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An Interview with Actress Laura Roth; From the Upcoming Production of StarCrossed at Fort Salem Theater

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By Sarah Cramer

Laura RothFort Salem Theater’s newest production, StarCrossed, opens this Friday night at 8pm. StarCrossed is an original collaboration between playwright Al Budde and composer and lyricist Jay Kerr. The world premiere, directed by W.M. Aupperlee, will transport the audience back to old Hollywood, to the heyday of stars like Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. Recently, I talked with cast member Laura Roth who shared a little about the play and explained why she appreciates its themes of finding and living your dreams.

The Free George: Which part do you play in the upcoming production?
Laura: I play the part of Julie Martin who’s a Judy Garland-like character.

TFG: Could you talk a little bit about the play?
Laura: StarCrossed is an original play. The premise is two leading Hollywood characters (based on Judy Garland and Gene Kelly) have an affair and have an illegitimate child. Then it plays in flashbacks. It begins with Julie’s daughter, Sarah, going to see an agent who used to be Julie’s agent. When he sees her, he asks, “Are you adopted?” and she says,“Yes.” He wants to make her a star based on the fact that she might be Julie’s daughter. The play goes through flashbacks of Julie finding out she’s pregnant then the whole MGM system, and back to Sarah deciding what she wants and whether she wants to be a star based on her mother’s legacy or do it on her own.

TFG: And your costars, many of them are also established actors.
Laura: Yes. There’s Jim Raposa who plays Jack, the Gene Kelly character. He’s an amazing singer/dancer/actor who’s been in the Lion King and other productions on Broadway. Now he’s a teacher at a charter school, BBA, in Manchester. Andrea Green plays my daughter, Sarah, and Peter Kidd plays her love interest, Jim. Robert Silver came in from California to play the agent, Rick. He’s worked with Neil Simon and a lot of great people. Sue Caputo is his secretary and then we have Benita Zahn. She plays Julie’s confidante, best friend and biographer. Oh! and then we can’t forget Gordon Hazzard. He plays the detective, Slice, and he’s hysterical.

TFG: Can you talk a little bit about your personal background?
Laura: I’ve done a lot of cabaret work in Manhattan and now I do a one-woman show. I live in Glens Falls, but I’m originally from the Albany area. I went on the road in rock show groups when I was 18. I met my husband in Lake George. I didn’t want to raise my children in New York City. I never wanted to be a star. I wanted someone to love me, to have a nice home and raise my children. That was my dream and my dream came true. My husband, Lew, is my partner in everything. I know it’s sappy, but when I introduce him at my shows–he runs my sound–I always say that he saved my life by loving me and I saved my life by letting him. So unlike poor Judy/Julie, I found someone who doesn’t want anything from me but to love me.

TFG: And how did you get involved with StarCrossed?
Laura: Last November when Jay and Lynn, the owners of the theater, were doing their cabaret series, the person who was supposed to open couldn’t make it, so they called me. I could make it so I did my cabaret–I do characterizations of the greatest female entertainers of the past 60 years, using music, comedy and acting–and when they saw my characterization of Judy Garland, they started thinking about this play. It was written 30 years ago but hasn’t been produced. And when Andrea sings she reminds people of a young Judy Garland. She’s from the Young Divas last year. And I’m usually always busy but since they asked me a year ago, I made sure I had time.

TFG: The play was written 30 years ago, but it’s being produced for the first time now?
Laura: Yes, the flashbacks take place in the 50s and the current time is the 70s.

TFG: I know this is being produced as part of Fort Salem Theater’s Summer of Dreams. Does that have any relation to the play?
Laura: Well yes, the whole show is about people’s dreams and fantasies, what they think they want and what they really end up getting.

TFG: How do you feel about playing Judy Garland?
Laura: You mean Julie?

TFG: (laughs) Of course, Julie.
Laura: I’m having a wonderful experience. I love her because all she wants to do is find someone she can trust. Every time she thinks she does, she finds out they were using her, and never for a very pure reason. She just felt manipulated her whole life.

TFG: So it’s pretty true to the trajectory of Garland’s life?
Laura: Oh yes. As to the Gene Kelly part, she did three movies with him. When she was really in her depths of despair, he was one of the few people who could get her to work, because she did love him. [pause]  The music is amazing and the book is wonderful. They did a great job with it.

TFG: How would you describe the music, genre-wise?
Laura: It’s Hollywood MGM for all the Julie and Jack numbers—you feel like you’re walking back into an old set at MGM. Then the songs the others sing are more current Broadway style. And they did that on purpose, of course. As tragic as the story line is, every time they sing and dance it’s WOO! It’s happy and fun. The contradictions are amazing, between when they’re performing together and real life.

TFG: Well, I’m very much looking forward to seeing it. Is there anything else you’d care to share?
Laura: I’m just really very excited. I’m very grateful to be given this opportunity because I feel it’s a very special piece. The music is some of the best I’ve ever sung, and the cast and production staff are amazing.

StarCrossed opens at the Fort Salem Theater on Friday August 13th at 8pm. Tickets are $25 adults/$22 seniors/$15 children twelve and under. For tickets and more information visit www.fortsalemtheater.com or call (518) 854-9200.

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