PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: The Mystery of Edwin Drood's Shannon Lewis
By Matthew Blank
February 12, 2013
Shannon Lewis, whose New York stage career spans 20 years and includes 10 Broadway shows, is currently appearing as Miss Florence Gill in The Mystery of Edwin Drood at Studio 54. She fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.
Theatre work includes The People in the Picture, The Look of Love, How to Succeed..., Curtains, Sweet Charity, Contact, Fosse, Candide, Crazy for You, A Chorus Line and Pippin.
Lewis has also appeared in Encores! stagings of Fanny, Damn Yankees, Sweet Adeline and Tenderloin. She is married to actor Marc Kudisch.
Full given name:
Shannon Nicole Lewis
Where you were born/where you were raised:
Born and raised just outside of Toronto Canada in a town called Pickering
What your parents did/do for a living:
My mom taught kindergarten until I was born and then was a stay at home mom, and my dad was an elementary school teacher and then became a successful businessman
One younger brother- who's not in show biz
I can do a mean velociraptor. Really. I can.
Something you're REALLY bad at:
I am terrible at tennis! I am the biggest tennis fan and I think it's because I can't even hit the ball when I play.
First Broadway show you ever saw:
Crazy story: the first Broadway show I ever saw was Crazy For You the week before I joined the company as Vera. I was cast in a Broadway show before I even saw one.
If you could go back in time and catch any Broadway show, what would it be?
Ooooh- being able to see Gwen Verdon in the original Damn Yankees would have been pretty amazing I think.
Current or recent shows you recommended to friends:
I never get to see anything! I have wonderful talented friends in everything on and off Broadway. Go see everything!
Favorite showtune(s) of all time:
Anything from Kiss of the Spider Woman, "At the Ballet" from A Chorus Line, "Unusual Way" from Nine, "The Old Red Hills of Home" from Parade, all three sections of the "Rich Man's Frug" from Sweet Charity . there are too many!
Some favorite modern musicals:
I gave myself 30 seconds to think, here's what I came up with:
Kiss of the Spider Woman, Spring Awakening, Light in the Piazza, Nine, Contact
Broadway or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with:
Can you believe that I get to perform next to Chita Rivera every night? I also got to be mentored by the late, great Gwen Verdon. I would have loved to play with Cyd Charisse,
Bob Fosse, Michael Jackson, Vera Ellen, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.
Your personal vocal or acting idols, living or dead:
In addition to the above, I am a gigantic fan of dancers Sylvie Guillem and Suzanne Farrell. Very inspired by the brilliance and power of Patti LuPone and totally in awe of Chita Rivera.
The one performance attended - that you will never forget:
Okay I have two:
The gypsy run-through of the original cast of Ragtime was pretty earth shaking! The opening number alone changed my life.
I also went to see the Jackson 5 in their "Victory tour" when I was 8 years old. Seeing Michael Jackson live on stage in his prime was incredible. I have always held him as a pinnacle of a star performance in my mind.
Music that makes you cry, any genre:
I have always said I am first inspired by the music of any piece I am working on. That's where it starts for me. All music moves me, but the sound of stringed instruments cuts right to my soul.
MAC or PC?
Most played song on your iPod:
Right now it's "Locked out of Heaven" by Bruno Mars followed closely by "Quarter Chicken Dark" by Goat Rodeo.
Also, goop.com, gilt.com, nytimes.com
Last book you read:
I loved "Gone Girl." Right now I am halfway through the Steve Jobs biography and I am fascinated by him . and heartbroken that such an original is gone.
Must-see TV show(s):
"Downton Abbey!" Also, "The Daily Show/Colbert Report," "American Horror Story," "The Walking Dead," "Game of Thrones," "The Newsroom"... My DVR works overtime!
Some films you consider classics:
"The Bandwagon," "The Natural," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "The Shawshank Redemption," "All That Jazz," "Waiting For Guffman."
Performer you would drop everything to go see:
My husband Marc Kudisch!
Pop culture guilty pleasure:
Not a fan of the housewives shows or "The Bachelor" but I think the way "The Soup" makes lighthearted fun of them is hilarious.
Three favorite cities:
NYC, Toronto, anywhere in Maui.
Tennis! Rodger Federer, Nadal, Williams sisters are some of my faves!
I also love watching gymnastics- including rhythmic gymnastics. I was a serious gymnast until my teens and I am amazed at where the sport has gone now.
First CD/Tape/LP you owned:
My first cassette tape was WHAM! And I loved it. My second was Duran Duran and I loved it too. Not embarrassed to admit it.
Side note: My parents owned an 8 track of Harry Chapin that I used to choreograph to and put on shows for my friends. Yup. Apparently my lyrical solo to "Cats in the Cradle" was very moving.
First stage kiss:
I am realizing that I have had lot of kisses onstage. Can't remember the first! Haha
I can tell you that in my current show, we just did a student matinee for 1000 high school kids and the onstage kisses and sexual situations in the opium den ballet was like being at a pep rally. Hilarious.
Favorite or most memorable onstage role as a child/teenager:
I have been performing since I was very young as a dancer but, at age 10, I made my musical theatre debut as "Brigitta" in The Sound of Music and I am told she was very saucy.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living:
It seemed like the most natural thing. I never made that decision... I was always performing- you couldn't keep me off the stage!
Favorite pre-/post- show meal:
Here's the truth, I usually go home and ice my body while hanging out with my dog and hubby BUT-- every now and then you can find me at Bar Centrale or Landmarc with friends having my favorite "wine and fries." Perfect meal in my opinion.
Favorite liquid refreshment:
Dirty martini or Supa Dupa Greens from Juice Generation... I strive for balance.
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups:
I do 20-30 mins of yoga before every show and I always find a quiet corner and do a little focus exercise before I hit the stage.
Most challenging role you have ever played:
My track in Fosse - including "I Gotcha" -- was the most physically demanding role I have ever played hands down. Playing the "Wife" in Contact was emotionally challenging and remains one of the most cherished moments in my career.
Craziest audition story:
I was in a very important callback once and the casting director had his/her lunch delivered during my audition while I sang. I finished and the delivery person applauded. Really.
I got the job, so I guess all's well the ends well?
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap:
I had a costume mishap when I was playing "The Wife" in Contact I wore this large flouncy skirt with many layers. In the first fantasy section when she dances for the first time, I stood up from the table I had been sitting at and realized there was a large hole in one of the ruffles. I accidentally stepped through it and it started to unravel, becoming longer and longer until I had a 6-7 foot "tail" dragging behind me.
As the "Wife" you don't leave the stage for almost 40 minutes so I ended up twirling it and wrapping it around my body and using it like a feather boa at one point. I had cast members trying to pull it off as it danced by and I believe it finally ripped off near the end of her story. I was told after that stage management was close to stopping the show because it was so terrible, but they thought I was making it work so they didn't. Longest 45 minutes of my life.
Worst costume ever:
I admire and adore all the costume designers I have had the honor of working with... but there is a certain pink onesie that I was happy to never wear again. I should note that in the same show, I wore one of the most beautiful costumes I have ever worn.
Worst job you ever had:
Working as a living mannequin in store windows and then at corporate parties from age 15-17. Awful and uncomfortable. And to the people who think it's fun to try to make the living mannequins laugh.... it's not funny.
A show you would love to star in opposite Marc:
I think it would be fun to play Lola and Applegate in Damn Yankees or Adelaide and Nathan in Guys and Dolls.
Leading lady role you've been dying to play:
Spider Woman in Kiss of the Spider Woman. A girl can dream...
Something about you that surprises people:
That my mom's side of the family are Mennonites!
Something you are incredibly proud of:
Being on Broadway for 20 years.
Three things you can't live without:
Laughter. Yoga. Possibilities.
Words of advice for aspiring performers:
Don't ever let anyone tell you who you are and what you are capable of. Have a strong center and know who you are outside of everyone else's opinion. Be open to criticism and use rejection to learn and grow but never, ever let it define you.