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An Interview With Sarah Litzsinger

By Gary Wien

The Last Five Years is a musical love story from Tony-Award winning composer Jason Robert Brown (Parade, Songs for a New World) that chronicles a young couple's romance ó with her story starting at the end of their relationship, and his beginning on the day they met. The George Street Playhouse revival brings Sarah Litzsinger and Colin Hanlon back to New Brunswick a year after they starred in the immensely successful play tick,tick...BOOM! I was able to talk with Sarah about the play and her career.

Last year you and Colin Hanlon were part of a pretty successful run in tick, tick... BOOM! What's it like to have two central cast members brought back for a different role?
It's amazing! Colin and I knew last year that we were going to do The Last Five Years this season, and we have been looking forward to it all year. It's been just such a pleasure both last year and this year. It's almost like being part of a family. I think it's a rarity when you're working in theatre when you find a group of people that you really adore and love working with.

So you knew about this role during that run as well?
Yeah, actually Colin would warm up before tick, tick... BOOM! with the song "Moving Too Fast" from this show and David (Saint) would ask Colin, "What are you singing?" So, Colin was sort of the one who brought it to David. He said, "I love this musical. It's really great and you should hire me and Sarah." I think David had listened to the CD and was already considering it and then when we expressed interest in it he was quick to ask us if we wanted to come back this year and do it.

So, was it pretty easy to get the chemistry going again this year?
Definitely. The great thing with Colin and I is that we played boyfriend / girlfriend last year, so it was an easy jump to play a married couple - we already had that existing chemistry together. And also with David. We had stayed friends over this past year and we all have a very similar sense of humor, so it really doesn't seem like work. We'd be laughing half the day and coming up with ideas for things we were going to do. It just didn't seem like work, which is the best possible scenario.

What's it like working with someone like David Saint, who is really the guiding force for a theater?
It's amazing. This year was even better because we had already established our relationship together and we could create chemistry together. So from the first day of rehearsal it was already fun. And I think David is really brilliant. He always comes up with great ways and unexpected ways of telling a story. Of course, I was imagining how I was going to do this number or that number in my head because The Last Five Years are basically just words in the script. It doesn't really tell you where they are or what they're doing. And David came to us with all of these great ideas and just made it really exciting.

You've been on Broadway several times in roles like Beauty & The Beast and Les Miserables, how is a theater like George Street different in your eyes?
Basically the money is on Broadway - especially if you're playing a lead on Broadway.

Or in a Disney production...
Exactly! Disney was great to me and they treated me very well, but I really like working at George Street because to me David always picks pieces of theatre that are a little bit edgier and maybe look at the darker side of things. As an actor, it's really challenging and interesting to play. The types of shows that he picks for George Street are things that sort of make you think. It's maybe something that doesn't necessarily have a happy ending or a fairy-tale ending. He's interested in looking at all those different sides of life. I think that's why The Last Five Years interested him. It is sort of an edgier piece. It looks at a contemporary couple and the trials and tribulations that they go through. When I'm here I feel like it's my chance to sort of stretch myself and I feel really safe here.

How would you describe the music in the play?
We have a six-piece band and it's all acoustic music. There are a couple of cellos, a violin, acoustic guitar, piano and bass. There are no drums in the show and the orchestrations are absolutely gorgeous. What's interesting about the orchestration is that they rarely play the melody of what the singer is singing. So, they sort of fill in the blanks. You'll hear this violin going crazy behind the vocals and they have their own voices. It sounds like there's many people behind us playing when it's only six of them. To me, Jason Robert Brown's music is so actable. He reminds me of a pop Sondheim. It's interesting and difficult at times. His music, to me, is unexpected - it doesn't go where you think it's going to go. But his songs are totally singable and actable. You have to use a lot of your range when you're singing it, but I love it. For any musical theater actor or performer that loves to sing in a contemporary style this is the music to sing. I think a lot of people in the community who have these types of voices would grab at the chance to sing his music because it's just so beautiful.

You started out very young on Broadway. I know you probably wanted to do this for a career, but did everybody tell you that it was going to be too difficult to act for a living?
I think that I was really fortunate because I started singing when my parents got me the record of Annie when I was six. I was a really good mimic and started singing to the record. One day my parents thought it was the record playing, but it was me singing. They were sort of blown away and like "what are we going to do?" I kind of forced my parents into the business. I had 100% interest in being on stage, wanting to sing, and wanting to be up there. So my parents started taking me to auditions and I had an agent discover me when I was 10 years old.

It was basically my hobby, but my parents had a New York agent tell them that I had the talent and the ability to do this on a larger scale. So they just kind of went along with it and I just ended up getting jobs. I think I was really fortunate because I had a lot of success at a very young age. And after I graduated from high school I moved out here to New York City permanently.

A lot of people say I moved out to New York at such a young age, but I think it's easier to move to New York when you're 18 because you don't know as much. I think you learn a bit more in your 20s and I think it would be harder to move there if I was 26 or 27 with a little more knowledge in me. Those fears of "what if I don't make it" - well at 18 I thought I was going to make it. I think I was just more fearless at that age and it was probably the best thing for me.

How is being in a limited run as The Last Five Years different from your stints on Broadway, which lasted for quite some time?
Well, this past year I've been doing tons of new pieces and regional theatre - just different shorter gigs that I've really enjoyed. I've usually been locked into things - I did Beauty and the Beast for three years and I did Les Miserables for a long time. This is the first time in my career that I've sort of jumped around to different jobs, but I've really enjoyed the variety of work. Working in a long running show is a challenge in itself, but jumping from role to role is great because you get to explore different parts of yourself.

For more by this author, click here

The Panto Company Presents "Beauty and the Beast" at The Newton Theatre
(NEWTON, NJ) -- When you think of a dying rose and a clock, candlestick andteapot who talk... you are thinking Beauty and the Beast. One of this season's spellbinding family shows from The Panto Company USA stars Dame Dotty Potty, Loopy Louie, Gaston, Belle and of course The Beast!  The company brings their show to The Newton Theatre on Sunday, March 3 at 3:00pm.
La Strada Ensemble Theater Presents "La Bella Familia" by Edwin Sanchez
(OCEAN GROVE, NJ) -- La Strada Ensemble Theater presents La Bella Familia by Edwin Sanchez from January 18-20.  The play deals with a Puerto Rican hit woman and the gentlest man in the world move next door to the neighbors from hell and everyone learns, the hard way, that family comes first.
Art House Productions Presents "The Passion Project" by Reid Farrington
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Art House Productions presents the unique theatrical experience that is Reid Farrington‚Äôs The Passion Project performed by Laura K. Nicoll.¬† Eight performances will take place from February 21st to March 3rd. The Passion Project is a 30 minute vibration between performance, film, and installation. Carl Th.Dreyer‚Äôs 1928 immortal masterpiece, ‚ÄúThe Passion of Joan of Arc‚ÄĚ is the main narrative along with the history behind the making of the film, a discussion with a Danish archivist, the story of making this project, as well as Joan‚Äôs own story ‚Äď‚Äď her trial, torture, and execution. The Passion Project explodes the film into the three dimensions; placing the audience inside the film, sitting next to Joan, subjecting them to the relentless rhythm of 35 mm film projection.
4th Wall Theatre Presents "Intimate Apparel" by Lynn Nottage
(MAPLEWOOD, NJ) -- 4TH WALL THEATRE continues its 22nd season with a one weekend run of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel.  The show will be presented as part of the Black History Month celebrations on February 22, 23, and 24 at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts in Maplewood, NJ.  The show is directed by 4th Wall Executive Director Gwen Ricks-Spencer.
East Lynne Theater, the Henry Sawyer Inn, and Twin Gable's Inn present Murder Mystery Weekends
(CAPE MAY, NJ) -- The award-winning East Lynne Theater Company, with The Henry Sawyer Inn and Twin Gables Inn, present Murder Mystery Weekends on February 15-16, March 8-9, March 22-23, March 29-30, and April 5-6. Participants can test their crime-solving skills while staying in one of these lovely Bed & Breakfasts. East Lynne Theater Company's Murder Mystery Weekends were cited among one of the top five in the country by "AM NY."  

It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared. Those are often the most powerful.
Rise of the Goatman
Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13.¬†In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‚ÄėGoatman‚Äô in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same ‚Äúmythological‚ÄĚ creature - that could be holding them back in life.
PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run now through December 30. 
REVIEW: "It's A Wonderful Life" At Mile Square Theatre
Nestled in a corner of Hoboken, on the second floor, lies the studios of radio station WMST.¬†¬†It‚Äôs a wonderful art deco studio, replete with fine wooden walls, embedded with colorful lights an applause sign.¬†¬†On stage, we‚Äôve got a few chairs, several microphones and a whole corner wedged with all the necessary props ‚Äď piano, men‚Äôs shoes, sheet metal ‚Äď to create the audio effects for the production of ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a Wonderful Life.‚ÄĚ
Betsy Aidem Puts A Woman's Touch On George Street Playhouse's "A Doll's House, Part 2"
Betsy Aidem is a veteran actress you might have seen on Broadway. Or maybe on an episode of ‚ÄúLaw & Order: SVU.‚ÄĚ Or maybe on the big screen last year in ‚ÄúThe Greatest Showman.‚ÄĚ But over the next few weeks in New Brunswick, Aidem is adding a brand-new section to her r√©sum√© ‚ÄĒ¬†by helming¬†a sequel (of sorts) to a classic play that‚Äôs more than 100 years old.

Event calendar
Thursday, Jan 17, 2019


Open Mic Night! @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 7:30pm


"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm


AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

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