Call Redialed: NEW Sheri Sanders Interview: "Mamma Mia!" at ACT of Connecticut, "Rock The Audition", & "Musicnotes"
What a joy it is to catch up with trailblazing pioneeress Sheri Sanders who is making her return to acting in ACT of Connecticut's production of the mega-hit musical Mamma Mia! Sheri has taken a few years off from acting to focus her energies on her Rock The Audition empire and her new collaboration with Musicnotes where she cuts/arranges songs for musical theatre auditions.
Now that those entities are where she wants them, Sheri was eager to get back to her love of acting and ACT of Connecticut's production of Mamma Mia! was the perfect show to reemerge in.
Mamma Mia! is the first show performed in ACT of Connecticut's newly renovated, state of the art theater! Come spend some time this summer with the sunny, funny international smash hit sensation! Mamma Mia! will be playing at ACT of Connecticut (36 Old Quarry Road, Ridgefield CT) through July 1. Click here for tickets!
1. This June you are starring in ACT of Connecticut's production of Mamma Mia! This show marks both ACT's inaugural show & your return to acting after a slight hiatus as you focused more on Rock The Audition & your partnership with Musicnotes. So what does it mean to you to return to acting while helping ACT kick-off their first show? Coincidentally I am launching the next level of my business, Rock The Audition, WHILE ACT of CT is opening a state of the art theatre WHILE we are putting up a HUGE musical. It’s incredibly cool and intense to be in this whirlwind. When I’m at ACT, though, I only have to be in service as an actor and company member, not lead a revolution there, too. I missed simply being in service this way very much. I definitely want more.
2. What is making you anxious about this return? The break from acting was actually really long. I was able to manage one small show a year for the last 4 years, whether it was one I wrote, or a role in a regional production that my professional peers would gift to me. But, I actually auditioned for this production and I got it - and it is FANCY. So the good news is my anxiety isn’t crippling, it’s proactive- so I put a few things in place to assure that I stay sturdy and consistent if old miss anxiety comes to visit.
3. What do you relate to most about "Rosie"? What is one characteristic of hers that you are glad you yourself do not possess? "Rosie" and I are very rambunctious. My belief about how "Rosie" is played or perceived in the show is different than I perceive women like her. She’s a little cliche. I like to think that even in a show like Mamma Mia!, they’re all real women. Like me!
4. You get to perform one of ABBA's most iconic songs "Dancing Queen" with Juliet Lambert Pratt who plays “Donna” & Jodi Stevens who plays "Tanya." What is the funniest thing to happen so far during rehearsals that you hope doesn't actually happen on stage? Well even though the three of us are in our prime, so to speak, sometimes we feel old as dirt, because our memories are not what they used to be. So the things that have come out of our mouths and some of the dance moves we made out of sheer forgetfulness have made us a little more like the three stooges. It's been HYSTERICAL at times, but we def cannot get away with not knowing our S%^T now that were open!
5. You also get to sing "Take A Chance On Me" with the hunky Craig Ramsay. What has been the best part about working with Craig, who was part of the original Mamma Mia cast during its pre-Broadway tour? He is the most gentle generous wonderful man who cares so deeply about having a realistic relationship on stage. We’re both gay, but together we bring a wonderful relatable man and woman quality that the audience will really appreciate and adore.
6. What is something you still want to take a chance on that you haven't yet? I think I’m doing it now. Creating a delicate balance between acting AND transforming the musical theatre community for a healthier audition process. That's taking a chance. On self love, vulnerability, generosity and success. I'd like to see them all exist at once!
7. Since you are the pioneer of teaching people how to audition for rock musicals, what tools have you personally used to learn this music that you bestow upon your students? My most successful tool with students is playfulness. Don’t get set on how it was done before or even how its gonna be in the beginning of the process. Learn the lines and start playing. You have no idea what possibilities arise in exploration.
8. Let's switch gears for a moment and talk about your other projects. It's been a few years since we last talked. Can you catch us up on what's happening with Rock The Audition and what new features you have added to this program? It’s awesome because first of all I made the move to Musicnotes. Because my cuts are so good, they also asked me to start arranging legit cuts as well! And in this year alone, I built a teen program, A certification program for teachers, we brought in 25 trans and gender fluid actors to train teachers how to properly train them this fall, I wrote a jukebox musical about the 60s using ONLY marginalized actors to offer to schools and regional theatres as an opportunity to engage a whole new community of performers and audiences. It’s been a really good year for Rock The Audition.
9. Why did you want to partner with Musicnotes to get your audition cuts up there? What does this do for your business? All the singers I know go to Musicnotes for audition material because all of our favorite songs are there, but they are not cut or arranged to be sung in a musical theatre environment. So it seemed like the perfect marriage of my wisdom, intuition, years in the audition room in front of and behind the table and in the classroom refining my arranging talent.
That along with their established platform is a match made in heaven. They do their job, I do mine. And Musicnotes is SO HUGE. Best part is by next year people will have access to me on a global scale, not just our Broadway community of actors and teachers.
10. For this final question, let's go Mamma Mia adjacent. Another song you get to be part of in Mamma Mia is "Chiquitita." My favorite lines in that song are "How the heartaches come and they go and the scars they're leaving. You'll be dancing once again and the pain will end. You will have no time for grieving. But the sun is still in the sky and shining above you. Let me hear you sing once more like you did before. Sing a new song, Chiquitita."
Since it was just Mental Health Awareness Month & you have been such a big advocate about your own journey, what do you feel are one of your biggest scars that you have healed that would ring true for these lines? I speak very candidly about my mental wellness, because it’s been so liberating to not feel shame. Five years ago I was formally diagnosed with untreated complex PTSD, and because I didn’t have agency over my business, I couldn’t properly repair. I took a leap, went to Musicnotes, rebuilt Rock The Audition from the ground up and now I'm healing SO profoundly with an incredible trauma therapist and and an awesome girlfriend. I am a brave part of the #metoo movement, and though the abuse I endured wasn’t sexual, thankfully, the scars are totally healing!
More on Sheri:
Sheri is the Pioneeress behind the Rock Musical Revolution, Rock The Audition. Her Pop/Rock Audition Cuts can now be found on Musicnotes.com. "Little Becky" (Nat'l Tour of Urinetown), "Kitty" (The Screams of Kitty Genovese), Company Cover for CHIX 6 and Betty Rules, and "Golde" in Fiddler on the Roof are a few faves.