Madeline Botteri is a bundle of energy as Monica P. Miller in Kensington Arts Theatre’s production of Rooms: A Rock Romance. With her powerful voice Madeline sings the heck out of Paul Scott Goodman’s score. I asked Madeline to talk about playing Monica and working with costar Eric Jones.
Joel: How did you get involved with the KAT production?
Madeline: Dani Stoller, one of our awesome directors, is a good friend of mine. About a year ago, she mentioned that she’d be directing this production and I couldn’t wait to audition for it. Getting a chance to play this role has been a dream of mine and I’m thrilled to get to do it every night!
Why did you want to play the role of Monica P. Miller, and why do you love this character?
I love Monica’s freedom, openness and spontaneity. She has no walls. She’s magnetic. Her hunger for fame might be misunderstood and I wanted to embrace that part of her fully. It’s not every day that you get to play a character in musical theatre that is this dynamic.
How do you relate to Monica?
Monica and I are pretty different, and I love that. Playing this part has been really refreshing for me. Mostly, I relate to her passion and drive. I’m envious of her freeness and boldness because those are things I wish I had more of in real life!
Talk about the score and your big numbers.
This might be one of the coolest scores I’ve ever worked on. It’s so smart in how it drives the story along. Each moment is informed by the characterization of the music. As an actor, it feels fantastic when the music is reflecting exactly what you want to say, do or feel. The musical themes and variations are so enlightening to this story. Even the songs in the show that are supposed to be written by Monica and Ian reflect their artistic writing styles. “All I Want is Everything” is clearly a collaboration of Monica’s lyrics and Ian’s music. When we write a song together in the show (“I Love You for All Time”), the song builds so naturally from improvised lyrics to hit single. It’s exhilarating to have that kind of band behind you for the rock numbers, but the music even supports us in the heaviest emotional moments.
“Bring the Future Faster” is such a roller coaster ride. It’s full of excitement and desperation. There are so many moments in my life where I’ve paced around my room thinking of my future. I love having that moment in the show to showcase her determination.
I get to sing across a spectrum of emotions and vocal styles in this show but my favorite moment is definitely during “My Choice.” There’s this moment where the music unexpectedly changes from minor to major – and it is so joyous and beautiful.
Talk about your accent and how you learned to perfect it.
Casey Jones! He broke down the Scottish accent for me into little bite-sized pieces and helped me grow from there. Casey even guided me in combining the accent with my character work. It feels like the accent is an integral part of my performance as Monica, as opposed to being a layer that’s been added on top.
What’s it like working with your Musical Director Leah Kocsis?
Yes, it’s a “two person musical” but for the longest time (before the band, lights, mics, sound, set, props etc were added) it was just me, Eric and Leah. Leah is so integral to our show and I feel like the three of us have this really cool chemistry. Teaching us all that music, while dealing with multiple styles all in a Scottish accent is no small task. Leah is an incredible musician and discovering every piece of this score with her has been such a pleasure.
What were some of the challenges of learning your role and how did you face these challenges?
Monica has a very unique and specific energy that I wanted to get right. I wanted to grasp her “exuberant madness” from the get-go. In the beginning, it was a challenge for me to find the right balance for her. I found that the best way to discover that energy was to just let my impulses make a lot of decisions for me. You can’t develop a spontaneous character in a calculated way. Embracing her freedom was challenging at first but in the end I found it very liberating.
How did you develop the chemistry between you and Eric?
Working with Eric has been such a blast! Creating a two-person show is such a uniquely challenging experience. I trust him so much and love going on this journey with him every night. I think our chemistry is just there and there isn’t any effort required in creating it. There were several times during rehearsals when we decided we wanted to go in a new direction with certain scenes we’d been working on. We would completely scrap everything we’d already done and do the scene over with fresh eyes in a spontaneous way. I think that was some of our best work. I guess that’s when you know you’ve got a great scene partner!
How did your directors help you with your performances and what was the best advice they gave you?
Dani and Lenora have blown me away. With every step in this process they’ve been there with Eric and me, breaking down every piece of this story. They kept our show honest and pushed us in our discovery of these two very different characters. They both have told me, in their own ways, that to hold true to Monica all I would have to do was just trust what I had found in our rehearsals. I think that advice really enabled me to open up on stage and let a lot of life into this show.
Why should audiences come and see the show?
Because it’s an honest love story that’s smart, raw, funny, exciting and beautiful. And we’re punk rockers! What, I ask you, could be better?
Rooms: A Rock Romance plays through May 26, 2012 at Kensington Arts Theatre – 3710 Mitchell Street in The Kensington Armory/City Hall, in Kensington, MD. For tickets, call the box office (206) 888-6643, or order them online.
Eric Jones on playing Ian in Rooms: A Rock Romance.