You may not realise it, but there are a lot of incredibly talented Canadians on Broadway. So if you’re planning a trip to the Big Apple, you should check out some of our home-grown talent who just happen to be in some of the hottest shows.
And one of the best places to start is with Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The musical that swept Australia, London’s West End, and is just about to open in New York, after taking Toronto by storm.
Helping create the buzz is Burlington, Ontario native, J. Elaine Marcos.
J. Elaine cuts in to say “people here always think that’s where Burlington Coat Factory’s is.”
I can’t help but laugh. Having lived there for almost a decade, I’m well aware of how little the average American knows about Canadian geography. But that’s another blog altogether…
Back to J. Elaine. I don’t get nervous often, but the one thing I can’t ask is what I’m supposed to call her. Is it J. Elaine? Is it J? Elaine? Lanie? J.E. from the block? So instead, I stutter over the next question while thinking up a good nickname…
What is the best thing about being in New York?
Being able to say your “day job” is Broadway while you still pursue and work in film & TV.
How about the suckiest thing?
The weather. Why isn’t Broadway in San Diego? I would prefer to have warmer weather in the winter and colder in the summer. Just a balance would be nice. Getting around to auditions in the sleet and snow is ridiculous after you are all done up, but then in the summer being in the subway it’s so hot, your face melts off. Literally. My eyebrows melt off, and I have to reapply them. 2nd suckiest….why is a box of cereal $6?
As anyone who’s ever shopped in New York knows, that’s a good question. Other than finding black market Fruit Loops, what was your biggest challenge?
Getting work authorization. I would get a Broadway offer, then say to the producers and casting directors “Um, did I mention I was Canadian while I was singing my 16 bars at the final call back, cuz I might need you to file paperwork…”
Luckily, it’s worked out well for J., and she’s worked with some of Broadways hottest directors.
I’ve really been blessed to work with Casey Nicholaw, John Rando and Robert Longbottom. I feel like they have allowed and trusted me when it came to ‘bits*‘ I have in the shows. Of course, when it was time for them to pull me back because I would get bored and really ham it up sometimes (ok, a lot of times) they would tell me that they “appreciate” my improv abilities but would nicely remind me to reel it back in. And I anticipate that happening again with the amazing Simon Phillips.
*“bits” is stage lingo for moments to shine. Sometimes they’re scripted, but most often they’re not. So performers are allowed to take those moments and build them into something. Like Kramer’s entrances on “Seinfeld” or some of Sue Sylvester’s quips on “Glee”.
Since you’ve just been back in Toronto and gotten a sense for the scene, what would you change about the industry here if you could?
I don’t see anything that should change. What I did notice was the amazing diversity that I saw in the casting with the Canadian shows, and I loved it!!! The US is still a little behind in that sense.
J. Elaine is screamingly, scene stealing funny as Cynthia, a girl who can work wonders with a ping pong ball. But during the Toronto run, there were some concerns about the racial stereotypes portrayed in Priscilla, something that hasn’t come up in other countries. So I asked if she thinks we Canadians are too uptight?
Really? I didn’t really hear about it and I’m Asian. If there were concerns perhaps in my Filipino portrayal of Cynthia, I would just have to say,” Pleeess, dat is just de way we talk. Leesen to a real Pilipino and you will hear dat”.
As we finish up our chat, I realise the best nickname for her is right there in her initials: J.E.M., because that’s what she is: a gem.