Thursday, July 13, 2017

Spotlight On...Jessica Tyler Wright

Name: Jessica Tyler Wright

Hometown: Green Bay, WI (And I'm a SERIOUS Packers fan, going so far as being a season ticket holder AND an owner/shareholder.)

Education: BFA in Musical Theatre and a BM in Violin Performance from Millikin University
Select Credits: Broadway - 2005 Sweeney Todd, 2006 Company, LoveMusik, War Horse. NYCO - Candide (Paquette) both 2008 and 2017. Classic Stage Company - Allegro (Lortel Nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical.)

Why theater?: I was cast as Annie in a local production when I was 11 and instantly fell in love.  (And, I'll be honest - I was also the kid who passionately sang cereal commercials around the house at the top of my lungs, much to the dismay of my entire family.)  But what REALLY sealed the deal was hearing the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack as a teenager.  Oh, I was HOOKED.

Who do you play in Play Like a Winner?: I play Kathy who is mother to Jenna, a tweenager who is entering the highly competitive world of girls soccer.

Tell us about Play Like a Winner: Play Like a Winner is a wildly entertaining comedy, but it also explores two very relevant themes: How far one is willing to go in order to achieve success, and how do you raise a young girl to be have self confidence, self awareness and an inner strength without crossing the paper thin line into being bossy or a bully.

What is it like being a part of Play Like a Winner?: I honestly LOVE going to rehearsals, and the reason is threefold.  For one, it is always very exciting and fulfilling to be involved with the development of a brand new work.  The second is that Erik Johnke (book and lyrics), David Wolfson (Music) and Kevin Connors (Director) have created a wonderfully fun and collaborative environment, and they are always open to hearing thoughts and suggestions that my help further strengthen and develop not only the human side of these comical characters but the general storytelling as well.  The third reason I absolutely love rehearsals is that it is simply a great piece.  They've assembled a phenomenal cast of actors with killer voices to sing some truly beautiful and exciting new music.  These are songs I guarantee will be hummed and sung long after the curtain has come down.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: There isn't any specific genre of theatre that speaks to me.  The kind of theatre that inspires me is the kind that successfully tells a story.  It doesn't matter if it is in a black box with a minimal set or if it is in a grand opera hall with a stunningly high production value.  As long as the production remembers the point to doing a show, which is to tell a good story and to tell it honestly, then I'm hooked.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: That's a question I'm often asked, only it's usually worded, "what's your dream role?"  I realized that when it's posed that way, my answer is Annie.  Seriously!  Like I mentioned above, I had the good fortune to play that character at the ripe old age of 11 back in Wisconsin.  To date, I still get a lump in my throat when I hear the song "Tomorrow" or when I see another young actress who, like myself, is fully committed to the honesty of telling Annie's story.  It would be a dream to relive that moment and explore the role of Annie now, after years of study.  But, as that is something only possible in my dreams, in the world of reality, I would love to play Mother in Ragtime, Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera, and pretty much any leading lady soprano from the classic musical theatre genre.

What’s your favorite show tune?:  To be honest, I'm currently in LOVE with a brand new song written for Play Like a Winner called "You're the Only One."  It is GORGEOUS.  Otherwise, I have to say I always have such a difficult time picking favorites because there is a WEALTH of fantastic musical theatre tunes out there.  I can say with certainty, pretty much ANYTHING written by Stephen Sondheim is a win for me.  Also anything written by Jason Robert Brown, Maltby and Shire, classics by Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, Leonard Bernstein...  I could go on and on.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I don't think anyone should ever stop learning and fine tuning their craft.  People I admire, could learn a great deal from and would honestly be starstruck by are actors like Judy Dench, Tom Hanks, Sally Fields, Sir Ian McKellen, Meryl Streep and Angela Lansbury.  And while gone, I would have loved to have met and worked with Alan Rickman and Robin Williams.  Can you just imagine the wealth of showbiz knowledge between all of these legends?  Not to mention the stories!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Oh wow, this one is tough.  I think that either Jodie Foster or Katherine Heigl would be good choices in casting.  Both not only for their acting, but also because I've been told those are my celebrity look-alikes.  Funny side story - When Facebook announced "doppelgänger  week", I posted a picture of Jodie Foster as my profile picture.  I had at least a dozen friends tell me they liked my new headshot.  And, close friends too!  As far as a title, I've never boasted myself to be clever in this department so if I really had to, I'd outsource this responsibility.  But for the sake of answering your question, I'd like it to have the idea of "Never give in" or "Just Keep Believing".  This career can test your resolve and mine has been tested a few times over.  I never give in, never give up, and I never stop believing in myself.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: There are many, but a standout is the original A Chorus Line.  The show was born from the experiences of people just like me and I would love to have seen the original actors who were most directly connected to the character's stories perform those roles.  As I understand, the song "What I Did For Love" isn't a love story between two people, but rather a performer's reflection on what we do for the love of our career.  That resonates quite deeply with me, so it'd be thrilling to see the original company sing their anthem.  And, I have the very good fortune to call Donna McKechnie my dear friend, and I'm certain it would have been thrilling to have seen her dance and sing "The Music and the Mirror" live.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: If I have a friend who hasn't seen it yet, then Phantom of the Opera will always be a top pick for me.  I was the high schooler with a Michael Crawford poster on my wall, both the film and stage masks hanging above it, the cd on 24/7...  it was the show that solidified my love affair for musical theatre and I am STILL taken under its spell with goosebumps when I hear that very first pipe organ chord.  

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I don't have a lot of free time these days, so when I DO have a moment, I seriously have no guilt catching up on my DVR.  Either that or curling up with a really good book.

What’s up next?: I recently sang in a developmental premiere of a wonderful new opera by Ted Rosenthal called Dear Eric, so I look forward to seeing where that may lead.  And there are other performance opportunities simmering "on the back burner", but I'll keep my website up to date with any further developments on those projects.

For more, visit