing Hairspray on Broadway. Lucky for me the time was right; that job was coming to an end and I was looking for another job. The Lion King in Germany offered me the opportunity to be paid to visit a new country, learn a new language, and to work in a beautiful show.
Also, my fiancé, Gabriel, has studied much in the field of philosophy. Because many great philosophers such as Nietzsche, Hegel, and Kant came from here in DeustchLand, he has had an interest in the culture. I respect his opinion and it peaked my curiosity about Germany… And so here I am.
- Are there big differences regarding musical productions between Germany and the United States?
Aside from the fact that most theatre I would do in the USA would be in English, I would say that the calibre of this musical is of the same high quality that one would expect in any Broadway production.
The pay scale is different – by this I mean that the taxes in the US are far lower and the artist keeps more of his wages. Also, Actors Equity Union in the USA protects the performers and stage management allowing for more tangible benefits and protections for the artist (although the initiation fee is high).
There is much more vacation here for performers. I believe we are highly encouraged to take nearly 30 days a year here in Germany, but only 14 in the US.
- What do you like about "The Lion King” and what would you like to change?
I love the story of The Lion King. I like pieces of art with truth. What can one explain that is more basic that the fact that there is a “Circle of Life”. We live, we experience, we die. The show gives faith and there is drama, which I love. It is the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, with small twists.
What would I change about the show? I would… well, I would… Hmm. The show itself is fine. I am a bit of a Diva and I would love to be able to express that as a lead. Coming directly from being a lead singer with a wicked band in Los Angeles called “Jim’s Fault” (jimsfault.com – No Apostrophes, No Spaces), it is an interesting change and a learning experience for me to be an ensemble singer and dancer. So, what I would like to change about the show is just my role-eventually. And it would be nice if I could fly home every 2 months for some home-cooking and love from Mine Liebling.
- Which part do you play in "The Lion King” and which one, except the current one, would you like to play one day?
I am currently an Ensemble Singer, Cover Nala. I would like to play the role of Nala one day… But if I were a man, I would LOVE to play Scar! Maybe in another lifetime.
- Except the positive aspects about the genre, are there any negative aspects as well, that you don't like that much?
It’s the Business in Show Business that’s difficult. For an artist who most likely won’t be interested in fighting for a decent contract, it is a good idea to have an agent. Let them talk to the Company Manager who is only doing their job by trying to keep more money for the company. Then there is less likely to be personal conflict.
Also, 8 performances a week is not easy on the voice or the body. Some days you just don’t feel like giving that 110% that every audience deserves. Too bad. You have to give it anyway or go home knowing you did not give your best in front of 2000 people. 6 shows per week would be ideal.
- What was your personal premiere at " The Lion King” like?
My Premier was so great. I couldn’t have asked for more support from the cast. My make-up station was covered in gifts, flowers, candy, tea, letters of encouragement… It was a beautiful way to join the cast after 6 long hard weeks of preparation.
- What's your favorite scene and favorite song in " The Lion King”?
I think my favorite scene in the show is “the argument” between the adult Simba and Nala. Nala questions Simba about why he never returned home after surviving the stampede so many years ago. He is hiding the answer from her and she keeps pushing him. It’s fun to do the text, especially in Deustch!
My favorite song in the show is Schattenland (Shadowland). It’s so beautifully written and the lighting is stunning in this number… But my favorite song to perform is Seid Bereit (Be Prepared). Jumping around as a hyena, laughing like a lunatic is very freeing. It’s a hard number physically with the heavy costume and extra legs, but it’s a lot of fun when I have energy.
- Which part would you absolutely like to play one day?
I wish I knew. I don't think the role has been written yet! I have played most of the roles I think I have wanted to so far – in Musical Theatre. Mimi and Joanne from RENT, the three Divas in Hairspray, soon Nala here in Lion King, and Hellen Keller in a straight play. I would love a role in a new musical, or playing Aida might be nice, but next I would love to simply play myself, Racquel Roberts, as a singing performer, solo recording artist.
Being myself would be a new challenge, and challenge is exactly what I like in a role. Challenge forces me to think, work hard, and create.
- What was your very first audition for a musical like?
RENT was my first musical audition. The Creative Team on that show were looking for raw talent. People who had not done shows before. The auditions were being held in a club in Los Angeles. I went with about 6 of my friends from college. We arrived around 9 in the morning, and weren’t seen until about 2 in the afternoon due to the long line of 600 people before us. There were all kinds of people in that line. People dressed like the characters, people who were very, very shy, people who were too old… but the auditions were open so anybody could attend.
When it was finally my turn to audition, I was invited into a small two-stall men’s bathroom with a tiny desk and two women behind it. They said, “Anytime you’re ready.” I took a deep breath, opened my mouth and sang one of my favorite jazz songs acapella. The acoustics were awesome in that bathroom!! I had 5 callbacks and then I had a job doing the International Tour of RENT as a swing.
- How do you prepare for a new part in a musical play?
That’s a really hard question for me. For every character I would ever play in a musical theatre piece, a movie, a song, the answer is different. Some of the guidelines I use are to:
- Get the text out of the way. Know Your Lines and Your Cue Lines. Period.
- Look for clues in the text from what the writers of the piece say as Narrator or any given Character Notes. Also I look at what the other characters in the story say about my character. Decide if it’s true or false.
- Create a character. Look at everything that my character says, decide whether each phrase is true or false…
- I decide the history of my character to give the character “flesh”. Strange word to describe it but I hope you know what I mean. Make them move well, with more dimensions to their persona.
- Decide my motives and goals per action.
- Eventually, after walking in that skin for a while, I try to halfway-forget it, and then listen to the other actors/characters and then just say the lines (which of course were deeply memorized in whatever way worked that time. :)
- Listen. Say the lines.
- And try to enjoy myself like Dad always told me to.
- How important are fans to you?
Very! I love to perform. And so what would I do without fans? Sing at home to myself and record it and then listen to it alone?… Well, I’ve done that too. Just did it tonight. But I hope to soon get this new recording of a recent gig I just had with Sinclair Mitchell at the Eisenberg across the street from the Music Hall and The School for the Arts.
Hahahah! Yes, that was a plug for you. Download these fabulous new recordings at www.racquelroberts.com/mp3s.html.
Stephan Sieveking on Piano, and Piotr Steinhagen on Percussion.
But back to answering your question: I love fans!!! The are an audience that makes the show worth the work. Hopefully they have a good time and I’m able to give them something to positive to think about when they go home. A tune in their ear, a thought about real life….
- What has been your most embarrassing moment on stage?
The most Embarrassing… Ahh, yes, I was at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. I was performing the Star Spangled Banner before the Chicago Cubs baseball game. But first, let me explain something. I was in Chicago in 1999 doing The Musical RENT and I was supposed to sing the song with a good friend of mine, Matt Caplan. He was also a swing at the time. We would be late to work that day because the baseball game would begin only 30 minutes before showtime. It was a promotion for the Rent, the Broadway Musical being in town, and it was also being broadcast to baseball fans across the nation.
Originally, Matt and his perfect pitch were going to start us off on the right note for our National Anthem. It sounded beautiful in the theatre bathroom! As swings, we were not scheduled to be on stage that night but last minute, Matt had to go on as Mark. And so I had to go and sing it alone.
Sammy Sosa gives me a smile as I take the stage on the grass with a huge television screen of my own face behind me. I’m nervous. I start maybe three notes (which is a lot) too high. Geez. The National Anthem ranges so many notes that one must start it low but I didn’t like that part of my voice and so I started it higher. Bad idea. I can laugh now but when 2000 people “booed” me I did not see anything funny about it. Geez. Somewhere out there is a tape of my huge crack on “And the rocket’s red glare!!”… I wanted to kill that little patch of people in the stadium stands. But instead, I took a cleansing breath and finished the song before taking “the walk of shame” back through the audience to go to work and swing the rest of the show for RENT that night. Humility Learned.
- Do you have any idols?
Beethoven,Bach,Eminem,George Michael,Wes Montgomery,Gabriel Richards,Sting,Whitney Houston, Alicia Keyes, Aaliyah, Teddy Pendegras, Georgia,Judy Garland, Matt Caplan, Joshua Kobak, Haven Burton, Horace Rogers, Res, Sandra DeNise, Simon & Garfunkel, Taylor Eigsti, Natalie Roberts, Danny Sanchez, Tye Gaddis, Jim Meeker, Francisco Crow, Jacqueline Arnold, Scott Hunt, Maia Wilson, Matt Beck, Christina Fadale, Danielle Greaves, india arie, Aretha Franklin, Jaguar Wright, Sade, Jodeci, Boyz II Men, The Mamas & The Papas, Barbara Streisand, The Bee Gees, Peter Mathhew Smith, Earth, Wind, & Fire, Dixie Chicks, Karen Carpenter, Boko Suzuki, Tori Amos, Scott Totten, Neil Diamond, Taylor Dane, Justin Timberlake, Seal, And So Many More.
- What do you do in your (spare) free time?
I play a bit of guitar for fun. I chat online with my man at home, I listen to music and dance around. I learn new music, I write some songs, I check the news, get my email, and prepare any material for tomorrow’s rehearsal. I hang with friends on Mondays for dinner or movies sometimes… or we find some other extra-curricular activities to do. I read books, sleep, cook and eat. I plan for next week, next year, the next minute… and I breathe. Funny, it’s quite simple and normal. And of course sometimes I really feel like I have no free time. Usually on weekends: four shows.
- What kind of music do you listen to?
I like to listen to GOOD music. It doesn’t matter the genre, be it Classical, Jazz, Pop, Rock, Musical Theatre, or something else. I’m not very big on deep country music although much of country music can tell great stories. Also, I don’t often choose to listen to Heavy Metal or very hard Rock. I think some of the only “angry music” I like is by Alanis Morsette.
- Do you usually have stage fright?
Yes, but I think it’s good to be at least a little nervous. The extra adrenaline helps sharpen the senses. I like that. From my most embarrassing moment, you can see when too much nervousness can ruin a performance.
- What would you like to tell your fans and the fans of "The Lion King”?
To my all time fans: Hey Guys!!! What’s going on in your part of town?! I thank you guys for hanging around and always giving me such great encouragement the whole time. There’s still more coming your way.
To my new fans from “Der König Der Löwen“, Come to the stagedoor!! Sein nicht schustern! I am used to fans being less afraid to “break the fourth wall“ we say in US theatre. I love signing books and taking photos! Thanks for having me in your country and for inviting me into your hearts.