Cliffton Hall and Deedee Magno Hall have shared the stage on Broadway in Miss Saigon, toured the country together in Wicked, and this past summer starred in L.A. as Captain and Mrs. Walker in East West Players’ revival of The Who’s Tommy. As their names might suggest, Cliffton and Deedee share their lives as well, in a household that includes two young sons and (these days) Deedee’s mom, making it possible for the Halls to once again be reunited onstage, this time in the First National Tour of the Broadway hit If/Then, about to stop for a week at Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center For The Arts. Here’s our chat with the multitalented couple.
Cliffton and Deedee, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and chat. As you know, I’m a big fan of both of you! Can you tell me how your separate paths in music and theater led you to each other?
Deedee: I had been pursuing acting and singing since grade school before auditioning for and eventually being cast in The Mickey Mouse Club, my first professional job. During that time, one of the hosts of the show, Fred Newman, introduced me to a new musical called Miss Saigon. Later, while I was on tour with a singing group called The Party, I saw the production in London and fell in love with the music and the story. It was at that moment I decided I would do everything in my power to be in that show! A few months and a handful of auditions later, I was cast as Kim and started rehearsals in NYC January of 1995, and that is where I met Cliffton Hall.
Cliffton: I grew up in Hawaii where I started my entertainment career. I auditioned for the 2nd National tour of Miss Saigon in 1994, I was cast for its original company that started at the beginning of 1995. Deedee also was cast in that same company and thus our friendship began.
Cliffton as Fiyero and Deedee as Nessarose in Wicked
You’ve appeared opposite each other in Miss Saigon, Wicked, The Who’s Tommy, and now If/Then. What’s your favorite part of sharing the stage with your spouse?
Cliffton: I would have to say being able to look into her eyes and know that I can trust that I can live in the moment and get completely lost in our imaginary word that Deedee and I are in. Knowing that we both get to share what we both love to do together at the same time. And of course being so close to Deedee and listening to her amazing voice.
Deedee: This may sound corny, but holding hands while we take our bows at the curtain call is always a special moment for me. I also love that we dance a little together in If/Then!
You’ve also been in situations where your careers have kept you separated for chunks of time. What advice would you give couples who wonder how to make this work?
Deedee: After we had our second child, Cliffton was offered to go back on tour as Fiyero with Wicked for 7 months. Thank God I had family close by to help with the kids. It was difficult to be apart, but we made sure we wouldn’t go a month without seeing each other. If you want it to work, you make it work!
Cliffton: You really need to have complete trust in your relationship and in each other. You have to be supportive of each other in life and career and you have to make sure you’re on the same page with each other. There are sacrifices that you’ll have to make for each other, especially when you have a family.
Deedee, you were in the Broadway company of If/Then, which must have been very exciting, and now you get to tour the country in it with Cliffton. How do you manage to tour while raising two small children?
Deedee: To be part of the Broadway run was amazing! To be away from my kids was torture! We knew that if either of us would go on the road again, we would have to take our kids! We decided to homeschool our eldest, which is a challenge in itself, but absolutely necessary. And my sweetheart of a mother has graciously agreed to go on tour with us to help us with our boys while we are at the theater. It’s a crazy extended Family Vacation, but we’re making memories and keeping our family together and doing the best we can to keep everyone happy and comfortable.
If/Then imagines two very different paths in its lead character’s life. Has being in the show caused you to imagine how your lives would be had you not happened to meet?
Deedee: This show, without a doubt, invites all of us to ask those “what if” questions! It’s difficult not to wonder “What would’ve happened if…?” That being said, I do believe I am where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
Cliffton: Being in the show has definitely made me think about my past and has brought up a lot of If/Then moments for me. It’s neat and also scary to think about other paths we might have chosen and how different our lives would be. I can truly say that if Deedee and I hadn’t met and fallen in love I would have a completely different life than I have now. I’m not sure that I’d still be an actor had I not chosen my current path.
Do you think audiences are responding to If/Then because it makes them wonder “What if?”
Cliffton: Yes I think so. Audiences are coming to If/Then because it gets them to think “what might have been” and that can be a good thing or a bad thing. We all hope we make the right decisions, and we all know we make mistakes, but it’s hard not to think like that. It gets them to reminisce.
Besides playing various roles in the ensemble, which characters do you understudy, and have you been able to go on in any of these roles?
Deedee: On Broadway, I covered Anne, which I was able to perform three times. Here on the tour, I cover Elizabeth and Kate. I got to perform Kate in San Francisco twice, and I hope I get a chance to play Elizabeth before the end of the run.
Cliffton: I cover Stephen and Lucas. I have not had the pleasure of going on, like Deedee has, but I look forward to the day that I do.
What’s it been like for you “doing the understudy thing” in the If/Then tour?
Cliffton: Covering principle roles is something very demanding because you just never know when that first time will happen. And when it does, it feels like being shot out of a cannon. You just have to be prepared and go with the flow.
Deedee: This is my first time understudying, and I learned very quickly that it is not an easy task. I don’t know if it’s my mommy brain, but having to learn more than one part in an already complex show was/is more challenging than I ever imagined. In retrospect, it was fun to play a different character, but at the time of the performance, it was all a blur!
Cliffton and Deedee (far left) taking bows with fellow cast members Daren A. Herbert, Janine DiVita, James Snyder, and Idina Menzel
The If/Then team creative team should be saluted for casting a truly diverse ethnic mix, one that mirrors today’s society as few musicals do. How do you feel about this, and about the need for directors to think “outside the box” when casting shows?
Deedee: Most of the work I’ve done has not been race specific. I love that about If/Then, that any character can be anyone and everyone! I’m so happy and proud to be part of a company that is so colorful and diverse. I think we are seeing more of this blind casting on TV, film and stage which is wonderful!
Cliffton: I’m very excited to see the diversity on stage with If/Then. With this show the roles are not specified by race or color or ethnicity, so anyone could play these roles and it would still be a brilliant show. Art is something we need to create. I feel we need to step outside of the box here and there, especially with the world being the melting pot that it is. There are historical facts we do need to stick by, but when roles don’t call for a specific race, why not think outside the box?
Cliffton and Deedee with Araceli Prasarttongosoth in The Who’s Tommy
The two of you call L.A. home these days. What made you decide to pick the West Coast as your home base and what challenges and rewards does this offer you in your professional (and personal) lives?
Cliffton: Having been born in Oakland and grown up in Hawaii, I’d have to say the weather here on the West Coast has been a big factor in making the decision to call L.A. home. I feel that, financially, here in L.A. we are able to stretch out our dollar a bit longer than in NYC. Also, raising a family in L.A., you have much more space and it’s not as rough to get your family around the city. Even though I feel that theater is my bread and butter, it is very hard to crack the code out here in L.A. Theater.
Deedee: After Cliffton and I got engaged, we decided to leave NYC and move to L.A. and concentrate more on TV and film. For whatever reason, more theater and stage opportunities presented themselves to us and some eventually took us on the road again. We both grew up in warmer climates, and prefer the SoCal weather to the cold New York winters. But NYC will always hold a special place in our hearts!
What is one “dream role” you have yet to play and why does this role call out to you?
Deedee: I dream of being green someday! I loved playing Nessarose, but I always liked to sing along to Elphaba backstage. Eliza in Hamilton would be amazing! I’ve also longed to play Eponine or Fantine.
Cliffton: For me I’d have to say, Phantom, in The Phantom of the Opera! Ever since I got into theater I’ve dreamt of playing this role.
Is there any show you dream about appearing in opposite each other?
Deedee: Diana to Cliffton’s Dan in Next To Normal! Also, to play opposite my Fiyero hubby would be a dream come true! I’d also love to do a straight play and originate a role! Maybe write something new with Cliffton!
Cliffton: On my radar too, Dan and Diana in Next to Normal.
One last question. Do either Kaeden or Brycen show signs of wanting to carry on the family tradition?
Cliffton: Good question. (Let’s ask them!) Both can sing and act very well but neither has shown any interest in show business….which is just fine with me. Let’s hope it stays that way…
Deedee: Both of our kids are such hams for us, and have pretty good voices! They love to entertain family and close friends with their silly dances and alternate lyrics to popular songs, but they get very shy around big crowds or strangers. Kaeden is more interested in building a time machine or creating a new video game. We’re so proud of our little brainiac! Of the two, I think Brycen might be the one to carry the torch. He’s so expressive and loves to watch videos of himself. He cracks us up!
Thanks so much Cliffton and Deedee! I can’t wait to see you again on Opening Night in Costa Mesa!
CLIFFTON HALL BIO:
Broadway: A couple! Equity Nat’l Tours: A few! TV/Film: Wants more! Thanks “The One Up Above” (Philip 4:6-9), family, wife Deedee and their two Boys!!!
@Clifftonhall Soon: www.clifftonhall.com
DEEDEE MAGNO HALL BIO:
If/Then, Miss Saigon (Broadway); Wicked (Emerald City Tour); “Mickey Mouse Club;” Sister Act 2; voice of Pearl on “Steven Universe;” Singer w/ The Party & @Mama_Bares. Blessed and grateful to tour w/ hubby & sons. Thanks be to God & family.
If/Then plays at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. January 19-24. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 7:30. Saturday at 2:00 and 7:30. Sunday at 1:00 and 6:30. Reservations: 714 556-2787
Click here to purchase tickets.