Chatting with Anastasia's Christy Altomare

 

Interview by Terry Greenland

Christy Altomare grew up in Yardley, Pennsylvania. She attended Cincinnati Conservatory of Music for her undergraduate studies in Musical Theater. After graduation, she toured as Wendla in the national tour of Spring Awakening. She was Sue in Carrie Off-Broadway and later made her Broadway debut as Sophie in Mamma Mia on Broadway. She is currently starring in the title role of Anastasia on Broadway.

TERRY GREENLAND: I have known Christy Altomare, star of Anastasia since eighth grade when she began studying voice with me in Yardley, Pennsylvania. Over the years, we have kept in touch through her many roles, shows and adventures. Since then she has, of course, had many people along the way that have contributed to her successes. Christy, The Music Theatre Educator’s Alliance is a group of teachers and administrators from multiple universities who train students in professional musical theatre programs. Given the mission of the group, can you talk about what aspects of your musical theater training you found to be the most helpful as you moved into the professional world?

CHRISTY ALTOMARE: The most helpful lesson I learned is really just a rule for life. It was something I learned indirectly from the training I received. That is, every person is on their own unique path. There is no such thing as competition, except the battle to try to be your own best self. 

The journey of self-acceptance and respect for all people regardless of where they are in their path is a valuable one. The more you love yourself and others the more you can move forward with a clear heart and mind. The better your headspace the better your performance—every time.  

TG: After graduation, you spent two years on the road as Wendla in Spring Awakening; what valuable things did that experience teach you? 

CA: The greatest lessons I learned during my two years on the road are these:

First, people are inherently good everywhere you go. 

The second thing I learned was that working with an understudy makes you a better actor. Honor an understudy. When onstage with an understudy, don't be afraid to let the present moment with a new scene partner take you to places you never thought your character could go.

Third, life is short. Enjoy the time you have while you have it before it is gone . . . but also, take care of yourself. Performing on tired vocal folds is no fun.

Finally, the fourth thing I learned was being a lead requires a lot more than just performing that lead onstage. Be good to your cast. Show them all kindness, understanding, and respect. 

TG: In this very competitive business, what advice can you offer to young artists just beginning their journey?

CA: Sometimes the best thing to do is to find a quiet space. Get yourself into a state of peace. Then, listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Every action you take regarding your training or career should be for a good reason that you can justify in your heart and mind! In this business you can waste a lot of time. The best way to stop that is by focusing your energy exclusively on the things that mean something to you.

TG: You just celebrated the 500th show of Anastasia on Broadway. Congratulations! Can you talk about your audition experience and winning the role?

CA: I auditioned one early morning in February. I did a “chemistry” call back with my leading man a couple of hours later. I booked Anastasia the next morning. 

I think the one thing most people don’t talk about was all the things I did before I walked in the door. I decided to shift some things in my life at the beginning of January. I went to the gym every day at five in the morning. I focused on keeping my room and apartment clean. I started cooking healthy meals. I kept a log of all my accomplishments throughout each day. I started focusing my energy on getting excited about my life. When the audition for Anastasia came my way, I couldn’t wait to walk through the door and show them what I had been working on in my life. I didn’t care if I booked it or not. I just was so excited that I got to perform the songs from the show in my audition. I was ultimately grateful. I believe these things along with hard work and preparation helped me book the role.

TG: What do you do physically to keep in the best shape for this demanding role?  

CA: I am still working on this. I haven’t found the balance yet. Some months are better than others. It is a process and you must be able to really listen to your body. Some days you need to push yourself to go to the gym and other days you need to sleep for twelve hours. It’s a constant push-pull.

TG: I have marveled how generous you are with your fans waiting in line outside after each show. You even post Instagram videos when you are offstage during the show. Can you talk about this experience? 

CA: Yes! I love interacting with fans of our show so much! I am pretty active on Instagram. During the show I have one fifteen minute break where I like to Instagram Live. Fans and supporters of the show can tune in each day to get a backstage look at what is happening at Anastasia. I also love to do the stage door line after each show. It brings me such joy to make a connection with as many people as I can, take pictures, and sign playbills. 

TG: You are presently writing a book. Can you talk about that a bit?

CA: During all of my stage-door interactions I found myself giving tips and advice to young teens who were aspiring actors. I would also just give advice to anyone who asked for it about anything. I decided to write a book to explain the tactics I use to have the best mental health and also some tips about how I kept my focus on my craft. 

TG: While starring in eight shows a week, how do you enjoy life outside the theater? 

CA: It is hard to have much of a life outside of eight shows a week. Most of the time I am staying as silent as I can and resting my body. If I do get time to go out, I try to see a show. I recently saw Escape to Margaritaville and Hamilton. I find that there is nothing more inspiring than watching theatre while you are in the run of a show. I am always learning and growing. I take something with me from every performance I see.

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