The evening of October 13, 2012, was truly magical and unforgettable! The original stars of JEKYLL & HYDE, Linda Eder, Christiane Noll and Robert Cuccioli, were reunited on stage as part of Linda’s Town Hall show, “A New Life.” The EDER-tors of THE VOICE were thrilled to interview Robert after their first reunion at Town Hall, and now we are once again thrilled to interview Christiane about her incredible life and career.
VOICE: Do you come from a musical family?
CHRISTIANE: Yes. My father was a conductor, pianist and arranger and my mother was an opera singer.
VOICE: When you were growing up, was there anyone in particular who encouraged you to pursue a career in music and theatre?
CHRISTIANE: I had a very supportive household. No one encouraged me to choose it as a career, but I was encouraged by family and by a few wonderful teachers to always do my best no matter what I chose, have the proper preparation, and be ready for anything. The career found itself after that.
VOICE: How old were you when you performed for an audience for the very first time and what was the occasion?
CHRISTIANE: I was 4 years old. I did a few things in a production of THE MIKADO that my parents were touring. It was easier to put me in the show when they brought me along to the theater. That way they always knew where I was.
VOICE: Did you have the proverbial “big break” or did you just gradually work your way into your amazing career?
CHRISTIANE: I would say JEKYLL & HYDE was certainly a big break. Up until that point I had done some roles in tours and in regional theaters. J&H was my introduction to Broadway, originating a role. Very exciting!
VOICE: Please tell us about your first professional performance.
CHRISTIANE: I played Belinda Cratchit in an opera of A CHRISTMAS CAROL when I was 10. This was my first job that I auditioned for without my parents’ involvement. Honestly, the reason I got the job is because I looked exactly like some illustration of the character. They had a terrible time trying to get me to sing anything. I was not interested in the audition process. Ha!
VOICE: You made your Broadway debut in JEKYLL & HYDE as Emma with Linda and Robert Cuccioli. Did you know of Linda before doing this project together?
Christiane Noll on stage at Town Hall
(photo courtesy of Broadwayworld.com)
CHRISTIANE: I did! I saw her on Star Search.
VOICE: What was your reaction the first time you heard Linda sing those amazing songs from the show?
CHRISTIANE: I felt really lucky to be given the opportunity to sing with her! It was pretty amazing! No one sings that music like she does!!
VOICE: What do you especially remember about your first opening night on Broadway?
CHRISTIANE: I remember feeling like everyone’s performance was just perfect! The show felt as good as it ever had! It was electrifying! Couldn’t believe that I was there! So exciting!
VOICE: What was it like working with Linda?
CHRISTIANE: Singing the duet with her was a highlight of the entire experience!
VOICE: Do you have a favorite song, scene or moment from J&H?
CHRISTIANE: See above answer!!!
VOICE: Thinking back to your time as Emma, can you share something funny that happened during a performance either on stage or behind the scenes?
CHRISTIANE: The only thing I can remember is from the Broadway production. What’s supposed to happen is after Jekyll dies on the floor next to a set of stairs, the lights go out, the stairs retract and in the dark someone picks me up – it might have been Bob, I don’t remember – and I just blindly run off the stage. One night the stairs didn’t retract and I ran into them and TIMBER! Fell right on my face!! It hurt but I couldn’t stop laughing! The other moment was in the regional production, I think. Philip Hoffman was playing Utterson and he was supposed to shoot Bob – the gun jammed – twice! So they had a full on brawl where Bob begged to be pistol whipped to death!! Again – laughing but trying to look horrified!!
VOICE: You just completed a run in the Broadway musical, CHAPLIN. Please tell us a little about the show and the complex character you played.
CHRISTIANE: CHAPLIN is a biographical musical about the life of Charlie Chaplin. It follows his life from when he was 7 on the streets of London to when he is honored at the Academy Awards in 1972 at the age of 85. I played his mother, Hannah, his inspiration, his obsession and his heartache. She was a music hall performer but “went crazy” at a young age, deserting him. She spent most of her adult life institutionalized. It was a cheery part!!
VOICE: Do you have a favorite role from shows you have done on Broadway and on National Tour? Why are these roles among your favorites?
CHRISTIANE: I think Mother in RAGTIME was my favorite! It was one of those roles that came along at the exactly right time in my life and my career! Everything just meshed. I feel so fortunate that I had the chance to be a part of that show!! Coming to Broadway was a bonus and the accolades just overwhelming!!
VOICE: You have also appeared in a number of Operettas. Do you have a favorite Operetta and role?
CHRISTIANE: I really loved doing the Gilbert and Sullivan shows – PIRATES OF PENZANCE and THE MIKADO – the latter especially because I grew up either hearing them or doing them!! It was wild to really carry on the family business.
VOICE: What has been your most challenging role to date?
CHRISTIANE: Chaplin has been rather emotionally challenging. She abandons her child and through the gift of flashbacks, she does it 4 times every performance! Add that I have to “leave” my 3 year old everyday and hear “Don’t leave me!” I spend a lot of time crying. It has made me not the most pleasant person to be around!! Life imitating art! Eek!!
VOICE: You are a very versatile solo performer, including Broadway, Opera, Operetta, and Jazz in your repertoire. Was there a particular performer who influenced you in each of those genres?
CHRISTIANE: Hmm. My mother was my first influence. Just heard her all the time and she was extraordinary! Learned a lot through osmosis! She was a genius at operetta! I love Natalie Dessay – incredible Coloratura! Ella Fitzgerald in the jazz world! Sang with a smile!! I listened to a lot of Sandi Patti!! She had this high mixy belt thing with incredible high notes!! Yup! Liked her! I loved Olivia Newton-John and Pat Benatar!! How’s that?
VOICE: Do you have a favorite genre of music to perform?
CHRISTIANE: Nope! I think I just like singing! Whatever is called for!
VOICE: Please tell us a little about your solo recordings?
CHRISTIANE: I’ve recorded 4 solo CDs. A BROADWAY LOVE STORY was my first solo recording. It is a story that is told entirely by songs written for the Broadway stage. LIVE AT THE WEST BANK CAFÉ was a concert I did with a jazz trio. I sang lots of jazz standards and originals. THE IRA GERSHWIN ALBUM – Ira wrote with so many incredible composers not just George. It was fun to explore that. MY PERSONAL PROPERTY is an orchestral album that has many of the Broadway fare that I have sung in symphony pops concerts.
VOICE: You have traveled all over the world as a solo performer. Do you have a favorite city from you time on the road and why is it your favorite?
CHRISTIANE: I love San Francisco! My husband and I found each other there and I just adore that city. I love New Orleans for the food and music. Chicago for everything. Vienna, Austria is just gorgeous and filled with music! Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic is like a fairytale village!
VOICE: You have performed at small venues such as Feinstein’s and large venues such as Carnegie Hall. Do you prefer one type of venue over the other?
CHRISTIANE: Love both! But I always like to try to sing TO the audience, really invite them in. Make it feel intimate even if it is a big hall.
VOICE: Please tell us a little about the Midtown Direct Rep Theater Company and your involvement with it.
CHRISTIANE: There are many Broadway people who live in the Maplewood/South Orange, NJ area. Actors, directors, writers, musicians, tech people have all moved out there to have families. Add a wonderful performance space in the South Orange Performing Arts Center and the wheels started turning. Midtown Direct Rep has become a lovely place for writers to tryout and work on new pieces. Our first full production, RATED P, earned an Off-Broadway run. Our audiences witness the birth and development of new works. Reading, to staged reading, to workshop, to full production. It is an exciting process and right at home with extraordinarily gifted people. I was in a reading and did a concert as a fundraiser.
VOICE: You reunited with Linda and Robert for the first time since JEKYLL & HYDE at Town Hall for “Broadway By The Year 1997” several years ago. Did it feel like “business as usual” as you performed the selections from JEKYLL & HYDE?
On stage with Linda Eder at Town Hall
(photo courtesy of Broadwayworld.com)
CHRISTIANE: I think we are all fine wines and have improved with age! It was a hoot to revisit those selections, so much so that we found ourselves doing it again at Town Hall!
VOICE: This show was your first time directing. What was that experience like?
CHRISTIANE: Terrifying and fun. Everyone seemed to have a really good time and felt comfortable with what they did. The audience loved it! I was so proud of all of the performances! You watch the show with a completely different eye. I felt like the proud Mama watching everyone nail it! So much fun.
VOICE: Would you like to do more directing in the future?
CHRISTIANE: I would. I imagine my confidence would improve if I just did it more.
VOICE: Robert did a phenomenal job opening the show on that evening with “This Is The Moment.” That was a perfect choice. What was it that made you choose that song from among the many wonderful songs from the various shows that were represented?
CHRISTIANE: It can be tricky opening the show with such a huge monster of a song, but I knew it would start us off with a bang and we’d have nowhere to go but up! There were so many incredible pieces from that year it just seemed like he would set the pace for the evening to be about blowing the walls out – and he did!!
VOICE: Were you surprised by the thunderous reception the three of you received on that evening?
CHRISTIANE: I’m always surprised when an audience responds in such a fashion. I never take that for granted. The three of us were part of something very special and it was gratifying to know that our work together was so appreciated!!
VOICE: Could you feel the presence of the “Jekkies?”
CHRISTIANE: The Jekkies were the final ingredient! They are the reason for the show’s success! You can always feel them! Thankfully.
VOICE: You reunited with Linda and Robert again at Town Hall on October 13, 2012 for a more extensive performance than the previous one. Was it a collaborative effort to choose the songs to be performed that evening?
CHRISTIANE: That was Linda’s night and she was generous enough to share it with us! I was thrilled to do it again.
VOICE: Was it difficult to choose the selections to be performed from such an incredible score?
CHRISTIANE: Not really. We each have our big numbers. I don’t think “Murder Murder” was ever on the table. Hee!
VOICE: Do you think there will be more of these concerts with the three of you in the future?
CHRISTIANE: That would be up to Linda – I hope so! I really enjoy doing it.
VOICE: Do you have any other current projects in the works that you’d like to share?
CHRISTIANE: I have quite a few concert dates in 2013 which I am looking forward to and a possibly a new CD.
VOICE: What might we find if we could see what’s in your personal music collection? Is there any type of music or performer we might be surprised to find there?
CHRISTIANE: Currently it is filled with Music Together and Disney – I did mention that I have a 3-year-old daughter? One of these days I may get to listen to stuff that is mine again but for now I do not mind helping her discover music for herself!! That is the true gift!
VOICE: What is the best advice you were given in regard to pursuing a career in music and theatre?
CHRISTIANE: Have a strong work ethic and be prepared. Don’t wait for someone else to do something for you – find your own way -- be creative and fearless!
VOICE: What advice would you give to young aspiring actors and musicians?
CHRISTIANE: I would say the above! Just do it. Don’t wait. Sing anywhere. Don’t make excuses or take no for an answer. Learn your voice! Be a disciplined explorer of your instrument. Be prepared for anything and find a wonderful support system. Figure out what you want from this business and what this business wants from you and then just do it!!