As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Deedee Magno Hall, who played Kim during the original Broadway run of the Tony-winning Miss Saigon after originating that role in the musical's second national touring company. Hall has also been seen on Broadway in If/Then as well as in the national tours of If/Then and Wicked. She recently won the Ovation Award for her role as Diana in the East West Players production of Next to Normal and can be heard on the new holiday album Why? Because It's Christmas, featuring cast members from all seven seasons of Disney’s All New Mickey Mouse Club. The recording, benefiting MusiCares and The Brave of Heart Fund, is available by visiting MMCHolidays.com.
What was the genesis of the Why? Because It’s Christmas recording?
Last year, the Disney Channel's All New Mickey Mouse Club had an epic 30th anniversary celebration, MMC30, at Walt Disney World. It was wonderful to hug and celebrate with everyone from cast, crew, production team, family and friends, as well as our beloved fans who have continued to support the show after so many years. One of our castmates, Tasha Danner, had suggested we all do an album (and possibly a tour), and that’s when the seed was planted! Our awesome “Always in The Club” team began putting everything together to bring the idea to life. There was no question that I wanted to be part of this very special project. I was so happy to be able to work/play with my MMC brothers and sisters again, and then to also have the opportunity to record a Christmas song about the birthday of Jesus was such an incredible blessing.
What is your typical day like now?
I wake up with gratitude and a huge cup of coffee at around 8 AM-ish... Since the initial shutdown, like many, my family’s day-to-day schedule has shifted. Stay-at-home online schooling was, and still is at times, quite challenging for my 15- and 9-year-old sons...not so much academically, but more so the lack of socialization. They miss their friends so much. They both have independent study after breakfast, and if they are focused, can easily be done with their lessons before 1 PM. My husband, Cliffton, and I take turns assisting our youngest with his assignments. We then juggle home-cooked meals, household chores, online performances, in-home voice over auditions, entertainment-related jobs sprinkled here and there, and when time permits, we try to get outside (safely, of course) and get some fresh air and vitamin D. One of my favorite family quarantine activities is reading our daily devotionals together. If all school work and other responsibilities are complete, the boys get to enjoy online video games with their buddies.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
My husband and I are reading the Bible together, and I love how it is strengthening our marriage during this crazy time. Soul Fuel by Bear Grylls is one of our daily devotionals that we enjoy reading with our boys. Our teenager introduced us to The Office (I know...we are late to this hilarious party), Stranger Things as well as Cobra Kai, and we cannot wait for new episodes! My husband and I can watch multiple episodes of Home Town on HGTV, and the kids are obsessed with YouTube and funny memes. The last movie we saw was The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind on Netflix, which we highly recommend! I also love supporting my friends and fellow artists when I can on the many live streams and podcasts!
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
Growing up in the business, I had a wonderful experience working on several colorfully diverse projects. My first professional job (previously mentioned), the All New Mickey Mouse Club in 1989, was like a Saturday Night Live for kids. At that time in my life, the importance of representation wasn’t at the forefront of my mind...I was just a kid with a bunch of other kids having a blast doing what we love, which was performing together.
In more recent years, one of the reasons I love working with East West Players (the nation’s longest-running professional theatre of color) here in Los Angeles, is because I had the opportunity to audition for and play lead characters like Diana in Next to Normal and Mrs. Walker in The Who’s Tommy. I believe in theatres like EWP and shows like Hamilton, where diversity can be celebrated while the artistry and storytelling remain authentic and uncompromised.
My hope is that we all find ways to work together and support one another to continue to create great work and tell stories that elevate, inspire, entertain, and leave audiences changed for the good.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
I encourage prayer, meditation, safely getting out to nature, and reaching out to friends and family for support. During this season of uncertainty and heartache, I found that leaning on my faith has helped me tremendously in keeping me focused on the blessings in my life and remain hopeful for change for the good. I encourage finding ways to help others. I was so thankful that my family was able to safely volunteer at our church’s food pantry, helping to serve people in need. I try to remind myself that each day is a gift. There will be good days and not-so-good days, and it’s up to us to choose how we want to respond to what we’ve been gifted.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
I make it a point to sing and/or dance every day, around the house, while I’m cooking or doing the laundry, even if it annoys the heck out of my kiddos. Music is healing. I am so grateful for the gift of song.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
I’ve been very blessed to have participated in many “the show must go online” quarantine performances. In addition to recording “Birthday of a King” for MMC’s Why? Because It’s Christmas album, I also recorded “Mother Knows Best” for Swingin With The Mouse, and pop albums from my teenage years with The Party have been re-released under Hollywood Records, all available anywhere you get music! I’ve also worked on a few animated projects I’m excited to announce in the near future, and I’m currently rehearsing for a Christmas show with my buddy AJ Rafael and East West Players for the Crazy Talented Asians concert series coming up on December 13! Save the date, please!
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
I love that “Always In The Club” is always thoughtful to partner with organizations that benefit people in need. A portion of the proceeds from our Christmas album will benefit three wonderful organizations: The Brave of Heart Fund, MusiCares, and Cast Member Pantry. If you are able, please consider donating to any of these charities. But even if you can’t, please spread love and kindness to everyone.