Actor/singer/composer, Laurelia Derocher, is the artistic director for Broadway at the Blue, a brilliant Broadway theater musical experience currently at Gloria Rossi-Menedes’ lively restaurant, BLUE – Greek on Granite. Laurelia and I recently chatted over coffee at the Boulevard Café in Ashland.
EH: Why are your performances of those Broadway songs so unique?
LD: The songs are lyrically and melodically rich. They’re well written. They say something meaningful. And we are able to convey the message of the songs by being willing to go to emotional places as actors. That is something that distinguishes musical theater performers from just really good singers.
Broadway at the Blue is a wonderful outlet for an actor, because you get to play all sorts of characters in one night, even characters that you’re not really appropriate for. At the last show, I sang a song from Little Shop of Horrors. Audrey (who is in her twenties) sings this young, innocent, dreamy song. I would never be cast as Audrey today.
We also do sing-a-longs with the audience. Singing together brings people together.
EH: Why do some of us love theater?
LD: I love live theater because live human beings tell stories and show me aspects of myself.
Metaphysically we are enchanted by theater because of the way it parallels our lives. Some of us do believe that we are all playing out our own dramas, and yet within each of us there is the grand actor, our soul, that is beyond the drama and can observe it. When we watch a play, we are mirroring that whole system. We see ourselves, see our own stories, and find truths. If you see an issue that you need to deal with, it’s a way of working it out. Healings happen for people.
Theater is uplifting; and it can help us to evolve and heal and connect. Back in the 1950s, Oscar Hammerstein was writing uplifting things that were brilliant and ahead of his time. When you think of South Pacific, Emile’s children were mixed-race children. Paralleling that, Hammerstein and his wife were adopting mixed-race children, which was unheard-of back then. He was a socially progressive engineer, showing us those themes and getting us to think about them.
As an actress, I love theater because it’s creatively challenging. I love doing it because I do it with a tribe of people who love theater too. There’s a process of putting together a show: There is the selection of material, “What is going to touch people? What’s going to be entertaining? What’s going to be deep?” Then there’s the putting it together: rehearsing. You come together as a tribe to rehearse it. Then the audience is part of the tribe too, because they are the receiving half. There is the giving half and the appreciating half; and it comes together in that way.
EH: How does your family relate to your life in theater?
LD: It’s a little bit of an ugly duckling story. Neither of my parents had any desire to be the theater. I’m wired differently. I’m a different bird, a different breed born into this family. They do their best to understand that. They were very supportive of me as a kid, and they are now. I think they see that this is my heart’s desire.
Broadway at the Blue will feature Tami Marston, John Stadelman and Mark Turnbull performing classic and esoteric songs from Broadway musicals on Friday, March 30, and Monday, April 2. Call 541-708-5150 for information and reservations.
Laurelia Derocher will play Linda Ronstadt in Spotlight on Linda Ronstadt, September 13 -28, at the Camelot Theatre in Talent. Call 541-535-5250 for reservations and information.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding member of San Francisco’s Magic Theatre. Reach her at email@example.com.