In Part 5 of a series of interviews with the cast of Damascus Theatre Company’s The Wedding Singer, meet Laurie Newton.
Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform before on our local stages. Where did you get your training?
Hi everyone! My name is Laurie Newton and I am graduate of Penn State University where I received a BA in Integrative Arts (Dance/Theater/Music) and I earned my MA in Dance from American University. I’ve performed locally for RMT and TAP and also at Toby’s Dinner Theatre.
Why did you want to be part of this production?
I am a child of the 80s and this show has always been a favorite of mine. It is silly and fun and takes me back to my childhood of big hair, neon clothes and my love of MJ, Madonna and Boy George. The dancer in me also loves shows that feature a lot of dancing and this one does, so that was definitely another reason for me to do this show.
Have you ever appeared in a production of The Wedding Singer before and who did you play? What makes this production so special?
Yes! I was in a local production of the show about 6 years ago at the Way Off Broadway Dinner Theater in Frederick, MD. I was in the ensemble so I played many small roles- the featured bride in the opening number and Julia’s mother Angie to name a few.
This production is so special to me because I got to both direct and choreograph the show. I love when I can do both for a show especially a show like this where there is so much dancing! Also, I have to mention the importance of this particular cast to me. They are an incredibly talented group of people and it’s been such a pleasure to work with all of them.
How would you describe your style of directing?
I am definitely a collaborator. As a director, I love to work with the actors to come up with what is best for the show. I always come prepared with what I think will work, but I love to tweak scenes with ideas from the actors in order to make the show better. I operate under the philosophy that we go with the best idea in the room. It doesn’t matter who’s idea it was, if it is what works best for the show, then that is what we do. I find the more free actors are to express their ideas, the more comfortable they are and the more we gain from the rehearsal process.
Tell us about the choreography you have created for the show. What was the hardest song or scene to choreograph?
This show was so much fun to choreograph, because again so much of it took me back to my younger days as a competitive dancer. The “running man” and “robot” were very much a part of my dance vocabulary back in the day! I’d have to say that “Saturday Night in the City” was one of the more challenging numbers to do because of all of the timing with the dialogue and making sure the focus for the audience was always where it needed to be. “All About the Green” was another one because of the use of a conference table and four chairs with wheels in that tight space. It definitely took some manipulating. Overall from a choreography standpoint, the size of the stage was definitely a challenge. When the entire cast is on the stage, as in the final number, everyone really had to focus on spacial awareness to keep things clean, but not looked squished at the same time!
What are some of the challenges you have fast staging the show and which song and scene is your favorite.
As I just mentioned with the choreography, the size of the Arts Barn stage paired with the number of scene changes was probably one of the biggest staging challenges of the show. The transitions were challenging not only because of the number of them but also because we have an orchestra backstage as well, which basically limited the number of set changes that could even come from stage right. Although challenging, as a director it was a learning experience to find ways to make everything work in this space and I am very proud of the outcome. The dancer in me would say that “Saturday Night in the City” is one of my favorite songs in the show because of the choreography, but the romantic in me would definitely be lying if I didn’t acknowledge how much I love when Gabe Potter and Taylor Campbell sing “If I Told You” and “Grow Old With You.” The two of them have wonderful chemistry and it is one of my favorite moments in the show. Other highlights for me would definitely be the first time we meet “Linda,”played by the wonderfully talented Amanda Spellman and the “mutant” ensemble members during “Casualty of Love”, a scene where I find myself laughing hysterically.
Where have local theatregoers seen your work?
I’ve had the privilege of choreographing for many local theater companies. I’ve choreographed shows for both Damascus Theater Company and Rockville Musical Theatre. I’ve choreographed professionally for Toby’s Dinner Theater in both Baltimore and Columbia. One of the highlights of my professional career was working as choreographer and assistant director on a new musical “Battlecry” back in 2009. The director was Gabriel Barre, who is currently making his Broadway directorial debut for the new musical “Amazing Grace.”
The rest of the artistic team for that production were also well known in the Broadway community – Paul Bogaev was the music director and Rick Sordelet was the fight choreographer. It was an amazing summer for me to be able to collaborate, learn, and present my own work as part of this production. Finally, I love to work with children and have choreographed locally for Bravo Productions and Winters Lane Productions for various children’s shows. Original choreography of mine was seen on the Montgomery College stage where I taught for 10 years and choreographed for their dance company and also for my own dance company, jazzlan dance theater.
Any shows you would love to direct and choreograph that you have yet to work on?
Yes! And I am happy to say that one of them is coming up this fall at Rockville Musical Theater where I will be directing and choreographing “Footloose.” I am also scheduled for another one next fall that I am so excited about but can’t announce just yet. As a choreographer, I am dying to get my hands on a production of “Spring Awakening” because it is an entirely different style of choreography than what is typically found in musical theater choreography and I would love to have a chance to choreograph that one.
What did you know about the 80s coming in and what have you learned from doing the show?
I knew A LOT about the 80s coming into this show because I grew up during that time. I sported Madonna hair and jelly bracelets while carrying my Cabbage Patch kids around dancing to “Karma Chamelon” in my bedroom, where I had plenty of Michael Jackson posters hanging on the walls. Sound familiar to anyone?! The radio station in my car is always on the 80s channel, so I would say I am pretty well versed when it comes to the 80s. Doing the show has reminded me of a simpler time it was in so many ways and how much I miss it!
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing DTC’s The Wedding Singer?
I hope the audience takes with them a night of fun, a trip back in time and most of all to remember that “love is what we all should do!” Because really isn’t that the most important lesson of all?
The Wedding Singer plays through June 28, 2015 at Damascus Theatre Company performing at The Arts Barn Theatre – 311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets, call (301) 258-6394, or purchase them online.
Meet the Cast of Damascus Theatre Company’s ‘The Wedding Singer’: Part 1: Taylor Campbell.
Meet the Cast of Damascus Theatre Company’s ‘The Wedding Singer’: Part 2: Gabriel T. Potter.
Meet the Cast of Damascus Theatre Company’s ‘The Wedding Singer’: Part 3: Tim Kurtzberg and Cam Sammartano.
Meet the Cast of Damascus Theatre Company’s ‘The Wedding Singer’: Part 4: Megan Mostow.