Journalist Phil Gallo takes us on a weekly behind-the-scenes look at the World Premiere Musical Breaking Through.
Playing the roles of singers and songwriters in Breaking Through has rubbed off on the show’s leads. Alison Luff and Matt Magnusson have begun writing songs together and recently recorded demos at Village Recorders, a studio where the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan and Bob Dylan have worked.
“We’ve started a band and we’ll see what the future brings with that,” says Luff, who stars in Breaking Through as the aspiring singer-songwriter Charlie Jane.
Luff, who portrayed Miss Honey in Matilda on Broadway and Elphaba in the first national tour of Wicked, shared her thoughts on the show and its evolution as Breaking Through enters its final week at The Pasadena Playhouse.
Q: What changes during a run, either in your character or the songs?
A: We’re definitely doing things different every night. Every character is a little different. If anything, Charlie Jane has gotten deeper and I know her better. I’ve probably evolved the most as a singer and performer. You get to a certain comfort level, but we’re singing pop and rock and folk music so you’re going to feel it different every night. We have that freedom to be different each night and I just try to be honest. Feel it and sing it and groove, like any musician in any band.
Q: Some of the songs work as part of the story and others are intended to be the sort of hits one would hear on the radio. How do you adjust your approach to the different types of songs?
A: I try to approach every song from an acting standpoint. A song that’s being performed as a music video I do a little larger. If it’s a song within dialogue and with part of the plot, I approach that as scene work. The concert songs I approach with a lot more confidence, as if I were a singer in a band.
Q: You say you know her better. What role does the audience have in that?
A: My main concern at the beginning to was to make sure that the audience stays on her side as she does kind of go off the deep end a bit. Having an audience has been helpful in sensing when your character evolves too much. The basic thing is that they find her charming.
Q: Any audience reactions surprise you?
A: One scene gets reactions that we never got in rehearsals. It’s an argument between Jed, the head of the label, Charlie Jane, Amanda, who works at the label, and Scorpio (Magnusson). It’s a super intense scene. It’s always interesting to hear the audience’s reaction to that – it’s a sign they’re really paying attention.
Q: What do you love about Breaking Through?
A: It’s a wonderful story and there’s lots to take away from it. It’s just great music, too. The story can apply to anyone, not just people in the music business. It’s about being authentic and being true to yourself. I think anyone can relate to that.
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