Brief Encounter With … Christine Pedi
Date: 2 June 2009
Broadway actress and celebrated impressionist Christine Pedi is premiering her “one woman tour-de-force”, Great Dames, at the Jermyn Street Theatre this month (2 – 21 June). We caught up with her recently to find out more about the show and the art of musical impressionism...
You do impressions of a huge number of legendary divas & dames - who's your favourite?
Well, it often depends on who I think the audience will appreciate. Liza is a big favorite. Bernadette Peters and Eartha Kitt get big laughs. Angela Lansbury usually gets spooky gasps from the crowd because, 1) she's not someone they expect to hear 2) I think it's a very solid rendition of her and they seem impressed.
Are some harder to impersonate than others?
It took me years to get Bernadette down solid. Patti Lupone is getting better, having had the chance to watch her in Gypsy twice. Different qualities in her delivery began to become clearer to me. I'd say that they all get better with time tho some still haven't ripened enough with age to be suitable for serving (to use a really bad analogy).
What can people expect from your show?
LAUGHTER BABY!!! And a few nice moments of simple singing. But primarily be prepared to blow off some steam by just giggling yourself silly (if I'm doing my job right).
You've toured round the world - where do you get the best response?
Well, (and I mean this sincerely) I'm really hoping it will be London. I can't wait to do all this schtick that I've done in the US and abroad for the theatre crowds in my favorite city in the world. In the US I've always gotten wonderful reactions and on the gay cruises I've done they've been fabulously vocal. Doing similar stuff in Forbidden Broadway reminds me that the Japanese audiences were quite astute and very very savvy. But I still think the Brits will really get it. From the broad to the subtlest of jokes. I think we (me, my pianist Matthew Ward and all the Great Dames) will feel very at home there.
And the worst?
Usually some very buttoned up suburban country club crowd that feels it's "impolite" to laugh too hard - there have been a few of those. Crowds in proper theatres are usually wonderful. Private affairs can run the gamut from crazy wild (also drunk) happy appreciative patrons to ... people who have no sense of humor and ... well. ... God help them, especially in this economy. I mean YA GOTTA LAUGH FOLKS. Sometimes that's all there is to get you through the day.
Finally, what tips do you have for aspiring musical impressionists?
Do it wherever you can. Open mikes, benefits. Find places to work on new material and practice practice practice. I can't get better by doing it into a mirror. I need to hear and feel a crowd. That's probably because of the years of working on material in Forbidden Broadway with so little rehearsal time. We learned and developed stuff on stage. But with impression in particular you need to hear the audience response, not just to the voice but to the comedy material you've chosen to use the voice in.
Just get out there, wherever "there" may be and do it. When I have a new piece of material I'm at every open mic event I can get into and it really helps. That will never change. Let me put it this way - one of my favorite open mic joints in NYC ... well Joan Rivers is playing there to work on her material! "Can we tawk?" So if it's good enough for Joan... Hmmmm, maybe Botox will be my next tactic?
Great Dames is at the Jermyn Street Theatre from 2 to 21 June 2009.