Lyric Arts had a chance to interview Noelle French, who is performing as Rhoda in White Christmas. Read on to hear what she has to say about her experience thus far! LA: Tell us a little bit about why this particular play interested you?
NF: Musical theater has been a part of my life from the time I was 9 or 10 years old, watching as many videos of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals as my Mom would buy for me. When I saw the posting for auditions for White Christmas, I prepared to audition with the hope of being cast as Betty Haynes. I loved Rosemary Clooney in the movie version, and this show reminded me of why I first fell in love with classic, CLEAN (as in, G or PGJ), wonderful musical theater.
LA: For those that are unfamiliar with White Christmas can you tell us about the show?
NF: I’m not very good at summarizing, so here goes: Bob and Phil are traveling, post-WWII performers. They intend to head to the next leg of their tour in FL, but Phil instead finagles a detour to Vermont, in pursuit of one of a pair of singing sisters. Once in Vermont, Bob and Phil discover that their former General is the owner of the Inn they’re staying at. It hasn’t snowed, so the Inn is doing poorly, as it’s supposed to be a draw for skiers and such. Bob and Phil organize to save the Inn, inviting many of their former comrades and families to attend a holiday show put on at the Inn. In the process, the guys fall in love with the sisters, and there’s definitely something going on with the General and the Inn Manager, Martha Watson.
LA: Talk about the character that you play in White Christmas. How have you developed this character?
NF: I play Rhoda, the other half of ‘Rita and Rhoda.’ She, along with Rita, is a silly, flirty show performer and always strives to be in the same vicinity as Phil. In developing this character, I’ve looked to movie icons of the 1950s, such as Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn was the ‘it’ girl of that time, and I think Rhoda tries to emulate the sensuality and appeal of Marilyn. It’s definitely a fun role, because I am SO not a Rhoda in real life!
LA: Why should people come and see White Christmas?
NF: Folks should come and see this show because it will make them happy! We performers will be having a blast, and I’m hoping that it rubs off on the audience!
LA: Talk about your fellow cast members, how do you see their characters developing? Any that you are particularly amazed at?
NF: Our director, Becky Rizzio, really cast the show well. Each person seems well-suited to their character. In particular, Regan Duffy, who plays young Susan, is tremendous! She is a gifted young performer, with a HUGE voice, wonderful acting ability, and she dances, too!
LA: What do you feel are the "wow" elements of White Christmas?
NF: I think the chorus numbers are going to be a lot of fun and high energy. Our chorus has a very full sound, and we have all been working hard with pairing the music and dance. It’ll be a great sight with wonderful sound to match!
LA: What is your favorite aspect of the show?
NF: I’ve already talked about the chorus numbers, which are fabulous, but aside from that, my favorite aspect of the show is the music. There are so many wonderful Irving Berlin songs with beautiful arrangements. In particular, I love “Blue Skies,” “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing,” “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me,” and “How Deep Is the Ocean.”
LA: Tell us what is something that you are particular excited about this show coming to together? For example, a certain scene, costumes, set, lights, etc?
NF: Just being on the stage will be exciting in itself. There is something incredible about looking out into the audience from onstage—it’s thrilling! I’m also super excited for the costumes and set, because they begin to bring the story to life!
LA: Are musicals easier or harder then straight show or comedies? If so, why?
NF: Musical theater demands more of a performer in that you not only act but also sing and dance. As a musical theater performer, you’re not only memorizing lines, you’re memorizing songs and choreography, and often you’re doing all three at once!
LA: What is your favorite musical to watch?
NF: I think the one I’ve seen more times than any other is Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
LA: What is your favorite thing to do around the holidays?
NF: I love being with my family, cooking, baking, and singing. We always gather around the piano at my parent’s home, my Mom playing and all of us singing Christmas songs.
LA: Which do you like better White Christmas the movie or the stage version?
NF: I like both! I will always love the movie for the nostalgic performances of Bing, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen, but the stage version has higher energy, more fun characters, and many more songs than the movie version.
LA: To date what is your favorite role that you have played and why?
NF: I played Mammy Yokum in a production of Li’l Abner, and I think I had such a blast playing her because, for one, it was a challenge. I was 20 at the time and playing an elderly woman with a ton of spunk. I really took on a different persona for the role, had to develop the funny gait that she has, and worked on my backwoods accent. Playing Mammy was a chance to be uninhibited and improper, and it was great fun!
LA: What is your dream character to play on stage?
NF: I’ve sung the part of Eliza Doolittle for a lead who lost her voice, but I’ve never fully played the character and would love to. I’d also love to play Magnolia (Noli) Hawks in Show Boat.
LA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
NF: My husband, Paul, and I have a house in Crystal and a 2-year-old Shih Tzu named Aggie, I work at Carlson School of Management, I take private voice lessons, Paul and I are members of Cross of Glory Baptist Church, and I have a Bachelor of Science in Social Sciences and Clinical Psychology from Northwestern College. Along with singing, I’ve taken 12 years of classical piano, I used to play the alto sax, and I love cooking and watching Masterpiece Theater
LA: Any other area that you would like to comment on?
NF: This is the first musical theater production that I’ve been a part of in quite some time, and I am truly impressed with the level of talent represented in the White Christmas cast. I’m also truly impressed by the caliber of Lyric Arts productions. This is a very professional Community Theater!