Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of chatting with the lovely and hugely talented Rebecca LaChance. Rebecca was both a featured ensemble member in the original Broadway cast of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and also understudied Jessie Mueller in the lead role of Carole. She has since starred opposite Michael Ball in the Chichester Festival Theatre production of Mack and Mabel and has now moved to London.
Next up for her is Give My Regards to Broadway at Upstairs at the Gatehouse – a brand new musical revue celebrating Broadway’s best show tunes between 1902-1942. We spoke about training in New York City and entering the industry, her move over from the US to London and, of course, Give My Regards to Broadway.
Hi Rebecca! Thanks so much for being my first guest on the blog. So, you moved to New York City at the age of seventeen to study at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts – what was that like?!
It was definitely a big deal becoming a New Yorker. Tisch was very exciting and cool; it was very inspiring for me. It’s a really big programme, so in my year there were around 250 students in Tisch Drama, just in my studies. That breaks down into studio groups so you end up in smaller groups, but ultimately there’s just a lot of people. Not everybody’s gonna get to be in the main stage productions, not everybody’s gonna get to study in the best classes. So you really have to claw your way through to get what you can out of it, and I feel like I did do my best to do that.
Was there a big pressure to get an agent once you graduated from Tisch?
Definitely. I was lucky enough that, without getting into an NYU showcase, I was involved in the Broadway Rising Stars concert which happens at Town Hall in New York on 43rd Street. It’s actually right across from where Beautiful is so, when I was in the show later on, I thought “wow – how full circle!” as that concert was the first thing I did out of NYU. It sort of functioned like a showcase, so after that I did meet a couple of agents and people through connections from school.
I was able to get my equity card through doing a touring children’s show for a few months, so I was then able to go to the Equity auditions. They have all these required calls so it’s a really great way to meet casting directors. I very rarely would get a job from those kinds of calls, but the relationships I made with those casting directors through seeing them so frequently, like singing 32 bars with them every two months, helped a lot.
Stephen Kopel and Jim Carnahan ended up putting me in the show I did prior to Beautiful which was at Williamstown. I’d compare it to Chichester as there’s a lot of out-of-town, starting things that move to Broadway and just great regional theatre. They then put me into Beautiful and they also put me into Mack and Mabel. So meeting them was really important!
Did you ever have to have a “side hustle” to support yourself whilst pursuing your performing ambitions?
Oh I have had every single side hustle there is! There was a good chunk of time where I had literally every job in the book, and many of them at the same time. And then still struggling to pay my rent and pay my student loans, so it’s definitely not easy. In 2013, I just hit this wall… but then things suddenly turned around for me – I booked Beautiful and my whole life switched around.
What did you do when you found out you’d been cast in Beautiful?
I freaked out completely. I actually found out the night before my sister’s wedding so my mom and I were secretly celebrating that I’d got this job, but we couldn’t tell anybody because it was her day. It was a very bizarre moment.
You were in the original cast and so, for a time, it was only you and Jessie Mueller who had played Carole King. What was that like?
Yeah, for over a year. It was kind of crazy. The first time I went on was when we were still out-of-town in San Francisco. We hadn’t even frozen the show yet so we were still in development. The understudies had costumes but nothing else – you know, we knew the music, we were getting updated pages but they were changing a lot.
Do you remember the first time you went on as Carole?
It was our last day in San Francisco and Jessie [Mueller] just got sick. And she’s the biggest trooper of them all, like, she genuinely has to be so unwell to say I can’t do something, especially knowing how huge it is and what it might mean because we were sold out; it was 1500 seats sold out on our last day in San Francisco. So the Stage Manager called me, and I had been out the night before, my best friends from college were there and we were having brunch. I had, like, a grilled cheese sandwich and an apple pie with ice cream, you know – the most dairy you could put into your vocal chords possible! And suddenly I was like “Oh, I’m about to be Carole King.” Just like weeping, actually – just so many tears. I went and they were fitting my wigs and I was just crying! It was genuinely a complete feat of company ethics because everyone was there holding me up, as you almost never go offstage in that role.
It seems like Carole King herself has been pretty on board with the whole process?
Yes. She saw a reading of it and when she first came, she left at the interval and was like “It’s great – I don’t want to watch it anymore”. The end of Act One is where Gerry’s cheating on her. She had to experience that already herself, and then had to watch it again with other people doing it. But we got to meet her during rehearsals and she came and told us stories. She didn’t come and see the show until about four or five months after we’d been doing it on Broadway but once she came, she loved it. She literally came in disguise, because she doesn’t want to sit there and have people watch her, watch her! She’s got wigs and glasses…it’s amazing.
What was it like coming over to the UK to star in Mack and Mabel?
I hadn’t actually heard of Michael Ball and I think that made a much better dynamic for the show between us and really worked for our characters. Originally I’d thought it was a one-off job but I really loved London, and then being in Chichester it was this idyllic setting in the UK countryside. But really the deciding factor in staying was that I met my now boyfriend working on Mack and Mabel; he was one of the production carpenters for the show. So I decided that when the contract was up, I was gonna get a lawyer and I was gonna try and come back. And that’s what happened – I moved over at the end of February last year. I love London and we live in a suburb-y part of town, and so I have a garden and a guest room; things I would never be able to touch in New York.
How would you compare auditioning in London and auditioning in New York?
It’s pretty similar. I’d say it’s probably a bit more laid back here. There’s the ethic in New York that if you’re not off-book, you’re a fool, because there will always be someone else who is off-book. In New York, if you asked someone if they juggle they’d be like “yup!” even if they don’t, because they’d go home that night and they’d learn to juggle. Whereas if you asked someone in London, they’d more be like “Not really, I might be able to learn.” It’s great and frank, and it’s nice to not lie about your skills! But it is true that in New York you’d just be like “yup!”
We’re here, of course, because you’re about to appear in Give My Regards To Broadway at Upstairs at the Gatehouse.
Yes! I’m really excited for it, I think it’s gonna be great. Some of the arrangements are so different from what I’ve heard before so that’s gonna be really fun for the audience I think. There’s already the joy of going to see a show where you know all the songs and you’re like “Yes! I love that song, and that song, and that song!” and so to hear them in a way that’s unique to what you’ve known before is gonna be really good fun.
Do you have a favourite song you get to perform?
I think Bewitched is among my favourites. It’s just such a great song. The intro is not always used but it’s so good. With so much of Gershwin and Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hart, they have these openings to the songs…Somewhere Over The Rainbow has one too – there’s this opening that’s so beautiful (*side note* we both had a bit of a moment over this as, I too, am in love with the opening of this song…seriously check out the full version!) It’s a very time period specific thing where the lead-in melody gets chopped, but it’ll be nice to bring them out.
There’s a lot of romanticism surrounding the songs of this era (1902-1942) and these classic tunes. Would you say this is a favourite style of yours?
The things I’ve tended to do are either more jazzy or very contemporary. Not even like musical theatre contemporary, more folk-pop stuff. I’ve learned over time that my voice is not a typical musical theatre voice, which is difficult when people want it to be this thing that it’s not. I developed a show for Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York that was called Broadway: What the Folk? I loved that show – it was really fun. I developed that with my friend, Mark, and he helped make incredible arrangements and things. That’s something that is a package that exists so I would definitely be interested in doing that here.
Would you ever consider releasing an album?
I’ve been talking about releasing an album for so many years. That’s a project that would also be a labour of love with my friend, Mark, as his collaboration is just invaluable to me. We have the problem of an ocean between us at this point, which is a little bit challenging when you’re talking about developing an album..! But we’re working on it and it’s definitely something I want to do.
Finally, I’m hoping to ask everyone I interview for Rose’s Supposes this question: If you could do one thing to make the world a rosier place, what would you do?
The thing I would encourage other people to do more of is just volunteer your time. I did a tonne of volunteering in New York and I’ve always been very service-minded. One of the first things I did when I came here was reach out and found places to volunteer and it’s my favourite way to spend my time other than acting and making music. I think there are so many organisations that need help and people, myself included, are like “I don’t have money” or “I don’t know how to offer this”, but the thing you can always offer is your time. There are so many ways to do it and you can use your skill set; find the thing that speaks to you and it’s fun. If everyone put in even a few hours a month towards helping other people or giving their time to an organisation, the world would be a better place.
I, for one, will definitely be going along to Upstairs at the Gatehouse to catch Give My Regards To Broadway. It’s running between 17th July – 5th August and promises to take audiences on “an exciting journey down the Great White Way.”
For more information and to book tickets, here’s the link you need: http://www.upstairsatthegatehouse.com/give-my-regards-to-broadway
You can also follow updates of the show over on their Twitter account, which is:@BroadwayRegards
A huge thank you to Rebecca for being such a wonderful first guest here on Roses Supposes! To stay up to date with her work, her Twitter is @RebeccaLaChance and her website is http://rebeccalachance.com.
Olivia Rose 🌹