'Oklahoma!' -- delightful as ever
To call actress Christine Andreas "vivacious" would be an understatement. The energetic, determined star of the touring company of "Oklahoma" is a veritable volcano of ideas, insights, descriptions, intuitions, and effervescent talk about the theater, her career, music, dance, life, poetry, people, and anything else that comes to mind. Dark-haired and pretty, with a heart-shaped face and expressive, probing eyes, Christine plays the role of sassy, verging-on-womanhood Laurey in "Oklahoma."
After touring with "Oklahoma" for eight months and playing on Broadway, Christine's enthusiasm for the show has not dampened a bit:
"There's a wonderful spirit in the company," she says. "'Oklahoma' does that to you. It has a kind of contagious energy. It's about the simple needs of people -- a beautiful morning can make a whole day for you, and the joy you feel is a very important and real thing."
She defends the show vigorously, maintaining that the simple values expressed in "Oklahoma" are still valid today:
"There are people who say it's a stupid story -- it isn't!" she insists. And referring to the box social scene in the play: "When you were 16, who you went with to the prom was everything to you -- it was everything!" she says with intensity. "So 'Oklahoma' does have its place" -- everyone can relate to it."
How does she view Laurey?
"She's a brat! I had a long time trying to 'find' her. Most ingenues are played as being sweet and lovely. But they're not. They all have funny little quirks. Laurey is used to having her own way, she's very willful, and for a long time I played all those negative things, and hit them very hard. Then I finally said, 'But what do you love about her?' It was her enormous spirit -- the pioneer spirit. She has a real desire to have a wonderful life, and a desire for beauty. So I found things to 'gentle out' that willfulness."
Christine Andreas has that same thoughtful, questioning way of looking at everything in her life. It's a quality that has stood her in good stead from her beginnings in the theater through her success in "My Fair Lady," and now in the popular revival of "Oklahoma." Word has it that Andreas is one of the bright and shining new stars of musical theater. She becomes pensive at the idea of success:
"I've fought success for a long time. Why?m Well, I think because I love privacy, and I was working many things out for myself. I don't just grow theatrically and put all my energy into my business. I'm also always trying to grow personally. I can't just forget about my life at home and make it over to the theater and come home to a mess,m " she says, digging into the word.
"So, my growth has been slow, because I've tried to keep it in a total kind of perspective. I just couldn't go open-armed embracing stardom," she laughs. "That sounds rerrible!m I mean I couldn't embrace the whole -- how do I want to put it -- the whole packagem of success."
The way things are going in the Andreas career, it looks as if the package of success has chosen to embrace her, rather than the other way around. The development of Christine Andreas's career is a study in logic and intuition, and an amazingly orderly unfolding of events. Although she wasn't born into a performing family, she describes her mother as a fine singer . . . .
"She has a melodious voice, and a good sense of rhythm -- she should have been a big band singer. I'm sure she changed my diapers humming! I think I just ingested all of that -- I was born singing, I really was. It was my way of expressing myself -- I didn't think about it."
Growing up, Christine encountered several teachers who helped out along the way: "I just seemed to run into people who kept feeding my love of singing." Then, when she was 13 and performing in a show, she was spotted by a director who promised to introduce her to some people who could help her. He kept that promise, and from that she seemed to move from one adventure to the next.
'Getting the jobs was not as difficult for me as it has been for lots of people. I had the contacts."
Christine considers "My Fair Lady" to be her first big break, and that, too, came about in a logical way.
"I was geared for that, too, because right before 'My Fair Lady' I had stood by for a show called 'Words and Music.' The director's name was Jerry Adler, who became the director of Fair Lady, a year or two later. And once a director knows you by working with you on one job he'll be more inclined to hire you for another. After 'Words and Music,' I played a Cockney maid in 'Angel Street.' I knew the director and I had done a Cockney, and so the next natural step was Eliza in 'Fair Lady.'"
After Oklahoma, Christine plans to do a night club act, singing alone -- just herself, her accompanists, and the audience. And this time it'll really be Christine playing Christine, not Eliza or Laurey or anyone else.
"In theater you're an instrument in many many things, you know?" she says. "And there's a director, there's lighting, orchestration, and all these variables. With a club act it's your own conception. It's how you really want to express yourself, totally. I want to get into the wonderful Noel Coward pieces and Cole Porter and some of the very elegant stuff, as well as some jazz and blues. I know I have a performing persona of my own, and I want to find out what this persona is."
For one who seems to have her life set out in such a methodical fashion, Christine is quick to emphasize her dependence on intuition:
"I try intuitively to do the right thing. I have people in my life who correct me when things are going off the track, people whom I love and trust. That's the most I can ask for at this point. And then I'll just allow what has to come in, come in. The intuitive will work if your heart's in the right place.
"But I do have a desire to be very orderly, because I like to move fast. My need for balance is enormous! i mean when I first heard Mozart there was no doubt in my mind. i went 'Oooohhhhhhh' . . . there was just such a balance! I had no idea what he was doing but . . . it's in my nature."
On the Boston part of the tour, Christine -- unlike many actors and actresses who stay in hotels, living the itinerant "road" life -- rented an apartment and some furniture, and was talking about buying some plants to make the place seem more homey.
"I'm getting my little space livable for the month that I'll be in Boston," she says. "Then I'll see what's here. I'll catch the rhythm of the city."
Christine Andreas has made up her mind about one thing and doesn't mind letting everyone know:
"I think it's OK to have a good time in your life. I've decided that! It's all right, as long as you do it with quality and taste."