It’s always exciting when a Southern California native, particularly one with local credits, gets cast in a major National Tour. SoCal musical theater lovers who’ve enjoyed A Chorus Line at Musical Theatre West and Funny Girl at 3-D Theatricals will once again get the pleasure of seeing Tory Trowbridge in the cast of the First National Tour of the 2013 Best Revival Tony winner Pippin, arriving on November 11 at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts for a two-week run. We got to catch up with Tory recently and find out how this L.A. girl went from child dancer to National Tour star.
Tory, first of all, congratulations on Pippin! It’s a thrill when someone I’ve seen locally books a National Tour!
Thank you, Steven! It’s an exciting time.
Let’s talk first about the Broadway revival of Pippin. It’d been over forty years since Pippin’s original Broadway debut when the revival opened last year, and during the intervening four decades, just about every theater company in the country has staged the Stephen Schwartz-Roger O. Hirson classic. What do you think it is about the Broadway revival that makes it stand out from the others?
This revival is such a spectacle while staying true to the book and the deep meaning of the show. Friends who’ve seen it are floored by the dynamic acrobatic and vocal power while being truly moved by the message.
If you could describe Pippin and its message in a single sentence, what would that be?
Pippin is a timeless story of finding joy in your everyday life and making a choice to be happy.
How much “reinvention” has gone into this new Pippin?
There is large visual difference with the added circus elements created by Gypsy Snider. The creative team really brightened up the show, from the amazing costumes designed by Dominique Lemieux to the stunning lighting and scenic design of Kenneth Posner and Scott Pask.
Tory in Pippin
Chet Walker’s Tony-nominated choreography is “in the style of Bob Fosse.” As a dancer, how integral do you think is it to Pippin to have the Fosse touch in its song-and-dance numbers?
Huge! You can’t have jelly without the peanut butter!
In other words?
Fosse’s style is so very specific and unlike any other form of dancing I’ve done. He was so brilliant at marrying the musical dynamics to the movements he created all while shaping the body into beautiful angles.
How different is it for you as a dancer to “do Fosse” as opposed to the choreography you’ve danced to in shows like Legally Blonde, A Chorus Line, or a classic like Carousel, especially given your extensive training and experience in ballet?
It’s a different beast for sure. A beautiful beast. I think a lot of technical dancers can relate because it is a very disciplined style. My rehearsal process wasn’t as easy as others because it was like learning a new vocabulary … and “Fosse walking” throughout my New York apartment for a month. I still have “ah ha!” moments on stage but I am in love with how subtle and crisp it is in general.
You’ve got a particularly exciting touring cast, starting with your Charlemagne, John Rubinstein, Broadway’s original Pippin himself. Has John’s presence in the show given the National Tour a sense of history that it might not have had before?
Oh, it is incredible. We had a show on October 23rd, Pippin’s 42nd birthday from when it opened at the Imperial with John and I couldn’t stop watching him and thinking of how I was a part of this theater history, especially in the finale when we all spread out and Pippin is left in the middle, I thought, “Wow, he used to stand mid-stage every night and now he’s on the side with us as a player and I get to dance with him!” That was a night to remember.
Tory in Legally Blonde
Pippin marks a return to Southern California, where you’ve done a half-dozen shows in recent years, and the Costa Mesa run brings you back to Orange County, where just a year ago you were starring as Pilar in 3-D Theatricals’ Legally Blonde. What does it feel like to be back as the latest stop in your across-the-country tour?
It is surreal. I grew a great deal here as an artist thanks to 3D Theatricals, Musical Theater West, and my coach Rachael Lawrence, so coming full circle here is very memorable.
I imagine that it’s a fairly long process from first audition to getting cast to beginning rehearsals of a major national tour like Pippin. Can you talk a bit about that process for you, and what it was like to get the call that you’d been cast?
I’ve been fairly bicoastal for a while, waitressing enough here and there to buy tickets to New York for a weekend or so. However, it was never long enough, so I decided to go for a month and just hit the ground running thanks to family and friends who let me crash with them.
So it was in New York that you auditioned?
Yes, I was seen at the open call for the Broadway show and was brought into the callbacks for the tour a couple months later with understudy sides. But they weren’t sold on me because they had seen so many girls, so the first half hour was Chet Walker watching me and a few other dancers from the side, after which he made a cut from there. I could have flown from LA just for a thirty-minute call!
And after that?
Then it was a six-hour day. Dance, sing, read, sing, dance, wait, eat, sing… Finally it was down to me and the two other fantastic girls I share the stage with every night doing the Fastrada dance for the whole creative team. Needless to say I ate three Auntie Annes cinnamon pretzels afterwards.
And when did you get that all-important call?
I was back in LA when I got the call from my agent that I was cast as a Player and Catherine understudy. I called my mom and we screamed together.
Tory, in her first appearance as Catherine
What’s your favorite Pippin moment in the show for you?
The finale. This show really allows the ensemble to have a full character arc so it is very fulfilling once we get to it.
You’re an L.A. native and a product of our Los Angeles County High School For The Arts (which happens to be on the campus of Cal State LA, where I teach). How did you first become interested in performing?
I started dancing when I was four and singing in elementary school. LAUSD has so many gifted art programs that are free! I trained in opera during the day at LACHSA (as did Pippin’s Music Director, Ryan Cantwell) and went to dance class at night.
Wow! I know Ryan from way back in his LACHSA days! When and how did you first perform professionally?
Tory in Cats
My first professional gig was the Cats tour when I was twenty, I guess I have always been hooked.
You’ve appeared in a whole bunch of musicals, from classics like A Chorus Line and Funny Girl to more contemporary fare like Legally Blonde and Hairspray, all of which you did here in Southern California. Is there a favorite show and role among them?
Tory as Val in A Chorus Line
Val in A Chorus Line with Musical Theater West was definitely my favorite role because David Lamoureux and Roger Castellano believed in me enough to do my own interpretation while staying true to her. But my favorite show was Funny Girl with 3D Theatricals. I got to watch Nicole Parker every day!
You’ve been L.A.-based for the past few years, and now you’re touring the country with Pippin. Have you thought about life after the tour, what you’d like to do next, and where you’d like to do it?
I have thought about both coasts and where I will land. All I know is that I have great family and friends and a team that can be with me on either coast, so wherever it is I will hopefully be doing what I love.
Thanks so much Tory for taking the time to chat about Pippin and yourself as a performer! I can’t wait to see you on Opening Night!
It was such a pleasure! Can’t wait to see you!
Pippin plays at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. November 11-November 23. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 7:30. Saturdays at 2:00 and 7:30. Sundays at 1:00 and 6:30. Reservations: 714 556-2787
Click here to purchase tickets.