There are too many nice thing to say about Heidi Blickenstaff. Eventually, it all starts to sound like hyperbole, and you feel like you’re just trying to suck up to the star of [title of show], The Little Mermaid, The Addams Family, and Now. Here. This.
But, rest assured, though we certainly have every reason to want to kiss up to Heidi, that’s not what we’re doing here. The simple facts are these: she is gorgeous, smart, unbelievably talented, and wickedly funny.
So, if she were an obnoxiously self-involved diva, you’d totally understand. You write it off as, “Well, yeah, she has a ridiculous attitude, but she deserves to have a ridiculous attitude. Let’s just shut the hell up and get her her damn green M&M’s.”
But, the thing is, she’s the kindest, most supportive, most generous person in the entire world.
We can’t wrap our heads around it, because, if we were as awesome as she is, we’d be ranting and raving and telling people they’ll never work in this town again all over the place.
Fortunately, she’s a much better person than us. Here’s a clip from our album and her thoughtful answers to some silly questions we asked her.
Buy the album on iTunes.
K&D: So, to start, can you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you first get into theater?
HB: I’m from California. Close family, parents still married, one brother. I was always singing as a kid. I was two and harmonizing with my mom as she sang songs that were meant to put me to sleep. I remember listening to Barbra Streisand albums and pressing my ear to the speaker to listen to her every inflection and I would mimic her over and over. I saw my first musical when I was about 6 and I was completely stupefied that I could actually be an actress. From that moment on, I was very focused. I was on stage by 7 and the rest in history. Performing arts high school. Drama major in college, and moved in NY the first second after I graduated from Duke University. I was very lucky. I booked my first professional job, a tour, about 6 months after I got to the city. :)
K&D: The whole [title of show] process had to be a wild ride, one that you were on board for from NYMF all the way to Broadway, playing a version of yourself. What was the most surreal part of the experience for you?
HB: For me, it’s the part where people, literally from all over the world, are playing “Heidi”. I get facebook messages from random, awesome ladies saying, “I just got cast as You in [title of show]!!” It’s completely surreal. I saw a Youtube interview with a young woman who was doing a college production of [tos] and they asked her what “Heidi” was like. She had very specific, thoughtful opinions about that. Amazing… I can’t believe that women, all over the place, spend some pretty focused time on the “Heidi” character study. It’s mind-bendy.
K&D: What are your thoughts on parallel universes?
HB: See above answer.
You’re reconnecting with the [tos] crew for the upcoming Now. Here. This. at the Vineyard Theatre. Can you tell us a bit about the show?
Like [tos], we’ve managed to create something that, once again, defies a simple definition. Sheesh. The best I can do is say it’s less like a book-musical and more like a theatri-concert. We play ourselves again, and all the stories are mined from our lives, but the structure is unique in that we bounce from story to story with a common thread that binds the evening together. That thread has to do with attempting to stay present in the moment. We’ve all become very interested in being the most authentic versions of ourselves, and something that helps is learning from our past to help us stay connected to the now. Oh my god. That answer sounds so grad-schooly. I apologize.
What’s your favorite part of the creative process?
I love my collaborators. (Susan Blackwell, Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen, Michael Berresse and Larry Pressgrove.) I love how we work together. We trust each other so implicitly and there is such respect and patience in how we come up with stuff. We’ve been doing this now for about 7 years, and there is a shorthand we have with one another. We all serve a function inside the collaboration and everyone is heard and encouraged. We’ve all had A LOT of therapy and we try to stay very open and honest and kind with each other. We also fight like siblings. (Which I love too.) You know you really love someone when you’re not afraid to fight with them. My collaboration with these people is the thing I’m most proud of in my career so far.
You played Ursula, the bad-ass sea witch in The Little Mermaid, on Broadway. Who is your favorite Disney villain, and why?
I’ve always had a boner for Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. She was terrifying to me a kid because she talked so calmly and moved so slowly but you just knew she was gonna kick somebody’s ass. She also cussed in that movie. I was NOT allowed to say ANY bad words growing up. At one point, she says something like, “Now you have to deal with me and all the powers of HELL!!!” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She scared the shit out of me.
What’s the best career and/or life advice you’ve ever been given?
I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I suffer from performance anxiety from time to time. My good friend, Andre Ward, once said to me when I was spiraling down the rabbit hole, “You’re not saving France.” I know that seems a little weird, but it’s a mantra that I have carried with me for more than a decade. To me, it reminds me that what we’re doing should be entertaining and creative and full of story-telling good times. Sometimes, I feel the weight of the world is on my shoulders. I feel so much pressure, and Andre’s advice always sobers me up and reminds me to have fun and choose ENJOYMENT! I could be digging ditches, or down a mineshaft. All due respect to those people who feel passionately about digging ditches and working in mines.
Do you remember your first New York audition?
Totes! I didn’t have my equity card yet. I was fresh out of college. I went to a required chorus call for Les Mis at the Equity building. I waited all day to maybe or maybe not be seen when the equity auditions were over. Ron LaRosa was casting. At the end of the day, he brought all of us in, there were maybe 25 of us. He then typed us in/out. So gross. I was one of about 6 that got to stay and sing 16 bars. I sang the end of “How Will I Ever Know” from Secret Garden. (I was obsessed with that show and Rebecca Luker in particular ps.) Ron was very kind to me and told me I had a very lovely voice. That was the end of it. No call back. BUT, I was proud I popped my NYC audition cherry and went to the next one and the next one and the next one. Please enjoy this mind-blowing picture taken at a Jerome Kern concert I did about 9 months ago.
What’s the most embarrassing song on your iPod?
Please. How much time do you have? ”I’m Not A Girl…”, Britney Spears? ”Buttons”, The Pussycat Dolls? ”Party In The USA”, my girl Miley. I could go on…
What/who is your favorite…
- Musical - The Light In The Piazza
- Book – To Kill A Mockingbird
- 1980′s sitcom – The Facts of Life
- Stupid youtube video - This one:
- Opening number in a musical – Good question. The tingliest I remember feeling was when I saw the original production of 42nd Street. I was about 9 and I had never felt that feeling before, like those taps were piecing through my whole life. Ugh, loved that so much.
- Kool-Aid flavor – Gross. Too. Much. Sugar. Can’t be apart of it.
- Olympic event - Summer – tie with swimming and soccer. Winter – tie with hockey and ice skating.
- Simpsons character – Maggie
- Rap song - Ice T – “Colors”
- Accent – Russian.