PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Once's Newest "Girl," Joanna Christie

By Matthew Blank
20 Aug 2013

Full given name: Joanna Lauren Christie
Where you were born/where you were raised: Born & raised in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England. And I went to boarding school in Northamptonshire from age 13.
 
Zodiac Sign: Aries- and very Aries at that! Strong-minded, passionate, honest, impatient and impulsive.
What your parents did/do for a living: My mum's a singer/ pianist/ conductor. My father passed away last year- he was a property developer.

 
Siblings: My brother Luke is a musician/ singer/ songwriter. We have a band together called Luke J Christie & The Held Breath. He's definitely the more talented sibling!
Current audition song/monologue: I don't have one- Once was the first musical I've ever auditioned for!
Special skills: Making clothes and DIY- equally at home with a sewing machine and a powertool.
Something you're REALLY bad at: Having patience for anything.
Did you have any particular mentors or inspirations when first starting out? Only my mum and dad who taught me I could do anything I wanted in life and to always be myself and follow my own path.
First Broadway/West End show you ever saw:

Once on Broadway the night before my final audition! And I've never actually seen any West End Musicals!

The first WE play I saw was probably David Hare's Plenty with Cate Blanchett- I escaped from boarding school to London to go see it and it cemented my belief that this was what I wanted to do with my life. Cate Blanchett was extraordinary. 

Current show other than your own you have been recommending to friends: Book of Mormon, Matilda- I've been a fan of Tim Minchin's for years.

Also Here Lies Love. Next on my list are Sleep No More and First Date, which I'm sure I'll be recommending too!

Favorite showtune(s) of all time: Hmm… I don't really listen to any! "Memory" from Cats because my mum used to sing it when I was little so it always reminds me of her.
Some favorite musicals: The Rocky Horror Show- hands down. At school my friends and I watched it every night and we still know every word. Richard O'Brien is an absolutely mental genius and Tim Curry's performance is just unbelievable.



We Will Rock You because I love Queen. And now Book of Mormon, as it was one of the scathingly funniest things I've ever seen.

Favorite modern plays: Ruined at The Almeida in London a few years ago was one of the best plays I ever saw, Jerusalem was obviously brilliant.

It's not a modern play but I loved a new version by Benedict Andrews of Three Sisters at the Young Vic in London last year. And Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our Country's Good is an all time favourite.

I just saw a play reading here in NY of Duncan Macmillan's Lungs with Gabriel Ebert from Matilda which was just beautiful. I know his work from home and he is definitely a playwright to watch...

Favorite modern playwrights or composers: Playwrights: David Hare, David Mamet, Caryl Churchill, Simon Stephens, Mike Bartlett, Duncan Macmillan, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Enda Walsh- ever since I saw Chatroom at the National years ago- it's such an honour to be working with him now.

Composers, I prefer the romantics to modern composers: Chopin, Rachmaninov, Debussy is about as modern as I go!

Stage or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with: Gene Kelly, James Stewart, Paul Newman, Richard Harris, Marlon Brando
Your personal performance idols, living or dead: Julie Walters has always been my favourite actor- I love everything she does. Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchett are obviously incredible.

I think Tom Hardy, Sam Rockwell and Leonardo DiCaprio are seriously talented and somewhat underrated. But I think if I have any idols it would be the comedy actors I grew up watching on British TV: Victoria Wood, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Rowan Atkinson, Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson.

Music-wise, I've loved Lenny Kravitz since I was 9 and still listen to his whole catalogue as much as then- that is a long time!

The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: Tie:

Punchdrunk's Masque of the Red Death, Fuerzabruta and De La Guarda when I was 17 with the National Youth Theatre. All were mind-blowing and unlike anything I'd ever seen before.

Music that makes you cry, any genre: A lot of classical music particularly choral music even though I'm not at all religious! Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2, Carl Jenkins' "Benedictus," the Elgar Cello Concerto, Eric Whitacre's "Lux Aurumque," Saint-Saen's "The Swan," Intermezzo from Cavelleria Rusticana….I could go on and on!
MAC or PC? MAC finally! Took me a while to get on board...
Most played song on your iPod: Probably Billy Joel's "New York State Of Mind," as I listened to it on repeat in excitement when i got this job!

My staple music diet is mainly classic rock and folk: Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Van Morrisson, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley.

And newer stuff: Mumford & Sons, Jonny Flynn, Laura Marling, Louise & The Pins, Ellie Goulding, James Vincent Mcmorrow, Lake Street Dive and Billy Magnussen's band Reserved For Rondee are awesome.

Most-visited websites: BBC Radio 4. I have it on constantly at home. That and Yorkshire Tea are my only Britishisms!
Last book you read: "New York" by Edward Rutherford. An epic historical fiction beginning in the 1500s taking you right up to present day New York tracing one blood line throughout 5 centuries. I wanted to learn about the history of NY and this book took me right through it!
Must-see TV show(s): "Mad Men" and "Sex and the City"
Last good movie you saw: Sadly I haven't had time to watch any in ages! I saw "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Life of Pi" on the plane over here, which were both really enjoyable in different ways.

"Boy A" with Andrew Garfield, Steve McQueen's "Hunger" and Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life" are stand out favourites recently. On my list is "Searching for Sugar Man," "Amour" and for years I've been meaning to watch "Stuart: A Life Backwards."

Some films you consider classics: "Citizen Kane," "It's a Wonderful Life," "Singin' In The Rain," "Withnail & I," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom," "Dirty Dancing," "The Goonies," "Labyrinth," "Back to the Future"… can you tell I was born in the 80s?!
Performer you would drop everything to go see: Can I say a band instead?! I would KILL to see Led Zeppelin. And Lenny Kravitz again!
Pop culture guilty pleasure: "Glee." I must have unwittingly been a closet fan of musicals all along. I'm so sad to hear of the recent tragic death of one of its stars, Cory Monteith.
Three favorite cities: NY, London, Udaipur in India where I lived for 6 months. Barcelona and San Francisco coming in a close joint 4th place.
Favorite sport/team/player: None! I run and do yoga every day though.
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: "Smash Hits 1991" double cassette!! I need to dig that out again...
First stage kiss: With Oliver Le Sueur in The Music Man at school. I had a huge crush on him at the time! We're still friends and he's now in The Bodyguard in The West End!

 

What are some of your most memorable roles as a kid or teenager and how old were you? The Woman in The Woman in Black was a lot of fun when I was about 16! Marian in The Music Man age 17 and bizarrely the old lady Mrs. Bedwin in Oliver! at age about 11?!
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: Since I can remember.
Favorite pre-/post- show meal: Minetta Tavern burger and bespoke cocktails by the unbelievably brilliant bartenders. Or anywhere with lobster and champagne. Thats definitely post-show, by the way, not pre.
Favorite liquid refreshment: Any champagne cocktail
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: I go for a run, eat, cycle to the theatre, steam and warm up my voice, brush my teeth, get into costume, mic and make up whilst listening to some music to get me in the mood for the show- currently Ellie Goulding and James Vincent McMorrow.
Most challenging role you have ever played: This one. Which makes it also the most gratifying and enjoyable.
Craziest audition story: Having to bounce around on a spacehopper for a commercial- whilst being incredibly hungover. I promptly threw up in a bin outside afterwards. That was a particularly low point in the career.

Or having to run round a room with a water pistol pretending to be chased by a crazed gunman on a paintballing course… or being asked to do something unmentionable in a bathtub. The list goes on!

What has been the biggest challenge about this project? Maintaining my voice to be able to do 8 shows a week, having never sung professionally before. You have to have Olympian vocal cords!
What has been the most fun or fulfilling aspect? Bringing this beautiful story and music that I love and feel passionately about, to so many people, playing an interesting, complex character, experiencing living in this wonderful city, being respected for my work- it's all I've ever wanted.
What was your musical background prior to Once? I've played the piano and flute from a young age and was a music scholar at school and I've always sung in rock and jazz bands with my brother since I was 14 but have never played or sung professionally until now.
How do you find performing for American audiences as compared to audiences in the UK? American audiences are a lot louder and laugh more but don't turn their phones off! We have at least 5 go off every night. It's infuriating.
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: Totally forgetting how to play the Mendelssohn piece and having no music! Classical music is hard to blag.
Worst costume ever: Probably this one! The wool jacket's pretty hot and scratchy and my cast joke that I look like Anne Frank.

Having no costume and being naked in Equus was pretty daunting but actually, after the first time, it wasn't a big deal at all.

Worst job you ever had: Handing out bags of chocolate coins around Christmas time dressed as an elf. I gave it up after about an hour and went home with all the chocolate...
If you could trade roles with anyone in the cast for a week, who would it be? Argh! No one! I wouldn't be able to play their instruments!
Leading lady role you've been dying to play: A Bond girl villain
Leading man role you'd like a shot at: Hamlet
Something about you that surprises people: How old I am. Mostly because I behave like a teenager most of the time!
Something you are incredibly proud of: Having come through hard times to make it here.
Something you're embarrassed to admit: I ordered so much takeout food the other day they gave me three knives and forks. It was just for me.
Career you would want if not a performer: Well I was about to study Anthropology before landing this role! But in another life I'd love to be a pilot, a skydiver, anything involving scuba diving, a wildlife photographer….Basically anything that takes me to far flung corners of the world, involves adventure and is different every day.
Three things you can't live without: Yorkshire tea, good music and good people
"I'll never understand…" … most people on earth like Coca-Cola!?!
Words of advice for aspiring performers: Work hard, be yourself and have courage in everything you do.
Any upcoming or side projects you can talk about? I recorded a song called "This Gift" with Glen Hansard for his forthcoming EP with Eddie Vedder which has to be one of the biggest honours of my life so far...I still can't quite believe it!