I first interviewed LaQuet Sharnell in 2010 while she was dancing up a storm in Broadway's "Memphis." Since that time she has starred in regional productions of "The Wiz" and "Bring It On," starred in the Transport Group's Off-Broadway production of "Lysistrata Jones" as "Myrrhine," and performed in "Bobby Cronin and Friends" at Don't Tell Mama as well as Neal B's "Broadway Belts" on New Year's Eve.
Currently LaQuet is reprising her role of "Myrrhine" in the Broadway transfer of "Lysistrata Jones" at the Walter Kerr Theatre in NYC (219 West 48th Street). Click here for tickets and here for my review of "Lysistrata Jones."
1. What attracted you to "Lysistrata Jones"? I think what was most interesting about the show was my role. HA! When I auditioned for the show I was curious about how this character, "Myrrhine," could go from a Stepford wife in training to a "ghetto" girl by the 2nd act. So I was anxious to fall into this character and make some fun acting choices, and also see how I could make that transition happen so that the audience would feel depth and buy her transformation.
2. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing "Lysistrata Jones"? A smile! Our show doesn't take itself seriously...AT ALL! We're a fun and loving High School Musical for grown ups.
3. What do you identify the most with your character "Myrrhine"? How do you sustain your big, beautiful, and soulfully powerful voice for your solo "Don't Judge a Book By It's Cover"? Her unbelievable fight to not be a stereotype. I was always the black girl in the suburbs so I grew up being called an Oreo by my Caucasian friends but really they just wanted me to act "ghetto." I am grateful to Douglas Carter Beane for writing a character with no pretense....well at least in my case. :)
Thank you for calling my voice big and beautiful. I maintain and sustain by staying in vocal lessons with the AMAZING Mary Walkley, @floridasings on twitter, and lots of rest. When your a belter you have to learn the functions of your voice and make sure it is strong. What I do in the show is what I can healthily do 8 times a week. But as I continue to work on myself as a performer I am positive I'll grow my chops as a singer for future shows. I'm obsessed with improvement and staying true to what is on the pages all the while finding the fun in it to perform. If I do these things then I'll be doing my job of performing honestly for each and every audience.
4. What has it been like to be part of a show that started Off-Broadway and now is on Broadway? Its been a HUGE learning experience. I've been working in the city for 7 years. Which isn't a long time but isn't a short time either. I pride myself on listening, watching, and always taking mental notes on each show I do. With this I have learned how preparation is key. With out it you're nothing. We all know getting a show to Broadway is no easy task. Our creative team made sure to get the best of the best for this production and I'm so grateful to be in the middle of a project that started in a small venue and made it to the big stage, and I love that I was able to see this and learn from it.
5. What is your favorite part of the preview/rehearsal period in a show? My favorite part of previews/rehearsal is being done with it. I never have enjoyed rehearsals but what I am learning as I get older, perhaps even wiser, is that you have to have a moment to truly work out kinks. Previews/rehearsal is perfect for that! With out this process you could go onstage and look crazy. Sometimes previews and rehearsals can be intimating, but "Lysistrata Jones" was able to keep a productive schedule while still allowing for the creative spirit to thrive.
6. Where is your favorite place to rehearse/practice on your own? I do most of my warming up and practicing at home. I get really self-conscious when I know people are around. I know that my girlfriend and I have reached a new level because I can practice around her and not warm up in the bathroom with the door closed :) (omg I just blushed thinking about her!)
7. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? I've learned that confidence, focus, preparation, love, and dedication is everything. Being a former competitive cheerleader, I learned how to use all those tools on a daily basis. We were getting ourselves ready for huge competitions. Now being a performer, I basically look at being onstage every night as a National Championships. Using the audience as my "judging table" I want that table to look at my performance and not only enjoy themselves but "score me highly." I want to win. Performing has given me drive like nothing else could.
8. You also have your own theatre company, Step Theater Company. What made you want to start your own theater company? What have you gotten out of this endeavor? I wanted to have a place to allow new and upcoming performers, directors, composers, playwrights, and talent to have their new and original works heard. I began the journey with Bobby Cronin, David Alpert, Andrew Turtletaub, and Trey Tatum. I am most confident to say that we all learned how difficult it can be to do what we do but also how rewarding it can be. For me, as an aspiring producer, I learned that there is a formula to making the creation process an easy one for the creative team and the performer. Every time I do a show now I can see and hear, whether I'm in the conversation or not, the wheels turning on how to make the show a better one.
9. You have performed in several of Bobby Cronin's concerts, especially with Jenn Furman. What attracts you to Bobby's music and what is it about his music that speaks to you so much? You and Jenn have some fierce chemistry on stage. What is the best part about performing with Jenn? "You Deserve Better" is such a fun song. Jenn Furman is such a talented woman and every time we sing it I remember how fun it can be to share in each others talent. She feels like family and I think that's why we perform well together.
Bobby Cronin's music.....I feel like I can write a book on why he is awesome and why I am so attracted to his music. To be a composer and lyricist you have to be unafraid to share in some truly happy moments as well as dark moments. Bobby writes from his heart and I perform from my heart. This combination makes for an unstoppable team. I always say if you trust what's on the page you can't help but get the laugh, make the audience cry, or make them just stop. I so trust what he puts on the page and I believe it so much that it's effortless to perform. The man is a force to be reckoned with. I'm so honored to say I know him and to have performed his work. I know this quote wasn't about Bobby but when I hear it I think of him, "The very place where safety lies for us is the thing that seems most dangerous. And that is having the courage to let people really into what life has done to us." Barbara Cook.
Bobby just gets it and I thank him for it.
10. What's the best advice you've ever received? "Know your worth and value!" Kecia Lewis Evans told me this and at the time I didn't understand nor appreciate it. Now I'm hearing her words in my ears louder than ever. I'm so thankful for most all my veteran performers words of wisdom. They all have taught me and continue to teach me so much. But Kecia especially is like a performing Mother to me.
11. Favorite way to spend your day off? My favorite way to have a day off is to watch TV all day while eating the most amount of junk food I can put into my body. Then when my lady gets off work I continue this process with her and it just makes for the perfect day off! :-) I'm actually looking forward to a day off now.