Trisha Rapier grew up in Southern California, attended San Clemente High School in south Orange County, and graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Music before heading off to New York City and eventually Broadway. We caught up with Trisha in anticipation of her return to the OC as one of the stars of Forbidden Broadway, opening October 1 at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts.
Can you talk a bit about growing up in Southern California? Were you bitten by the performing bug early on?
I definitely fell in love with performing at an early age. Originally, I wanted to be a paleontologist after seeing Raiders Of The Lost Ark, but soon realized that singing on a stage was more appealing to me than digging in the dirt, so at the age of five, I set my sights on Broadway and never looked back.
How much exposure to the arts did you get during your formative years?
I grew up in a household that was very musical and I was involved in every school production, both plays and musicals, from K-12. The fact that I had music and theater in my public school education truly helped me get into UCLA. Without that training, I would not have been accepted into such a university. Also, winning the Spotlight Award of the Los Angeles Music Center and the Carol Burnett Award at UCLA gave me the confidence to pursue a musical theater career.
I understand that Disneyland played a part in preparing you for your future career.
I have Disneyland to thank for employing me in their stage shows during my college years. I was in the original cast of the Hunchback of Notre Dame stage show and played Mary Poppins (who may make an appearance in Forbidden Broadway) in the Practically Perfect Tea Party at the Disneyland Hotel, as well as portraying a Dickens Caroler during the Holiday Season.
How and when did you make the move from L.A. to the East Coast?
Upon graduation from UCLA, I auditioned for Crystal Cruises and became the lead female vocalist for their award-winning variety shows. I sailed all over the globe and managed to save enough of my salary to move to New York City by the end of my one-year contract.
That must have been exciting, moving to the Big Apple fresh from a year sailing the seas. Did you already know folks in New York when you moved there?
I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t have a job or a place to live when I arrived, but thanks to a very supportive mother, she helped me find a studio apartment and gave me great pep talks (which she still does today) over the air waves as often as I needed them.
How long were you in New York before your first East Coast gig?
I booked my first regional theater job in Upstate New York within a few months and have been employed in the theater ever since.
They’re all my favorites, to be honest. Eva Peron, Sally Bowles, and Diana Goodman are such well written characters that it truly is every actress’s dream to get the chance to bring them to life. I’d have to say, however, playing Diana Goodman was probably my most challenging theatrical experience.
Why is that?
Since Sally Bowles and Eva Peron were real life characters, I had plenty of resource material to draw from when portraying those women.
With Diana Goodman, however, I researched bipolar disorder and virtually had to transport myself into the mindset of a woman on the verge of total destruction every night. It was emotionally draining and fulfilling at the same time. Also the music in Next to Normal is some of the most exquisitely beautiful songs I’ve ever sung. Lastly, Next to Normal is such an important piece of theater. It has opened a dialogue in society about mental health and I was honored to help bring that message to the mid-west.
You’ve been performing Forbidden Broadway for quite some time now, I understand, but you’ve also been on the real Broadway stage. What did it feel like to make your Broadway debut opposite Hugh Jackman in The Boy From Oz?
Well, I couldn’t stop giggling like a silly school girl every time Hugh would talk to me for the first few weeks of rehearsal, but I got it together and when I finally made my debut, it was absolutely magical. Hugh, as Peter Allen, often spoke directly to the audience during the show, so at the top of the second act, he announced that it was my Broadway debut while I was on the stage with him.
Wow! What a great moment that must have been for you?
My Broadway dream was made a reality with the best introduction anyone could ask for. Hugh Jackman is an incredible human being. Everyone in the cast adored him. His talent and work ethic truly inspired the entire company every night.
Since I am one of Liza’s biggest fans, I was thrilled to get to portray her and not make her a caricature. I started by looking at her performance with Judy Garland at the London Palladium when she was eighteen years old. When Liza comes sings “The Gypsy in my Soul,” the song I sang for my audition for The Boy From Oz, I believe the world sees the true Liza Minnelli, a young girl with no inhibitions who comes out on stage and completely blows the roof off the theater with her unique personality and passionate voice. I just tried to embody that passion and the impression came naturally and honestly. I look at recreating a person’s singing and speaking voice as learning a dialect. The more I listened to Liza’s voice the more I started to learn her dialect and animated way of talking and singing.
How is it playing Liza herself as opposed to spoofing her in Forbidden Broadway?
When I’ve spoofed Liza in Forbidden Broadway, I look at performance footage of her in later years, particularly in the ‘90s, as well as fellow comedians that impersonate Liza. Gina Kreiezmar, who is one of my co-stars in Forbidden Broadway at the Segerstrom Center, does one of the best Liza impressions I’ve ever seen, so I’ve learned a lot from watching her.
Can you talk a bit about the Forbidden Broadway we’re going to be seeing in Costa Mesa? There have been so many versions over the years. Is this sort of a “Best Of” or will it be focusing more on the more recent Broadway hits?
This version of Forbidden Broadway is definitely a “Best Of,” though we do have a few new spoofs of current Broadway shows. We always like to include a mix of classic spoofs and new spoofs for our touring shows to make the show accessible to a wide range of theater lovers.
What stars are you “standing in for” in Forbidden Broadway this time round?
We haven’t finalized the definite set list yet, but I believe I will be Bebe Neuwirth, Idina Menzel and Barbara Streisand to name a few.
What’s your favorite number in the show?
My favorite number is our “Once” spoof. Gerard Alessandrini, the creator and director of Forbidden Broadway, came up with a fabulously ridiculous tribute to one of Broadway’s most cutting edge musicals.
Segerstrom subscribers will love that, since it played in Costa Mesa just over a year ago. And speaking of Costa Mesa, how long has it been since you performed on your home turf? Are you especially excited about the Orange County run?
I haven’t had the opportunity to perform in the OC for several years, so yes, I’m very excited. I’ll have family and friends at each of our performances.
You’ve been busy while you were away!
Yes, I was in Sister Act on Broadway for nearly the entire run, and have spent the last couple of years performing in East Coast regional theater and Off-Broadway, so I haven’t had the chance to perform in Southern California for a while.
Are there any favorite haunts you can’t wait to revisit?
I will definitely visit the beach. Huntington Beach was my favorite as a kid, but since I went to San Clemente High School, T Street Beach was my teenage hang. I’ll also make sure I get as much Christakis Greek Food in Tustin and authentic Mexican food as I can and I might even make it to Disneyland!
Thanks so much Trisha for taking the time to chat with a fellow Bruin … and Broadway lover! I can’t wait to see Forbidden Broadway on Opening Night!
Forbidden Broadway plays at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa October 1-4. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30. Sunday at 6:30. Reservations: 714 556-2787
Click here to purchase tickets.
Trisha’s Bio: Broadway: Sister Act (Mary Martin of Tours, u/s and performed for Victoria Clark and Carolee Carmello as Mother Superior), The Boy From Oz starring Hugh Jackman (Liza Minnelli u/s and performed). Off-Broadway: Sessions (Mary), Her Songat Birdland, Shout! The Mod Musical, Nerds:// A Musical Software Satire (Myrtle), NEWSical the Musical (Trisha), Golf: The Musical (Trisha), Pirates of Penzance (Mabel), Forbidden Broadway (Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, etc.). Tours: The Who’s Tommy (Mrs. Walker u/s and performed), Forbidden Hollywood (Marlene Dietrich, Nicole Kidman, etc.). Regional: And the World Goes ‘Round (Woman 1), Play It By Heart (Jeannine Jasper), Date of a Lifetime (Katie Clemmons), Next to Normal (Diana), Xanadu (Melpomene), Closer Than Ever (Woman 1), Crazy For You (Irene Roth), My Ohio (Bonnie Bell), Caroline, or Change (Rose Stopnick), The Full Monty (Vicki Nichols), Evita (Eva), Cabaret (Sally Bowles), Miss Saigon (Ellen), Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey), Guys and Dolls (Adelaide), Agnes of God (Agnes). Opera: The Magic Flute (Pamina), The Combat of Tancredi and Clorinda (Clorinda). Television: Delocatedon Adult Swim. Numerous concerts and workshops including most recent: Treasure Island, a new musical, Finding Nemo, The Musical, for Disney Theatricals and Enter Laughing at the York Theater. Awards: Carol Burnett Award, Spotlight Award of the Los Angeles Music Center. Bachelor of Music degree from the University of California at Los Angeles.