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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Deeper Dish with Hollis Resnik

Hollis Resnik is the First Lady of Chicago Theater. Yes, there are some other very talented ladies in town whose work I've greatly admired over the years, but Ms. Resnik has the edge in my book. Whenever I hear that she's in a show, I'm almost always guaranteed a grand night of theater. The actress is equally comfortable in a musical, a comedy or a drama - she can do it all. I fondly remember her as Emma in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Song & Dance, Patsy Cline in Always...Patsy Cline, Woman 2 in Jason Robert Brown's Songs for a New World, Myra in Noël Coward's Hay Fever, Charlotte in A Little Night Music, Regina in The Little Foxes, Edith Piaf in Piaf, and Big and Little Edie in Grey Gardens. She's also played the title role of Mame, Velma Von Tussle in Hairspray, Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, The Witch in Into the Woods, Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, and Eva Perón in Evita.

In addition to her many Chicago performances, Resnik has appeared in the national tours of Les Misérables (as Fantine) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (as Mrs. Meers), and her film and television credits include Ron Howard's Backdraft, The Untouchables, and the 1998-99 ABC series, Cupid. She's received eight Joseph Jefferson Awards  (Chicago's equivalent to the Tony), three After Dark Awards, and the 1992 Sarah Siddons Award for her fabulous performance in Piaf. And in 2002, Resnik released her first solo CD, Make Someone Happy, featuring such show tunes as "Unusual Way" (Nine), "Lion Tamer" (The Magic Show), "A Trip to the Library" (She Loves Me), and two songs from the 1960 Broadway musical, Do Re Mi - "All You Need Is a Quarter" and, of course, "Make Someone Happy". And beginning next month Chicago audiences will be able to see her once again onstage as the Old Lady in the Goodman Theatre's production of Candide. I am so delighted to have Hollis here on the Dish to discuss her career and answer a few pop culture questions.

Let's begin with Chicago – how did you end up here instead of New York City or Los Angeles?
A bunch of us just decided to move here after college and a year of doing free Shakespeare in the Park in Cincinnati. We were a little non-union touring group.  I started to get work so I never left.

What was your inspiration for your CD, Make Someone Happy?
I wanted to honor my parents for all the musical gifts they gave me, and I just wanted to sing songs I loved that were mostly character-driven.

Now let's discuss some of your memorable stage performances over the years. What’s the first thing that pops into your mind about:

Exhausting. Trashed my voice.

Little Shop of Horrors?
Unending joy. The perfect musical experience.

A gift. It is so special to research someone who actually lived and has quite a history. I've been lucky to do that with several great women - Eva, Piaf, Patsy Cline, the Edies - but it took me six weeks to learn all the French - first by rote and only then could I go back and begin interpreting what I was singing about. I had a lot of help.

The Little Foxes?
My favorite by far. That scary family! We had such a remarkable cast and Charles Newell as our director - and that big red staircase! We all want to revive it.

Just fun fun fun!

Were you already a fan of the film, Grey Gardens, before you played both Edies in the musical stage version? And how did you prepare for the roles?
Yes, I had seen the film - and was intrigued, of course. My prep was reading everything I could get my hands on about the Beales and then I must have watched the film 30 times. I would stop/start it and basically talk back to the TV. I was maniacal about getting her voice and dialect as correct as possible.

You starred in the play, Tour de Farce, back in 1993 with actor Steve Carell, so I have to ask – how was that experience?
I loved doing it although I broke my foot during tech and we had to delay the opening. Steve was so wonderful - and sooooo funny and creative. It was just before he moved to L.A. I doubt he remembers me now.

What is the most memorable and/or funniest moment you have had while acting onstage?
Well, the funniest is probably being onstage with Dale Benson in Moon Over Buffalo when he was playing drunk. We all had to turn upstage - it was always a Carol Burnett moment.

The most memorable - and this is bittersweet for me now - was at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse doing Guenevere in Camelot. King Arthur - played at that time by Jack Hoffman - totally went up on "What Do the Simple Folk Do?" on one of his verses - but he completely made up a new one on the spot and it even rhymed! I remember so clearly sitting across the stage from him, trying to stay in character with this look of wonder and amazement on my face. Jack is no longer with us. He passed away from AIDS some years ago. I adored him.

If you could go back and give your 19-year-old self a wise piece of advice, what would it be?
Don't worry so much.

In high school I was:

My favorite comfort food is:
Definitely pancakes.

When I was growing up, I never missed a television episode of:
The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.

Today I never miss a television episode of:
Project Runway

If I was stranded on a desert island for a year, I would want to listen to:
The Rolling Stones, Sting, the soundtrack from Cinema Paradiso, Tom Waits and Piaf.

Three of my favorite movies are:
Two For The Road, The Secret in Their Eyes and The Go-Between.

If I could star in any role in any musical or play, I would be:
Arkadina in The Seagull.

If I was asked to choose the Sexiest Man Alive, it would be:
This is so typical but George Clooney is super sexy!

If I could have anyone in the world - living or dead - be a guest at my dinner party, I would invite the following three people:
Shakespeare, Jesus Christ and Julie Christie.

What's next for Hollis Resnik?
Candide at the Goodman.

Thank you, Hollis, for getting Deeper with us here on the Dish. To learn more about Ms. Resnick, check out her website, Tickets for Candide, which will play at The Goodman Theatre from September 17 to October 24, go on sale on August 13.


R. NeWell said...

One of the classiest and yet most grounded of the Chicago Icons of acting. Great Interview Marc!

Deep Dish said...

Thanks, Bobby! And thanks for the shout-out on your Facebook page!

Bob said...

A fun read! Love me some Hollis Resnik. Can't wait to see her in "Candide!"

Anonymous said...

I saw Hollis in Philly as Edie/Edie, and she was wonderful. The CD was sold in the lobby. I've been a fan of hers for years, so I grabbed it immediately. Great CD! Chicago is lucky to have her!


Deep Dish said...

I agree, Mike, Chicago is lucky to have her! Thanks for your comment - and yours, too, Bob!