Amy Spanger: The summer between my freshman and sophomore years [at the University of Massachusetts], I auditioned for A Chorus Line at the Theater by the Sea in Portsmouth, NH. The director, who had done the show on Broadway, said, â€œYou could go to New York. You have a lot of talent.â€� He was the first person from New York who said that to me. So instead of going back to UMass, I started to save money, waited tables and took acting, singing and dance classes. When I was 21, I moved to New York City with $2,000!
DS: When you got to New York, was it terrifying, or did you jump right in?
AS: Not to be corny, but it felt like something brought me here, like it was a calling. And I was terrified, and I was really lonely, but I got settled in my apartment and got a copy of Back Stage and started scoping out auditions. I started taking classes at Broadway Dance Center and Steps. I got a job waiting tables. And, within a few months, I got my first job, playing Cassie in A Chorus Line with the Yorktown Regional Theatre Company.
DS: What was your first Broadway show?
AS: Sunset Boulevard, and I got that from a cattle call! They were doing this thing called â€œtyping people out,â€� which means theyâ€™ll bring up 10 people at a time and decide looks-wise or type-wise if they want to keep you. They kept me that day, and I got to sing 16 bars and dance. A year later they brought me in for a final callback. I booked the job, and they said I was their first choice from the auditions, which was pretty cool.
DS: How did you get involved with The Wedding Singer?
AS: I had worked with [The Wedding Singer director] John Rando on Urinetown, and I loved and respected his work. I also enjoyed the film, so when [the musical] came up I was really interested. [At the audition,] they asked people to sing an â€™80s pop song. Since the character of Holly is supposed to be a Madonna wannabe, I did â€œLike a Virginâ€� and rolled around on the floor like I was on fireâ€”really bad dancing. They liked it a lot. [laughs]
DS: Whatâ€™s your favorite number in the show?
AS: I love â€œSaturday Night in the City,â€� the Act I closer, because the last moment [when Holly has water poured over her, Ã la Flashdance] is so shocking and fun. Iâ€™ve never been a part of something quite like that.
DS: Whatâ€™s it like doing this style of dancing, thatâ€™s so inspired by the â€™80s?
AS: Itâ€™s funnyâ€”I grew up in the mid â€™80s, and I emulated Paula Abdul and Madonna and Janet Jackson and knew all of the dance breaks from their videos. So this is a really easy fit.
DS: How do you keep it fresh when youâ€™re performing a show eight times a week?
AS: I journal a lot, about the character and how she relates to me and my life. And I approach it like itâ€™s happening for the first time, every time. Of course, some nights are easier than others, but I stay as present as I can in the moment as itâ€™s happening, and really dig in and enjoy the character.
DS: Whatâ€™s your most embarrassing onstage moment?
AS: After the Flashdance moment at the end of The Wedding Singerâ€™s first act, I originally did a big backbend to stand up and dance again. During the second preview in Seattle, my wig fell completely off! I was dancing around feverishly trying to cover it up, and I ended up facing upstage for my final pose holding the wig to the back of my head.
DS: Do you have any advice for people wanting to break into musical theater?
AS: If you want to do musicals, you have to work on everything: your singing, dancing and acting. Whatâ€™s amazing about the cast Iâ€™m working with now is that everybody dances, even the people who consider themselves singer/actors. Also, learn what your strengths are, how youâ€™re different from other people, and bring those into the room every time you audition or perform.