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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 11, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 06
Billie

Wildrick: Seattle's blonde bombshell
Arts & Entertainment
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Billie

Wildrick: Seattle's blonde bombshell

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

Vanities: The Musical
5th Avenue/ACT Theatre
Through May 1


Billie Wildrick should be a familiar face to Seattle theatergoers. Not only is she a blonde bombshell, her voice is a strong legitimate soprano that puts her directly in the spotlight. Her Seattle résumé includes roles in Smokey Joe's Café, Wonderful Town, and Into the Woods. Her roles as Dot in Sunday in the Park with George and as Claire in On the Town (both at the 5th Avenue) brought Billie into Seattle's full spotlight. The Seattle Gay News caught up with Ms. Wildrick as she prepared for her new role, the premier debut of Vanities: The Musical.

Eric Andrews-Katz: How did you get the name 'Billie'?

Billie Wildrick: Well, I was a bit of a surprise. My dad was named William Michael, and so Mom named me 'Billie.' I'm a cross-gender junior.

Andrews-Katz: At what age did the theater bug first bite you?

Wildrick: That's hard to say. I was reported singing 'Summertime' before I could walk. My mom would haul me out for party tricks, and she would hold me while I sang: 'Fith are jumpin' and the cotton too tight.' It may have been a commentary about diapers, who knows.

Andrews-Katz: Where did you get your training?

Wildrick: Again, my mom was always encouraging me to dress up for the holidays: Santa suits for Christmas; leprechaun suits for St. Patrick's Day, etc. & I did a little bit of theater growing up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. A Peter Schaller talent scout picked me, but after three or four months we decided to quit after watching some of the stage mothers and their children. My mother was not a stage mother at all.

Andrews-Katz: Musically, who inspires you?

Wildrick: My mother would sing to me each night as she rocked me to sleep; song after song of showtunes and Peter, Paul, and Mary - folk stuff. Barbra Streisand is so amazing. She has a way of tossing her resonance. If you think about voices as movement that you produce with your breath, and the vibrations&. She can toss them and sense how to sing. I think she's amazing. I also like musical Boy Choirs and Leonard Cohen. I'm in love with Leonard Cohen. 'Suzanne' was one of those songs I heard so early in my life, and there was something about him. When I'm feeling low, I play Boy's Choirs (with the St. Paul's Boy Choir, how can I keep from singing?). I'm a fan of the Seattle Men's Choir, but I've seen Captain Smartypants more than anything else.

Andrews-Katz: What was the first play you were ever in?

Wildrick: The Three Billy Goats Gruff. I was the largest of the three billy goats in pre-school. After that, it was when my sister Mary and I put on shows using our stuffed animals. Usually about six times a week, we'd do Jesus Christ Superstar (the double brown album).

Andrews-Katz: Your musical repertoire ranges from Stephen Sondheim and Jerry Herman to Stephen Flaherty and David Kirshenbaum. Do you prefer modern theater or the more classical?

Wildrick: I'd say I'm a mishmash. I love good stories and I like to tell good stories - a piece that doesn't over-dictate to you with a shapeable piece of music.

Andrews-Katz: What was/is your favorite role to date?

Wildrick: Dot. I like her best because I don't feel I did it right. I just know. It still thrills me to think about what I could have done differently. I do a show for the work, because I like the work and like to keep working. You never stop learning, there's always something new.

Andrews-Katz: What was your biggest challenge with the role of Dot?

Wildrick: My age came into it for me; ironically not when I played Marie [Dot/Marie is the duel role of young woman/grandmother]. I think I wanted to please everyone a little too much. I wanted and aimed for other people's approval. There was so much expectation on me that I looked to the director, Sam Buntrock, instead of finding it myself.

Andrews-Katz: You're getting ready to open in the musical Vanities. Were you familiar with the non-musical version before this?

Wildrick: I read it once I knew I was cast in the musical. I saw chunks of the HBO production, but not much, as I find it limits me. I think you need to read music to do musicals because if you learn from ear, you can't learn from the raw material. That [watching someone else do a role before you go on] is like standing on someone else's shoulders.

Andrews-Katz: Your character in Vanities is Mary, the 'wild child.' In what ways do you relate to your character?

Wildrick: [Snickers.] Mary doesn't do things the way they are supposed to be done, just because it's 'the way to do it.' She questions everything and is cocky enough about her own sense of style that she doesn't take rules for granted. Each question leads to another, and that leads Mary to some wild places. I want to understand and question everything. I always like having my own feet in the dirt. I relate to that as I blurt out what I think and feel. I'm a filter-less person.

Andrews-Katz: Since you've played both, which type is more challenging to play: the more experienced woman, or the innocent character?

Wildrick: The characters I have the hardest time with are the dumb ones. I'm always thinking and I think my way from point A to B to C. The characters that don't chew on things or make decisions are hard for me to understand. April from Company I loved doing, because she is smart in her own way, but not by anyone else's logic. Eileen in Wonderful Town was the easiest and a joy. She filled my life with carbonated cherry soda.

Andrews-Katz: What goals do you have for 2011?

Wildrick: Oh, I just thought of one the other day. There's a piece of writing that I want to spend time with (reworking). I want to revisit it. I also like expanding myself in other ways like playing the guitar. I like working because then you grow, and I like keeping myself challenged.

Vanities: The Musical tells the story of three friends. Beginning with high school, it follows the girls through college and beyond, testing their friendship along the way. Originally written in 1976, the play ran for over four years, and 2009 saw a musical adaptation by original author Jack Heifner and composer/lyricist David Kirshenbaum. Although a CD of the musical has been released, many songs have been rewritten and/or replaced making the Seattle debut more of a premiere.

To contact Eric Andrews-Katz, e-mail eric@sgn.org.

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