Asolo Rep's latest delivers a timeless, empowering message — and plenty of laughs.
| 6:00 a.m. February 15, 2017
Arts + Culture
Christina DeCicco never considered herself a precocious kid — but she was inquisitive. She remembers asking her mother an endless string of “Why?”
It was this trait more than anything, she says, that found her a successful career onstage. Perhaps best known for doing musicals — she played opposite Ricky Martin as the titular character in the Broadway production of “Evita” and did the national tour of “Wicked” as Glinda, but she feels equally at home in straight roles.
“I was a shy kid,” she says. “But if you put me onstage, there was something about telling somebody’s story that was really interesting to me. I fell in love with it. I think it was that curious imagination; I liked asking questions about a character and getting lost in a story.”
Now, Sarasota audiences can catch her in Asolo Repertory Theater’s production of Garson Kanin’s 1946 laugh-out-loud play, “Born Yesterday,” running through April 15.
She plays the lead, Billie Dawn, a former showgirl who has now been all but reduced to an accessory for her boyfriend Harry Brock, a junkyard magnate. He drags Billie along on a move to D.C., where he has less-than-ethical business plans in store. Along the way, she regains her confidence and proves she’s not to be underestimated.
We sat down with DeCicco to talk about the differences between musical and straight theater, teaching important lessons through humor and why she relates to her character.
“I’VE ALWAYS asked a lot of questions. I want to figure out a character — Why are they the way they are? Why do they feel that way? That’s why I enjoy playing Billie so much. She’s naturally inquisitive. Even at the beginning of the show, when people think she’s this vapid blonde who’s just along for the ride, she’s absorbing every bit of information. That’s my hook — I feel like I know this girl.
"BILLIE WAS a chorus girl in the original Broadway production of ‘Anything Goes.’ So she’s had that experience of feeling like she’s a part of something, and now she’s just a satellite orbiting around everybody else — it does something to your confidence. It makes her a real person to me.
"THE FIRST COUPLE DAYS of a musical, you sit with your music director and learn the songs. For the first few days of a play, you sit with your cast and your director, and you get to really pick apart the themes of what is happening and dive into the ‘why’ of what you’re doing. By nature, you don’t have time to do that with musicals. I love to be in a room of artists and really collaborate on something.
"GARSON KANIN WROTE a brilliant comedy. The way it’s set up; the timing of the jokes; it’s kind of a master class on how comedy should be written. And our director Peter Amster has shaped the evening exactly that way. He knows people want to come see a comedy.
"IT'S SET IN 1946, and it’s so on the nose about what’s going on then, but also now, and I think at any time. That’s why it’s held up. It’s a message of being open-minded, inclusive and having empathy. The message is serious, but this is a really funny show. It’s not forced on you. When you get home, whatever message you get out of it is icing on the cake.”