Notice: register_sidebar was called incorrectly. No id was set in the arguments array for the "Sidebar 1" sidebar. Defaulting to "sidebar-1". Manually set the id to "sidebar-1" to silence this notice and keep existing sidebar content. Please see Debugging in WordPress for more information. (This message was added in version 4.2.0.) in /home/lajollaplayhouse/public_html/blog/wp-includes/functions.php on line 3606
Theater Diary: In grad school, a favorite proved somewhat prophetic - La Jolla Playhouse Blog

Theater Diary: In grad school, a favorite proved somewhat prophetic

  • bookmark page

Andrew Samonksy

By Andrew Samonsky
Originally published in the San Diego Union-Tribune

Andrew Samonsky, who plays Joshua and other roles in the La Jolla Playhouse’s production of “Little Miss Sunshine,” will recount his experiences for six weeks in Arts.

I was recently scolded by my girlfriend when she learned I wasn’t a fan of ’80s pop music.

It’s not that I’m not a fan; it’s more the fact that I was never really exposed to it. Instead, my parents raised me on musicals. “Annie” filled the car ride home from soccer practice. “The Sound of Music” was the TV Christmas classic of choice. And “Cats” was… well, I admit, there was always an occasion to pop in the double cassette of “Cats.”

When the ’90s arrived, I finally rebelled against my parents’ music and found my own in the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam (I had long hair — not my best look). Not once did I ever think I would pursue a career in musical theater.

Some of my friends have relayed stories of how they “always knew” they wanted to be an actor. I never even considered it until my second year of college. But when I made the frightening decision to go for it, it was like reliving my childhood, delighting in my ’80s music.

Growing up, my parents would take me to Solvang’s magical outdoor theater every summer, where I’d be exposed to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Even so, by college I had a lot of catching up to do so far as my education in the of world musical theater. But that kind of homework was fun.

Some of that homework happened during graduate school on a monthlong musical theater intensive in New York City. Classes by day, Broadway shows by night. I saw 27 shows in 30 days (believe it) and my runaway favorite was the ingenious “Urinetown.”

It was clever, it was funny, and it instantly became the CD of choice in my Discman (and soon to follow iPod). Track 7 was on repeat, a duet between the romantic leads, which I would sing along to more times than my voice should have allowed.

This all leads to my big dork-out moment.

It just so happens that the leads in “Little Miss Sunshine” were those two leads in “Urinetown.” The voices of Hunter Foster and Jennifer Laura Thompson that were blasting through my car stereo are now in the rehearsal room at La Jolla Playhouse. This is easily one of the coolest moments of my career. There I was eight years ago, sitting in the audience thinking, “How fun would THAT be? How great are these guys?! Maybe someday…”

Now I ride the company van to rehearsal with them every morning. Now, they prepare to take the stage in another incredible show, except this time I join in the fun. And when I say “prepare to take the stage,” I mean that in the literal sense. The cast had not set foot in the actual theater the first four weeks of rehearsal. Not to worry. This is the usual process.

The first two weeks were spent in a studio on 42nd Street in New York City. The last two have been in La Jolla Playhouse’s spacious studios located about 100 yards from the theater. So close! Yet, all of the actors’ work is usually done in rooms just large enough to hold the measurements of the stage shown with colored tape on the floor. It’s amazing what you can create without costumes, a few props and some furniture that resembles what the actual set will look like.

At this point, we’ve been doing complete performances of the show all in the confines of a rehearsal room. With the paint finally dry, we took our first steps on the stage of the beautiful Mandell Weiss Theatre the other day. Comfortable audience seats, too!

Sitting in the audience, watching the other cast members explore the stage, I had a moment of déjà vu. Where had I seen Hunter Foster and Jennifer Laura Thompson like this before? Of course, on Broadway, singing my favorite ’80s music!

Andrew Samonsky recently played Lt. Joseph Cable in the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of “South Pacific,” where he was also seen on the “Live From Lincoln Center” PBS broadcast. He created the role of Nick on the national tour of “On the Record.” Regional credits include Bob Wallace in “White Christmas” (The Denver Center), Jon in “tick, tick… BOOM!” (Rubicon/Coronet Theater) and “Shenandoah” (The Ford’s Theater).