2015 Best Leading Actress in a Musical: Lori L'Italien as Miss Adelaide in Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston's "Guys and Dolls"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series. 

Photo Credit: Tess Johnson

Photo Credit: Tess Johnson

NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com

Lori L'Italien won our hearts and ears with her brilliant and nuanced portrayal of the iconic role of Miss Adelaide in Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston's Guys and Dolls. Her strength and conviction was displayed in her interactions with Nathan Detroit, but also when she sang her solos to the audience, captivating us with her inner struggle to get the man she loved, despite societal limitations.  And there was no limit to Lori's voice, exhibiting superior control and range, especially in her "Adelaide's Lament." In her Interview, Lori describes her interpretation of Miss Adelaide, her vocal training (and her newest educational pursuit), what she would change about Greater Boston theatre, and her many upcoming projects (see below to catch a class act!).

Hi, Lori, and thank you for interviewing with us at ArtsImpulse.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi there, Boston theatre scene. I’m Lori, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to interview with ArtsImpulse. I’m originally from Maine, but I have been a proud Bostonian for the past 10 years.

Tell us about your role as Miss Adelaide in Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s Guys and Dolls.  What is her story?  How did you approach the role?  What were the challenges?

As you probably know, Adelaide has been engaged to her fiancé, Nathan Detroit, for fourteen years. She’s tried just about everything to try to get him to settle down, to no avail. Adelaide is such an amazing character and I’m lucky enough that this was my second time getting to portray her.

Miss Adelaide (Lori L'Italien) and her Hot Box Girls in Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston's Guys and Dolls (Photo Credit: Herb Philpott). 

Miss Adelaide (Lori L'Italien) and her Hot Box Girls in Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston's Guys and Dolls (Photo Credit: Herb Philpott). 

I’ve always related to Adelaide and loved her quirky, spunky character. My own boyfriend and I were together for 13 years before getting married. Funny enough, he popped the question about a week after I closed my first Adelaide (I guess it was a good hint). So, the show and the character will always hold a special place in my heart.

It was important to me that my portrayal of Adelaide grew from the last time I played her. I wanted her to be a strong, independent woman who knows what she wants and is willing to fight for it. I find that too often Adelaide is played as a “dumb blonde.” She’s not dumb at all; in fact, she’s incredibly clever. She knows what works and what will jab Nathan right in the heart. Her tactics might be a little unusual but she truly loves Nathan and everything comes from the best of intentions.

What roles have you played that you have identified with most strongly?

Aside from Adelaide, my favorite role has been Lucille Frank in Parade with The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company (RIP). Lucille is an incredibly strong character, perhaps far more so than her husband. She does what needs to be done to see that her husband gets fair treatment and the false evidence from the trial thrown out. In that day and age, when a woman’s job was to stay home, cook and have babies, what an incredible amount of strength it took for her to confront the authorities of Georgia. I loved her story and her strength and it didn’t hurt that I had a fantastic Leo to partner with, and an amazing cast and director.

How would audience members, reviewers, and teachers describe your voice and “type.”  Do you feel like you have a type?

Um . . . Big? Haha! Well, that has been the question for the last 12 years! My history with my vocal training has been incredibly varied, but, in the end, I’m grateful for the training because it’s given me a very versatile voice.

In high school, I sang tenor in the choir, and I had zero head voice but a heck of a belt. When I got to undergrad, I only sang classical soprano in my voice lessons. I remember asking for a musical theatre piece and my teacher gave me “My White Knight,” from The Music Man (not what I had in mind!). I then went to get a Masters in Opera Performance before coming back to musical theatre. While I consider myself a mezzo/belter, I feel very comfortable in the soprano register of musical theatre thanks to my operatic training.

Tell us about your training and education.  How have they prepared you as a professional?  What have been some of the most valuable lessons?

It’s been a long road to find what I really want to do with performance, but I feel like I’m finally on the right path. I went to University of Maine for a Bachelor in Music Education, and then I taught music in a middle school for two years. I enjoyed teaching but I wasn’t completely fulfilled. I missed performing.

Thanks to a summer-stock experience at Hackmatack Theatre in Berwick, Maine, and the encouragement of a friend, I auditioned for graduate school in June (way after any auditions or applications were due). I sang for the director of the program and she said, “Okay, You’re coming here in the fall!” My boyfriend (now husband) and I packed up our lives and moved to Boston and I got my Masters in Music in Opera Performance at Longy School of Music.

I performed for about 2 years in the area and was doing pretty well for myself, but I wasn’t completely in love with the music. I never loved practicing opera as much as I loved practicing musical theatre. So, after a particularly wretched round of classical auditions, I auditioned for a production of Cabaret in Saugus and I got Sally Bowles. I haven’t looked back since.

Miss Adelaide (Lori L'Italien) plans how to win a wedding proposal from Nathan Detroit in Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston's Guys and Dolls (Photo Credit: Herb Philpott).

Miss Adelaide (Lori L'Italien) plans how to win a wedding proposal from Nathan Detroit in Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston's Guys and Dolls (Photo Credit: Herb Philpott).

This is the music that really speaks to me and that I love to sing. I’m now pursuing my Masters of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre at The Boston Conservatory. It’s an amazing program and is really helping me fill in the gaps in my training. I had plenty of music and voice knowledge, but I had never actually taken an acting class or a dance class, which you obviously need in musical theatre. All the going back and forth from one genre to another (and getting older) has really helped me realize that if I’m not doing what I absolutely LOVE, then what’s the point? Let’s face it, none of us get into it for the money, so if I’m going to be broke, I may as well be happy and broke!

Do you have any mentors?  Who inspires you?

This is hard! So many! My voice teacher, Kevin Wilson, is incredibly grounding and has really helped me realize that I need to just get off my butt and do what makes me happy instead of being afraid of everything.

I’m inspired by anyone who pursues theatre as a career. It’s incredibly scary to give up stability, and consistent work to follow your dreams and make art, but, man, there is no better feeling in the world that I’ve found.

I’m also insanely inspired by my students. It’s like working with a fresh slate. They are excited and driven and ready to work every rehearsal. You get to help them practice and build their craft and inspire them to enjoy something you love. It’s a great opportunity to say, “Hey, if I could do it over again, what would I want to learn/know/do/create?” I’m constantly learning from them.

What do you do to relax?  What are some of your guilty pleasures?

I’m a huge nerd. My husband and I love craft beer and checking out breweries in the area. We also both love nerdy games (Catan, Dominion, Carcassone, etc.) and nerdy fantasy books. I love the adventure and fantasy of transporting myself to another world. I guess it’s just another way of “playing pretend.”

If you could change one thing about the Greater Boston theatre community, what would it be?  Why?

This is easy, money, space, and support. I really wish there was more support for the small fringe companies in the area. Recently, two of my favorite companies to work with, The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company and Woodland Theatre Company had to close due to finances. These two companies were producing some AMAZING theatre and had been recognized alongside much larger theatres with MUCH bigger budgets, but, because they had to rent smaller venues or were a little further from the city, it was hard to pull in audiences.

I have this dream to buy this old gas station lot down the street from my apartment and build a huge theatre, rehearsal and storage place that could be available at an affordable rate or through a government grant for smaller fringe companies. It’s so hard to find affordable space that companies are spending all of their resources on rentals instead of on attracting new audiences and pulling in new talent. Maybe if I win the lottery someday . . .

What is something that most people don’t know about you?  What is something that you wish that people knew about you?

Hmmm. I guess people are always surprised when they learn that my husband and I have been together for 15 years. We met in choir in college, when we were both 19 and have been together ever since. I’m insanely grateful for his support.

I also love 80s hair bands! haha! I guess that’s something not a lot of people know . . . I think?

Miscast!  What are some roles that you wish that you could play, but because of gender, age, ethnicity, etc., you might never get the opportunity to play?

YES! So many of my dream roles, I won’t be eligible for another 15 years: Mama Rose in Gypsy, Mrs. Lovett in Sweenedy Todd, Ursula in Disney's The Little Mermaid.

But, for Miscast, I’d LOVE to play Kim in Miss Saigon, Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd, and George in Sunday in the Park with George. I’d also love to play Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie, but, let’s be real, that ship has sailed.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

Quite a few! I’m singing this Friday, February 12, 2016, with North End Music and Performing Arts Center in their annual Valentine's Concert Amore: American Love Songs.

On February 20, 2016, I’m heading up to Maine to sing for a University of Maine Singers Fundraiser Concert in Windham, Maine. I’m singing in MetroWest Opera’s Friendraiser at Club Cafe Boston on February 22, 2016. I’m performing in The Vagina Monologues at The Boston Conservatory on February 24 & 25, 2016. I’m also going to be performing the role of Anne in Jake Heggie’s To Hell and Back with The Boston Conservatory Student Opera on April 22 & 23, 2016.

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

Thank you so much for including me in such an amazing group of nominees and for the fun interview! What an amazing community we have in Boston and I’m thrilled to be a part of it!