Thursday, July 7, 2016

From Kimberly Kay to Elphaba to Fanny Brice—Nicole Parker Comes Home to SCR as Gala Headliner

Parker gets a lift in Wind of a Thousand Tales
Nicole Parker, who will headline SCR’s “Stagestruck!” Gala on Sept. 10, was nine years old when she wowed audiences as Kimberly Kay in the Young Conservatory Players production of Wind of a Thousand Tales—Folk Tales From Far-Away Places. She was a dynamo then, and she hasn’t stopped for a minute. That talent, energy and pizzazz is what made Parker a hit on the wildly popular "MADtv," where she was a regular and contributing writer for six years.

More recently, she won the coveted Ovation Award for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl at 3-D Theatricals and portrayed Bea in Rolin Jones’ These Paper Bullets! at Atlantic Theater Company off-Broadway and L.A.’s Geffen Playhouse.

If you traveled to New York City during the Wicked phenomenon, you may have seen her as Elphaba in that hit musical, but if you didn’t catch her then, she repeated the role in Wicked’s first national tour.

But let’s go back to where it all began, during her first year of training, at the Young Conservatory recital. According to Parker, “That’s when I decided I wanted to do this for a living. The moment happened when I sang a song as the comic character Little Lulu. I remember hearing the audience laughing and thinking, ‘Oh, I definitely want this for the rest of my life. Done.’”

In the late ’80s, Parker was on every stage at SCR, playing Belinda Cratchit in A Christmas Carol; a Russian boy scout (!) in Highest Standard of Living; and Reverend Parris’ daughter, Betty, in The Crucible.

“That play really was life changing,” Parker says. “Even though I was only in the first scene (and spent most of it in bed, because supposedly Betty has been ‘touched’), the scene was long, and it was amazing to listen to those incredible actors every night. At only 10 years old, I was aware of The Crucible’s success. It felt special, and it was crucial for me to witness what it was to be a professional working actor.”

After her scene, Parker could have gone home, but she stayed every night, sitting in a little chair near the tech booth to watch the courtroom scene.

In Wind of a Thousand Tales—Folk Tales From Far-Away Places, Parker had more than one scene; in fact, as Kimberly Kay, she was in all of them. SCR Literary Manager John Glore (now associate artistic director) wrote the play—his first—and isn’t paltry with his praise, saying, “The first time I saw Nicole onstage, I knew she was going to be a star.”

That sentiment was recently echoed by Kris Hagen, who served for many years as SCR’s Conservatory manager. Hagen played Gramma in Wind of a Thousand Tales and remembers the first day of rehearsal—for good reason. “Nicole came to rehearsal knowing all of her lines,” Hagen says. “And the lines of all the other characters! She wasn’t being boastful, just natural, as if that’s what everyone did. She was a little girl with a big voice and a charming personality. And, yes, she exuded energy!”

In those days, newspapers reviewed all the shows, even those “for kids, by kids,” as the Players deemed their productions. Los Angeles Times critic Lynne Heffley gave Wind of a Thousand Tales a rave review and called Parker “irresistible.”

Years later, StageSceneLA called her performance in Funny Girl, “Dazzling…(She’s) a comedienne who can sing, dance and act every bit as spectacularly as she can make you laugh.”

Her next stop? (Well, maybe not the next stop; she’ll no doubt be onstage or on TV between now and then.) But count on her appearance Sept. 10 at SCR’s “Stagestruck!” Gala. She’ll sing, for sure. And maybe she’ll also talk about how she got her start—here at SCR.

No comments:

Post a Comment