Rachel York 2 Southland audiences know Broadway star Rachel York from her leading roles in The Sound Of Music at the Hollywood Bowl, My One And Only at Reprise, and Camelot at the La Mirada Theater (among others). Rachel now returns to Southern California as the one-and-only Reno Sweeney in the National Tour of the 2011 Broadway revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall and opening September 24 at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts. The Drama Desk Award-winning star took time out of her busy schedule to sit down and answer our questions about her life as one of Broadway’s best-known leading ladies.

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Rachel as Guinevere in Camelot and with Michael Gruber in My One And Only

Hi Rachel. You spent your early childhood in Florida. Was it back then that the performing bug bit you?

The performing bug actually bit me a couple years after I moved to Boulder, Colorado.

How old were you then?

I was eleven. It was a big adjustment for me to move from Florida to Colorado. I felt very shy and out of place in my new school. It was in choir class that I discovered I had a voice and passion for singing. The confidence I gained through singing helped to build my courage and get me out of my shell.

When I hear Florida, one of the first things that comes to mind is “dinner theater,” and I hear that a Florida dinner theater show changed your life when you became a kind of real-life Peggy Sawyer in a production of Kiss Me Kate. How did the member of the chorus feel stepping into the leading lady’s shoes while still a teen?

When I stepped in for Kate at sixteen or seventeen, I had an uneasy stomach through the whole process because I had to learn the entire role and blocking in two days. For the most part, I felt proud of myself for being able to do it successfully

I’ve read that soon after your move to New York in your late teens, you were signed by an agent “on the spot” based on a couple of monologs and a demo tape. Did it really all happen that quickly?

I was in New York studying acting for about two months before I met my first agent.

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Rachel as Mallory in City Of Angels

Wow! And you were still a teenager when you made your Broadway debut as Mallory in City Of Angels. Can you talk a bit about that first Broadway role and how your life changed as a result of it?

I was on cloud nine, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, when I landed City Of Angels. I was very “green” as they say. I had to learn many new things on and off stage. It wasn’t always easy.

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Rachel and Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria

You’ve had so many New York successes, but I’d imagine that playing Norma in Victor/Victoria must have been one of the high points of the ‘90s for you, winning the Drama Desk award for the role. How was it for a smart young actress like you to play a quintessential dumb blonde?

I wasn’t sure I could pull it off at first. I just approached Norma Cassidy as I would any character by creating her background and intention. I had to trust my work.

It must have been exciting working that show’s creative team!

It was such a creative experience working with Blake Edwards and Rob Marshall. They allowed me to explore and organically come up with funny bits in the process. It was a wonderful collaboration.

Roundabout Theatre Company's ANYTHING GOES Ryan Steer, Bobby Pestka, Rachel York, Jeremy Benton, Kristopher Thompson-Bolden. Photo by Joan Marcus 2012
Rachel in Anything Goes

This isn’t the first time you’ve played Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, a 1930s musical that’s undergone quite a few changes over the years. How does this 2011 revival compare to the one you starred in previously?

Kathleen Marshall’s production of Anything Goes is better than any other version of the show that I’ve seen. From the costumes and lighting to the dance numbers and the incredible cast, this production is a wonderful treat and an honor to be a part of. Kathleen has taken this show to a whole new level.

Only a handful of Broadway musicals from the pre-Oklahoma 1930s get revived with any frequency, and probably none of them as often as Anything Goes. Why do you think Anything Goes has lasted so much longer than the competition?

Anything Goes has survived all of these years, I believe, because Cole Porter’s music is timeless and the story of Anything Goes is fun, romantic and full of joy.

Roundabout Theatre Company's ANYTHING GOES Rachel York and Company 3. Photo by Joan Marcus 2012
“Reno Sweeney” in Anything Goes

What’s your very favorite Reno Sweeney moment?

I have many favorite moments in the show. I truly enjoy sharing the stage with Josh Franklin, Fred Applegate, and Edward Staudenmayer, my three leading men. I get to play with each one of them in songs such as “You’re The Top,” “Friendship,” and “The Gypsy In Me.”

Reno and her girls in Anything Goes

You’ve starred on Broadway and you’ve starred in regional theater, which I’m guessing has allowed you to stay pretty close to home, so I’d imagine that touring the U.S. in Anything Goes for nearly a year now is more than a bit of a change for you. How does the touring life agree with you?

It’s wonderful to be able to bring this amazing, crowd-pleasing show to people all over the country. It’s incredibly rewarding to see and hear the audience’s joy. Traveling so much isn’t the greatest. I often feel torn between going to the show and tucking my daughter in at night. Luckily, she has done very well traveling with me all over the country. Olivia has grown into a very smart, creative and social two-year-old. She’s kind of the show’s mascot.

You were in L.A. over the holiday season last year with Anything Goes and will be in Southern California again later this month. How do you enjoy being on the opposite coast? I hope we make you feel at home!

I love the West Coast. I’m always open to working and living in L.A. That being said, most of my work and my husband’s work is based in New York.

You’ve accumulated a good number of TV and film credits, including starring as Lucille Ball in the TV movie Lucy. Would you like to do more film/TV or does “acting for the camera” not stand up to performing in front of a live audience for you?

I enjoy doing film and TV very much. Hopefully I’ll be back in L.A. in the near future doing more film and television work.

How much longer will you be touring with Anything Goes…and what’s up next for Rachel York?

Our final performance is on November 17. Following the tour, I’ll be performing my cabaret, Let’s Fall In Love, in several cities around the country. In fact, I’ll be performing the show at the Carpenter Center in Long Beach on December 18 and 19.

I know your Southern California fans will be excited to hear that! Anything else coming up?

I’m also involved in several projects that will hopefully make it to Broadway in the not too distant future.

Thanks so much Rachel! I’m looking forward to being at the Segerstrom Center for Opening Night!


Anything Goes Production Stills: Joan Marcus


Click here for tickets to Anything Goes, playing September 24-29 at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.


Rachel’s Anything Goes bio:
Rachel York is best known for her critically acclaimed Broadway performances in City of Angels, Les Misérables, Victor/Victoria(Drama Desk Award), The Scarlet Pimpernel, Sly Fox, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. She also turned heads on television with her courageous portrayal of Lucille Ball in the CBS movie, Lucy. On tour: Cruella de Vil in The 101 Dalmatians Musical; Guenevere in Camelot; Lilli Vanessi/Kate in Kiss Me, Kate (US and West End). Off-Broadway; The Best Is Yet to Come; Stephen Sondheim’s Putting It Together (MTC, Drama Desk nomination); Dessa Rose (Lincoln Center, Drama Desk nomination). Recently, Ms. York played Dorothy Shaw in the acclaimed Encores! production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Favorite regional: The King and ITurn of the Century (Goodman Theatre, Chicago); Hello, DollyInto the WoodsSpamalotRagtimeSummer and SmokeCrucifer of Blood.



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