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?
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 “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?
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 ’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?
AS:
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?
AS:
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?
AS:
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?
AS:
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?
AS
: 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.

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