Marisha Wallace is ready to get back on stage—she’ll be playing Maybelle Motormouth in the upcoming London revival of Hairspray whenever theatres reopen. In the meantime, however, the West End star is appearing in The Theatre Channel and taking part in virtual productions like BKLYN The Musical.
In Episode 5 of The Theatre Channel, Wallace (Waitress, Dreamgirls) sings “Somewhere” from West Side Story as a tribute to Broadway classics. She’s joined by stage favorites Bonnie Langford, Mazz Murrary, and more in the installment. Check it out here.
Below, the Broadway alum talks about her new album, what theatre will look like in the post–COVID era, and what musicals inspired her as a performer.
We already know that if you could audition for any role, you’d pick the Genie from Aladdin. But, if you could play any character from West Side Story on stage, who would you choose and why?
I would love to play Anita because after I saw Debbie Allen play it, I thought it would be fire to don that purple dress. Anita is fiery but she has heart, and that dancing is just too fierce for words. But I don’t have them high kicks, so I’m gonna stick to singing the West Side Story songs on my new album Tomorrow.
Did working with new restrictions in The Theatre Channel help you prepare for Hairspray when theatres re-open?
It’s the new normal now getting tested for COVID-19. Wearing masks. Social distancing. And if that is what we have to do to do what we love, I say so be it. Rehearsing on Zoom has given me a new skill set. For Hairspray, we already had some Zoom rehearsals before we did our Britain’s Got Talent performance, so I think we are equipped to handle whatever comes our way next. I can’t wait to put on that blonde wig and finally get to play Motormouth Maybelle.
What are some classic Broadway musicals that inspired you as an artist?
I have always loved Oklahoma!. That music and sweeping score. I got to play Ado Annie in an all-black version of the piece at Portland Center Stage some years ago. It was life changing to see the story through that lens. Singing “We know we belong to the land!” in a place and time where you feel like sometimes you don’t belong is powerful.
What changes do you want to see the theatre industry make when theatres re-open?
I want to see more diversity but real diversity—not as a trend or a marketing ploy but as commonplace. And that’s on stage, backstage, producers, casting, agents, writers, in the union, and even in the Broadway League. All of it. Theatre has to reflect the diversity we see and experience in real life.
Check out a trailer for Episode 5 of The Theatre Channel below.