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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 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






Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.
Pebble Players Presents "Heathers, the Musical: High School Edition"
(SUMMIT, NJ) -- Celebrating their 10th season, Pebble Players has been entertaining Summit residents and audiences from surrounding towns with sophisticated Off-Broadway quality performances. The 2018 Season opens with "Heathers The Musical: High School Edition," directed by Jayne Myers and choreographed by Jaimie Woodruff.  Performances are Friday, November 16 and Saturday, November 17 at 7:30pm and Sunday, November 18 at 2:00pm. 
NJPAC Presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies
(NEWARK, NJ) -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies from Thursday, March 21, 2019 - Saturday, March 23, 2019. The high-style music of “The Duke” is the heart and soul of this 1981 Tony-winning Broadway hit, directed with dazzle by André De Shields (The Wiz). Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of Duke Ellington, re-creates the original show’s elegant dancing and tapping as choreographer.
Princeton Chinese Theatre in collaboration with the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater present Teahouse by Lao She
(PRINCETON, NJ) --Princeton Chinese Theatre in collaboration with the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present Teahouse by Lao She on November 16, 17 and 18 at 8:00pm and November 17 at 2:00pm in the Donald G. Drapkin Studio at the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton campus. Teahouse is considered a masterpiece of contemporary Chinese theater, spanning 50 years in modern Chinese history from the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the Republican Revolution to the birth of the People’s Republic, bringing together over sixty characters who represent all walks of life. The production is directed by senior Changshuo Liu.
Axelrod's Rising Stars Youth Performing Arts Program Presents "Peter Pan"
(OCEAN TOWNSHIP, NJ) --  A family musical that’s perfect for the holiday season, “Peter Pan” is flying onto the Axelrod stage December 8-16. Axelrod’s award-winning Rising Stars Youth Performing Arts program presents one of Broadway’s timeless classics in a fully staged production directed by Lisa Goldfarb with musical direction by Randy Hurst and choreography by Wendy Roman.  


Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
Jennifer Fawcett’s new play centers around a mother in a kitchen, doing something countless people across America will take part in over the upcoming holiday season: making an apple pie.
See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
Leapin’ Lizards! Annie’s finally made it to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ, and it stars Broadway’s original Annie, Andrea McArdle, as Miss Hannigan!
"It's a Blast!" Go See Rock of Ages 10th Anniversary Tour NOW! at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino!
The five-time Tony award-nominated Broadway musical, Rock of Ages, returns to the stage with a 10th Anniversary Tour at Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino! Performed in the venue’s ultra-modern Sound Waves theater, Rock of Ages runs from now until November 4, 2018.
There's One In Every Family: "Charley's Aunt" at The Shakespeare Theatre
On stage now through November 18 at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, “Charley’s Aunt” is described as “part Oscar Wilde, part ‘Fawlty Towers,’ with a dash of South American spice!” This side-splitting British farce from 1892 has drag, mistaken identity, romance and plenty of physical comedy. Join Jesse and Dave at rehearsals in Florham Park to hear from the cast and director what makes this such a hilarious and enduring show.






Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


MUSIC

New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


THEATRE

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm







DANCE

PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


FILM

Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

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