QampA SingerActress Stephanie J Block Steps Out With 9 to 5 The 2009: Veteran Interviewer

QampA SingerActress Stephanie J Block Steps Out With 9 to 5 The

Veteran interviewer and pop culture chronicler Given that the original film--birthed by activist actress Jane Fonda--starred country music mega-star Dolly Parton (who penned the

hit tune for the film), it seemed natural for Parton to re-envision it as a musical and create both songs and lyrics. Though some male critics have been slow to warm to the show, it has won a growing phalanx of female fans and spurred a raft of recent nominations for Tony Awards (Best Music, Best Actress, Feature Actor and Choreography) and several Drama Desk wins (for Best Musical and Best Actress--Allison Janney). The 36-year-old Block garnered her first major nomination--from the Drama Desk for Best Actress--and though she didn't win her career has surged ahead. Q: With 9 to 5: The Musical, you define a character that everybody else will work with. You're in effect creating this character, find the right marks, and that will be the version that people are going to see. How did you to get this balance SJB: That's the challenge as an actor. Right off the bat, when you're called into an audition, there's something about you as a person, as an artist. The casting director, director, or the producer sees the character in you somewhere already. It's whether they always see the vulnerability, or "she's a powerhouse singer," or "she's a silly goofball." With 9 to 5, we have the archetypes already. They were established with the movie, although drastically different from the musical because we are singing and dancing. We've got the powerhouse woman in Lily Tomlin or Allison Janney's role--Violet Newstead. We got the sexpot with Doralee Rhodes--Dolly Parton and now Megan Hilty. And mine, Judy Bernly, is this kind of frantic, tender, fragile character that Jane Fonda made so brilliant. But in this case, [director] Joe Montello, didn't want [us] to play Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton and Lilly Tomlin. Yet we had to stay true to the script. We had to service the play, we had to serve the storyline.

Once I hit New York six years ago, [I] was playing Liza Minnelli [on Broadway on The Boy from Oz], who's this fiery creature in and of herself. She's just this amazing powerhouse of a woman. Then there was Grace O'Malley [both pre- and in the Broadway's version of The Pirate Queen], who was fiery, and she, too, had a purpose and a power. Elphaba [in both Wicked on Broadway and the first national tour], we could say the same.

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