Stephanie J Block
Yeah, I got a bit excited. No one else did. Not even when I told my editor that I was putting an interview with a Broadway leading lady into his paper. British people suck. So I'm hoping you darling readers of my blog (all 7 or so of you) will be more appreciative and will also appreciate the pictures that were intended to go with the article.
Most of you will never have heard of Stephanie J. Block, but to those of you who have, the news of her first solo outing in London is a big deal. On Broadway she is a leading lady with an amazing voice, having appeared alongside Hugh Jackman in The Boy From Oz, held her own as Judy Bernly in 9 to 5 The Musical and originating the role of Elphaba in the workshop productions of Wicked.
Following a successful appearance in Scott Alan's Just Me...And Them SimG productions have brought her back for her very own concert at the New Players Theatre which looks set to be an awesome event. I got to speak to Stephanie in preparation for this concert and I must say I was bloody excited to be speaking to someone of such high calibre on the Broadway Scene.
Stephanie as Liza Minnelli with Hugh Jackman
How did your concert at the New Player’s Theatre come about? How do you find the intimate concert atmosphere in comparison to being on a huge stage?
I performed in London late last year with Scott Alan. Simon Greiff produced Scott's concert(s) and it was beautifully presented, with a lot of care and class. Simon asked if I would be interested in bringing my solo concert to the West End and I was thrilled! There is something really special about performing in an intimate setting as one's self. I began performing in jazz clubs here in NYC in 2004 and found that I absolutely loved it. It's a vulnerable position to be in... standing alone on stage sharing your personal stories and favorite music. But it is highly gratifying.
What do you have planned for the concert? Any special surprises? And please say you’ll sing Get Out and Stay Out as I love that song!
I am not going to tell you my set list... You must attend the concert to know the music. :) But, yes, there will be some surprises and I will be singing GET OUT AND STAY OUT!
I saw you in Scott Alan’s “Just Me… and Them” concert last year, how did it feel to be making your London debut? And how do you feel London audiences compare to Broadway audiences?I was extremely nervous coming to perform in London, but I had the buffer of Scott Alan. I know how much he is loved over there. And that helped to settle my nerves. I found a VERY warm welcome when I stepped onstage and I can only hope that happens this time around. I never expect any particular response from any audience whether it be a regional, Broadway or a London crowd. You have to earn an audience's appreciation, respect and response. I plan on "earning it" on the Feb. 28th.
This is your second trip to London within a year, what do you enjoy most about London and if you ever get to just be a tourist, where are your favourite places to go?
The last time around, I did have some time to be a tourist. I did a little Christmas shopping in Notting Hill. I saw the National Theatre's production of WAR HORSE... incredible! And I was able to spend time with some dear friends. This trip I will be taking a day to give a master class at MTA. Then there will be rehearsals with the band and guest vocalists (Annalene Beechey, Oliver Tompsett and, just recently on board, Hadley Fraser... sensational artists in their own right. I am so lucky and grateful to be able to share this experience with them). And then, of course, the 2 concerts on Sunday. So... I won't be able to play in London as much as I would have liked. But, I'm sure I'll enjoy a pint or 2.
Would you like to appear on the West End (hint hint!)?
YES! I would love to appear in a show on the West End. However, I am a wife and a mother (to a 4 lb. puppy). So I can't just pack my bags a commit to a West End contract. Beyond the joy of theatre there is life. My family and life will always be my first priority. As the character Fanny Brice says in FUNNY GIRL..." You can't take an audience home with you."
Would you like to do more album based work and who would be your dream duet?
I would love to do more recording. The beauty and the struggle of recording, though, lies in the process. With THIS PLACE I KNOW, I was not only the artist but the executive producer. I made sure every decision feel to me. It was exhausting but a true labor of love. So, that is the question I now ask myself... do I have the energy, finances and inspiration to produce another album? It would really have to be a theme and line up of songs that filled me with great passion. I am always thinking of what's next. As far as my "dream duet"... I have many. I would LOVE to sing with Ms. Streisand. To share a song with James Taylor would be THE ultimate. His voice, his vibe, his musicianship... it would be heaven. And of course, I always love singing with my husband, Sebastian Arcelus.
You’ve starred in shows alongside the likes of Hugh Jackman and Alison Janney, do you ever get starstruck? And who would you get starstruck meeting?I was not star struck with Hugh or Allison because they were so laid back, welcoming and excited to get to work. Don't get me wrong, I always felt blessed and extremely lucky to work along side them. But you don't want your co-star to think they are going to be working with... a fan rather than a peer. They are actors. They love what they do. And they are counting on their fellow cast members to do their best work in order to create WITH them.
If I was to become stage struck, it would be in the presence of Barbra Streisand, Julie Andrews, and Carol Burnett.
You’ve worked with some of the best songwriters in the business, whose work have you enjoyed performing most and is there anyone you would love to work with but haven’t had the chance to yet?
Well, I can't answer who's music I've enjoyed most. Every songs evokes a different emotion, a different story and you just can't rank them in an order. That's the genius of art. It's not black and white, 1-2-3, right or wrong. I do have several composers I would still love to work with. Stephen Sondheim tops my list, as well as John Kander. I adore the music of Adam Guettel and would find it a glorious challenge to sing one of his scores. I guess that's the goal... to be inspired AND challenged. These 3 composers certainly do that for me.
As the original Elphaba in the Wicked workshops, how do you feel about the show’s success and its impact on the theatre world?I am soooo proud to have been a part of WICKED's initial workshops, the original company, the first Nat'l tour and the Broadway company. I've shared an 8 year relationship with WICKED and I am truly honored. I knew from the moment I read the script's first version that it would be a remarkable piece of theatre. The music was magical. The script was powerful and clever. And the creative team/ production team had an amazing pedigree. It all added up to equal great success. I will forever have a deep connection to the show and the role of Elphaba.
What would your ultimate dream role be? (Irrespective of gender!)
Fanny Brice in FUNNY GIRL.
What would you say has been the most rewarding part you’ve played and why?
Every role brings great reward and great heartache. As an artist, one invests so much time, love, tears, hard work in creating a role. You truly fall in love with the character you been bringing to "life". I have learned so much from each experience that it all has lead me to be the performer I am today. That's the reward... that you learn from each character, each challenge, each success and each flop.
Can you give us any clues about what you’re up to next!?
They are a few irons in the fire... but until a contract is signed... it doesn't exist.