We spoke to Emily Padgett about playing Helene in The New Group's revival of Sweet Charity...
From the moment we go into the theater and we see Georgia Stitt and her band, it becomes evident that this is a truly girl-power version of Sweet Charity, can you talk about what it’s like to be surrounded by all these incredible women?
Between Sutton and Leigh, they both have such a strong point of view in the story they wanted to tell, Leigh wanted an all-female band and to see an environment that was darker, and more truthful about what these women were going through. Leigh is fearless, she wanted to tell a specific story, she gives no apologies and is creating art, which is very exciting to be a part of.
This version is so gritty, we see Helene and the other girls for example, be much more honest about where they are in life. How was it like to work on the character this way?
There wasn’t anything coy about these women, the environment they worked in was really tough, Charity is like the little sister to the women, they love her, but also see her optimism as the reason why she gets into trouble. In “Baby Dream Your Dream” they say everything sounds great, but even if they got it, it might turn to shit again. They just can’t get out of this situation, they’re stuck in this cycle. The song is heartbreaking because even though everyone wants their fairy tale, the other women have given up.
Has it been harder to do the show after the election, given it depicts how terribly men can treat women?
The day after was tough. We were in previews, we came in, everyone was upset, it felt hard to be at work at that day, we talked and realized the people who were coming to the show that night would be so grateful to escape. We took comfort and pride in that. Leigh said she’d never been more sure this was the right time to tell the story of this play. We held tight and were happy to make art for people after that day.
"Big Spender” is one of the greatest numbers in all of musical theatre. I dreamed of doing it when I was a little boy, can you brag about how great it is to be in it?
It’s really great we get to do it in that intimate space, we make eye contact with people and move all over the house. It’s exciting for us because we feel the energy of people who love the show, it’s a fun number, it establishes the environment and sets the mood for the evening. It’s everything you’d think it would be.
Your comedic timing in Bright Star was impeccable, what’s your formula?
I try a lot of things in the rehearsal process, I try to ground it in truth and try to avoid the cheap laughs, although sometimes I can’t help myself. I love catchy one liners, working with Jeff Blumenkrantz who is such a comedic genius was great too. It’s mostly trial and error though, I try some things, sometimes I’m not trying and they laugh, sometimes they laugh at things I wasn’t expecting.
You were extremely moving in SideShow too, do you prefer one genre over the other?
I like to do a little bit of everything, what was great about SideShow was I could be in a show that I knew was breaking people’s hearts, but I knew I could find the comedy in tragedy. I love doing that. I’m fortunate that I can cast a wide net in the roles I get to play so far, I like to mix it up and challenge myself, if I was doing the same thing over and over again I’d be bored.
Are you interested in plays too?
Yes, especially after working with Leigh who does many plays. I’d love to do one within the next year.
You’ve never done any Sondheim, do you have a dream role you’d like to play, and favorite songs of his?
I love “Everybody Says Don’t”, it’s up there. My dream role actually, which I won’t get to play for many years is Desiree Armfeldt in A Little Night Music, when I’m an old lady I’ll play that and get to sing “Send in the Clowns” which is the best. I would love a crack at anything he’s done though, I’ve never even auditioned for any Sondheim. It would definitely be a challenge because his music is so complex, but I would love to try it.
For more information on Sweet Charity click here.