2014 Best Supporting Actress in a Musical or Opera Nominee Interview: Jennifer Beth Glick as Penny Pingleton in Wheelock Family Theatre's "Hairspray"

Before we announce the winners of the 2014 ArtsImpulse Theatre Awards, we are proud to present our Nominee Interviews. 

NOTE: If you or your production was nominated for a 2014 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in a Nominee Interview, please email us here. 

Photo by John Isaacson

Photo by John Isaacson

Jennifer Beth Glick as the energetic and sweet Penny Pingleton was one of the many outstanding parts of Wheelock Family Theatre's 2014 production of Hairspray.  In addition to being a talented dancer, singer, and actress, Jennifer also works as a trusts and estates lawyer; with a mixture of the analytical and creative, Jennifer brings intelligence and passion to each of her roles.  In this Interview, Jennifer discusses her history as a theatre orphan, her diverse 2014 performances, and her expected delivery this month! 

Jennifer, tell us a bit about yourself and your performing history.

At age 7, I made my theatrical debut in Camp Matoaka’s production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  I was cast in the pivotal role of Dopey and I had one line (“My name is…um, um, Dopey, that’s right, Dopey”), which I delivered with passion and aplomb.  My childhood and early teen years involved a series of Annie productions, culminating with a role in the pre-Broadway flop, Annie 2: Miss Hannigan’s Revenge, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. 

During high school, Wheelock Family Theatre ("WFT") became my home away from home.  There, I had the opportunity to play a variety of British heroines, including Sara Crewe in A Little Princess, Wendy Darling in Peter Pan, and Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden.  After a three-year stint in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I received my law degree, I returned to Boston.  As a young associate at a large law firm, I spend my days in the office and my evenings on stage.  I have been pursuing a career as a singing, time-stepping attorney ever since.

As a fellow lawyer, I’m fascinated by what draws you to performing and the stage.  Has your legal training ever helped you win a role or play a part onstage?

I think it’s very much a “yin and yang” phenomenon.  Somehow, the analytic, lawyerly part of my brain thrives when I’m engaging the more creative side of my mind, and vice versa.  I have yet to use my legal training onstage, though I would like to think my “trial advocacy” and “litigation” law school classes helped me hone my improv skills.  One of these years, I’ll mount a one-woman production of Legally Blonde

What have been some of your favorite roles?  Why?

This year, I had the chance to play two of my favorite roles to date, Penny in Hairspray and Eponine in Les Misérables.

Penny was not such a stretch for me – we have a lot in common.  I remember my awkward teenage years quite vividly (and, sometimes, I feel like I am still living them).  Like Penny, music and dance were the ultimate escape for me and a source of increased confidence and self-definition.  As an actress, it was an absolute treat to chart Penny’s evolution over the course of a two-hour musical.  Though she begins the show constrained by her shyness and physically confined by her mother, by the end, she has literally found her own voice and is not afraid to belt it out.

Eponine is a role that I have wanted to play since I donned my first Annie wig.  Coincidentally, the theatre where I played Annie at age 9 (The Company Theatre) is where I returned this summer for Les Misérables.  Eponine’s story of unrequited love has always resonated with me, as I think it does with most people who have seen the show or read the book.  She is damaged in so many ways and, yet, there is this intense streak of purity – unadulterated love – that cannot be contaminated by the literal or figurative filth that surrounds her.  Playing the part was admittedly quite tricky because you run the risk of devolving into a cliché, especially given audience members’ expectations and the many interpretations of the role over the past twenty-five years.  So, in addition to it being one of my favorite roles to date, it was undoubtedly one of my most challenging. 

What do you consider to be your strongest talents?  Do you have any secret or hidden talents?

I have been told that I am a culinary genius when it comes to Kraft macaroni and cheese (and a culinary failure in every other regard).  Also, I can sing, tap-dance, chew gum, and twirl a baton at the same time (my mother has VHS proof).

What is at the center of a Tootsie Pop?

I’m not sure, but I will gladly spend the rest of my days trying to figure it out.

What was the best part about being in Hairspray?  Why do you think that audiences and reviewers connected so strongly with this production?

There was so much to love about WFT’s production of Hairspray – the infectious music, the gorgeous (and absolutely exhausting) choreography, the creative direction, not to mention the enormously talented and quirky players in the cast.  The story itself is universal and you can’t help but become invested in the characters (even the not-so-nice ones).  I think everyone involved in the production brought their “A-Game” to the table and the stakes were raised higher and higher. 

For me, the best part about being in Hairspray was watching the audience members dancing in their seats during the final number.  The worst part about being in Hairspray was unwittingly losing my skirt during said final number, watching the audience erupt into laughter and remaining clueless as to what was so funny (I told you Penny and I are a lot alike). 

Miscast!  What are some roles or songs that you would love to sing if given the opportunity (disregard race, age, gender, or voice type)? 

Any part played by Bob Saoud. 

I recently saw Michael C. Hall in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  That would be an incredible role to tackle. 

Who are your acting or performing role models or icons?

Barbara Streisand, Kathy St. George, and Miss Piggy.

If you were snowed into a cabin in the woods, who would you want to be with you?  What would you do?

My husband and my son.  They are a source of constant entertainment :) 

Is there any song lyric that describes your life at the current moment?

“Oooh my feet, my poor, poor feet” – The Most Happy Fella.  I should qualify that by adding that I am 37-weeks pregnant.

Do you have any upcoming theatrical productions or projects?

Our baby girl is due at the end of the month.  We anticipate that she will be a theatrical production unto herself, but I will look forward to getting back on the stage in the not-too-distant future.

Do you have anything else that you wish to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

Thank you for supporting Boston theatre and embracing WFT!