The Wedding Singer's Amy Spanger

Dance Spirit: How did you get to Broadway?
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, “You could go to New York. You have a lot of talent.” 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?
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?
Sunset Boulevard, and I got that from a cattle call! They were doing this thing called “typing people out,” which means they’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?
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 ’80s pop song. Since the character of Holly is supposed to be a Madonna wannabe, I did “Like a Virgin” and rolled around on the floor like I was on fire—really bad dancing. They liked it a lot. [laughs]

DS: What’s your favorite number in the show?
I love “Saturday Night in the City,” the Act I closer, because the last moment [when Holly has water poured over her, à la Flashdance] is so shocking and fun. I’ve never been a part of something quite like that.

DS: What’s it like doing this style of dancing, that’s so inspired by the ’80s?
It’s funny—I grew up in the mid ’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 you’re performing a show eight times a week?
I journal a lot, about the character and how she relates to me and my life. And I approach it like it’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 it’s happening, and really dig in and enjoy the character.

DS: What’s your most embarrassing onstage moment?
After the Flashdance moment at the end of The Wedding Singer’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?
: If you want to do musicals, you have to work on everything: your singing, dancing and acting. What’s amazing about the cast I’m working with now is that everybody dances, even the people who consider themselves singer/actors. Also, learn what your strengths are, how you’re different from other people, and bring those into the room every time you audition or perform.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

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