DIRECTOR, EDUCATOR & ADVOCATE
Mother's Day, 2020
T = THEATRE ROYALTY
David Connolly (D) in conversation with Charlotte Moore (C) for Matinee to Z,
a series of Instagram Live Master Classes developed in response to Covid-19.
D: Hi, everybody, welcome. Happy Mother's Day, Charlotte Moore. That was, by the way, Spend a day with Julia. The OG Twins, played by Charlotte Moore. If I could tell you the number of people who auditioned with that song and tried to be as good as Charlotte Moore... But that's almost impossible. Welcome everybody. So this is all about your questions, so please ask away, this is access to an icon and a legend and I really mean that you know.
C: I could spend the entire hour just on The Last Resort, so...
D: Right, right. Yeah, so ask away, I'll start. I'll get the ball rolling Charlotte, and in speaking of your daughters who gave you those beautiful flowers, I happen to be in the audience with you not too long ago, at Sheridan College.
C: Right, at Stars of Mars
D: And in Stars of Mars is your daughter, Emily, who has graduated now from the Sheridan College Musical Theatre Performance Program ... And me watching you, watching her, was it just... I could barely watch the show, I was so... Cause first layer was, Oh, Emily looks exactly like Charlotte. She has your face, right?
C: Well, my face when I was 21, Yeah.
D: But she’s spit out of your mouth, she is remarkably talented and just has the Moore DNA, so that was my first layer, Okay, this is gonna be a lot. But then I thought of the whole lineage of Moore and just on a... So for those people who don't know, for younger viewers, can you talk us through that first what... The whole...
C: Okay, so my father was Mavor Moore, who was the first Artistic Director, he basically built the Charlottetown Festival and basically built the St. Lawrence Centre, he was in on the plan, and there were promo shots of him with hard hats going over the plans and stuff, and he... He taught, he was a writer as he did everything, his mother was Dora Mavor Moore, who our theatre awards are named after, who was the first... She basically started professional theatre in Canada... Well, the English theatre in Canada. And then her father was James Mavor, who was friends with Shaw and Tolstoy. So you know, it goes back a ways.
D: So then you charted your path to be one of the most successful Canadian Musical Theatre Legends of...
C: Very lucky. Yes. Been very lucky.
D: When talent meets opportunity like... Yes. Okay, so you're watching your daughter... You're watching the new generation, you're watching a new musical, what are your thoughts?
C: Well, and it wasn't just my daughter, it was my daughter and her boyfriend, and her boyfriend's best friend and her best friend, and the like... And I said this to Emily afterwards, I felt like I was watching a bunch of my kids. And getting to know those kids over the four years was really awesome and... But I was just so freaking proud of her, David, it is just so proud of her and... And um, Steven Gallagher, who directed it, he, I don't think I'm telling tales out of school. He said, the sweetest thing to me, he said, I was really hard on her because I knew she could do it, and she did it, right? Yeah, no, I was just... I was just incredibly proud.
D: And do you feel that... Do you feel... Is there any sort of like.. Hope that you have for them or anything that would... You want... Is there a torch that you want to pass, I guess, wisdom that you wanna pass on to young musical theatre performers who are just starting out?
C: well, first of all, it's been devastating for these guys because they didn't get to do their last two productions and they were in the middle of rehearsal and they were told on a Friday, that “Go Home you're done,” and they didn't get to have a graduation, they had an online party, I think they had a costume party the other night. So I'm devastated for them that their launch into our world has been so abruptly… not halted, but stopped, they’ve got the breaks on, and we'll tell you when you can go, and it wont be for a while.
So I'm really devastated for them, and what I've been saying to people during this - have I've been following my own advice? No - But what I've been saying to people is, now is the time, like Sergio said on your show other day, now is the time to do it. Now is the time to practice. So one of the pieces of advice that I came up with to give to the younger folks before all the shit hit the fan was practice your instruments. Because I've done two shows this year where I've had to play two different instruments and I've never in four years played an instrument in the show before I... So I really think it is the way of the future, particularly now, where we're probably gonna be able to have fewer people in the company, so I really think that playing an instrument is gonna be really, really good idea, and playing more than one instrument isn't even better idea.
D: Great advice.
C: So once we can get going again, and it's not so much learning a new skill, I'm gonna learn Japanese, but honing the skills that you already have, like Sergio was talking about, If you need work on your pirouettes, lets then work on your pirouettes.
D: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
C: It was very inspiring what he said that we need you now, and now is the time to do it, because now that we know that it's not gonna end this time next week, then it is literally our new reality, and so we need to embrace it, we need to embrace the time. How can we use the time? And if that time is sitting on your couch watching Netflix, then you're learning about movie acting... Right. So everything is useful. Everything.
D: Yeah, yeah, well put it. And everyone now’s your chance to type in your questions for Ms. Charlotte Moore. So, go ahead and do that. You've seen the trends change over your career, and you have been so resilient and successful in surfing those changes like incredibly. So is there a key to that or a trick to... How you've done that?
C: I think it’s about being open to the adventure, it's about what could possibly happen next. For those of you who didn't see it, David and I did a wonderful production of Lucky Stiff, and there was one character that were supposed to be a hysterical young woman secretary, and she ended up being the oldest woman alive... And I did this schtick where I came in with a metal tray and some cutlery and I shook it and David just said “more, more, shake it more, take longer, take longer” and then you have to weep on your way out, and it was just the adventure of finding that was such a joy. So I really... To me, it's all about... Well, it's always been about finding the joy and the villains are the ones who had their joy squashed, and the young lovers are the ones who are full of joy and it's overflowing. They can't help it. So I think that joy has a lot to do with it, but it's the adventure, it's riding a freakin wave man, and so that even the really bad experiences, you're gonna get something out of that too. you're gonna be able to ride that wave, but... Well, okay, so to... I remember doing a show, I'm not gonna tell you what it was, but I was halfway through this and run this really bad run, and it was a small Ontario tour, and it was just...Oh, and my future, mother and father-in-law came and there was one scene I had to take off my dress, so I'm in underwear in front of my boyfriend's parents, and it was really bad, but then half way through that tour, I got Les Mis! So the rest of the tour, I was like, yeah... You may have seen me in my underwear but two months from now I’m going to be in Les Mis so Buh-bye suckers! It's about riding a wave, is the short answer.
D: I just love that. And I guess you are such a great example of... I think when people are young in their careers, they think that this is the last opportunity and their only chance to prove their worth to the world, but yeah, but that's not the case in your career, right, you...
C: No, no, it's totally not. It can't be because if I thought I was gonna stop... If I thought Sunday in the Park with George, which was the last thing I did before this happened, if I thought that was gonna be the end. I don't know how I feel about that, because I need stuff to look forward to, and that's something that we all need, and that's why this is so difficult for all of us, because all those things that we had to look forward to are literally floating in midair…so how do we handle that? Well, we just have to handle it.
D: We have conversations like this that inspire us. Here's the question, asking about recording because you have two incredible CDs, and he's been told by composer if it's not perfect, don't bother publishing it. Can it be right? How do you let go of perfectionism when you're recording?
C: My first album was produced by Mark Camilleri, and our very first meeting, he said to me, this may be the only album you ever make, probably not, but it might be, so you might as well make the best one you can, but he also predicted that when we got into the mixing of it, that I would be... I would be very, very particular, and I was very, very particular, but by the end of it, by the last number, instead of having to cut every three words and get something from the other take, by the time we mixed the last number, I was like a verse and a half and I'm like, Oh, I'm flat on that note. Can you fix it?
So you learn to relax as you're going along, and you also learn that it can't be perfect. Because who said, “A work of art is never finished.” That being said, if there's a glaring mistake, a wrong chord or something, then yeah, you gotta go back and fix it. Of course, you do, but... And I... My second album, which was all original stuff, it wasn't music theatre stuff, I did out in Charlottetown with my wonderful friend Chris Corrigan, who's brilliant to a guitarist and arranger, and we didn't do much cutting and going back and forth because we wanted a real off the floor feel, and in fact, I think more than one of the vocals was the second take, and some of the tracks were the first take because we wanted it to feel live, so we didn't do any pitch correction at all in that one in fact ...'cause we didn't want it, because if you try to make it perfect, it's not gonna sound real and it's not gonna sound live.
D: They're amazing albums. They're both available on iTunes, right? Yeah, so grab them. Go grab them. They are Canadian nuggets. And these original tunes, it's like, Oh, she does that too. Someone's asking if you have a character or show memory that you cherish the most?
C: Well, character memory would have to be Mama Rose. That was climbing a mountain, and I would stand at the back, 'cause she comes from the back of the house saying “Sing out Louise”, and I was stand at the back of the house and I would have a discussion with myself... I had a choice, I could either throw up or do the show... Because that is like climbing a mountain. So I was in ornately proud of myself every time I climbed that mountain, so it's a remarkable gift to be able to play that part, but show-wise my all-time favourite heart felt experience with Stan Rodgers A Matter of Heart.
Because we walked in, Jim Betts produced and directed, we walked in the first day. The musical directors were Bob Ashley and Paul Mills, who was one of Stan’s right-hand guys, he produced and played in his band. We four singers, Me, Dan MacKay, Frank McKay and Terri Hatty we walked in the first day and we were treated by all the musicians as fellow musicians, and that doesn't happen or often enough, it happens more now than it used to. When I first started, you weren't a musician if you were a singer, now it's much more so. That's one of the big seismic changes in the time that I've been in the business. But that show was just a glorious, glorious love from beginning to end, to get to sing that Stan Rodgers material with the beautiful arranges that Bob and Paul did was so... Was really... We did it over two summers, we had a run here in Toronto, and it didn't go as well as they had hoped because the folk thing in Toronto, somebody that she said to me, “Oh Charlotte, you knew, it wouldn't go over in Toronto, too many ship wrecks, not enough martinis”, but it went over great everywhere else! But that was... That's my... That's my heart favorite.
D: Can we segue to, you've done a number of new musicals, is that a different skill sets? How do you...
C: I Think so
D: How do you approach that?
C: Hmm How do I approach that…This is one of the reasons why I don't think I'm a director, because I've done so many workshops of new Canadian musicals, and I have to go into that, from what is my character's purpose? So I can't look at the big picture. I can't... I need to look where the character fits in the arch, and if there is a real... There's a tailspin or a veer off, that makes no sense. I need to ask that question. But I need to go in, and I've done tons of workshops, I've done a lot of productions, but even more workshops, and you have to go in from a, how a how do I serve... How does this character that I'm playing serve the piece, so that's the skill set. When I'm going to just go into like a...I don't know, Damn Yankees That I did for Drayton. It's not so much how do I serve the piece is, how am I part of the storytelling? Which is a slightly different thing. Does that make sense?
D: It sure does. As you have... Yeah, that's incredible advice. That's incredible advice to... 'cause you're serving in a new work, you are serving the creators, and so you do need to communicate, this doesn't feel right. And when that's already establishing, you don't have that kind of say... Then it's a different beast.
C: Yeah, because there's no point raising those kind of questions if it's an already published piece because they don't care what you think.
D: Yeah, you can’t change that. You can’t take that Verse away. So many friends online giving you love. You’re a living Legacy. We all agree with that. Legacy and Legend, have the same root.I think legacy, from my understanding is about kind of what you've done...
C: Well, what you leave behind. To me, that's what it means.
D: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So can you speak to that? I mean, you're not done... Let us say that. This is not memorial! But it has been 40 years.
C: So it has been 40 years, well 41 years. We talked a lot when we were doing Sunday in the Park with George Evan Tsitsias, the director, talked a lot about legacy in the rehearsal hall and how the whole second act... The whole point of the second act is, there are only two things in this world worth leaving behind: Children and Art, and so we talked a lot about that, and I think what was cool for me about that experience was there were 20 of Emily's classmates in that show, so getting to know her friends as co-workers was really, really cool, and so I really sort of took that whole legacy thing in, and I... It's been... When I was younger, it was a battle because I really felt like I'm my own person, you know, I'm not writing on anybody's coat-tails and it took me a long time to understand that it was actually a privilege, not a burden to have that legacy. To be part of that legacy. And so then I think it was during maybe my 30s where I started figuring this out, and then I decided that, you know what, I need to be a better person, because I want people, if they're talking about me forty years from now to say that this was a good person, not that she knew her lines on the first day or whatever the fuck I thought legacy meant. So that became a journey there too.
D: Yeah, we all agree that you're a very good person. I can't think of a single person that doesn't have a Charlotte Moore story, and it's not about me, so I'm not gonna share mine, but mine are profound. We met, I was…. 1991, I think was our first show… was The Greatest Gift.
C: We laughed a lot on that show...
D: Yeah, but when I say I walked into that Rehearsal Hall and was paralyzed by you, I was... I didn't... Anyway, you were kind then, you're kind now. You’re very generous. Quick story though, it was a very small cast, there was four or five of us, and the non-equity people had to leave the room to vote on the equity deputy. Do you remember this?
C: Was it just you? We’re you the only non-eq?
D: It was just me! So I had to leave for that vote and you were so incensed by it, like you were so angry, and all of a sudden I just felt like I was...you lowered the drawbridge to Canadian Theatre in that moment. And at the end of the day you said, “Night Eq’s, night Non-eq’s”
What is the biggest change you've seen in the business over your career?
C: The biggest change I've seen in the business is when I started...Okay, back to Emily again. I say to people, Emily has way more goods than I had at that age, I would never have had the career I have had if I had started now... Yeah, because now you have to be a triple threat. When I started, you had to do two out of three... So I was a singer/actor, and there were lots of dancer/actors, and there were lots of dancer/singers, and there were lots of people who were just dancers who only did Ensemble tracks, and they didn't have to be good singers because the leads would sing all the core stuff. So I would never have survived in the business because I didn't dance. I took training, I took lots of TAP, and TAP was really the only thing I actually really took over a period of years, 'cause it was fun, but... So I think the real shift that I've seen is that you have to be able to do all three things and play an instrument, a quadruple threat, so I would say you have to be able to do all those things. Now, as I said before, the thing about being accepted as a musician, there's a lot more like Donna Garners, new company, Garner Theatre Productions. But it’s all Actor/Musicians, and so that... I don't think you would have seen that 40, 30 years ago, even 25 years ago, people who are really proficient musicians and singers and actors too. So I think there's a lot more... Lot more variety in the skills that people have and people need.
D: As the OG high belt. When did you realize that… When did you... Because that's the thing I think now, like in addition to all of those things, a high mix belt is something that's gonna help you in contemporary musical theatre, but whatever I think of it, I think of you, and I think of before anyone knew it was called, Charlotte was doing that!
C: Charlotte was doing that because Charlotte used to smoke dope, and it dries out your vocal cords, don't, you know, and Charlotte had no head tone in her life, she had no head tone, until she stopped smoking dope, so I had to build those notes because I couldn't get up into my head, I couldn't do it. In fact, I quit smoking dope when I got Les Mis because I couldn't sing it, because dope will stay in your throat for three days, you'll be able to hear it in your singing for three days.
So, in fact, I’ll tell ya a little story, we were going out on tour where we had rehearsed in Toronto with beautiful Paul Sportelli was the music director... And Patrick and I had a little celebratory toot before I went and I had a couple of travel days and we get... We get settled and then we're going to rehearsal and I go to sing I Dreamed A Dream with Paul and I can’t sing the thing. And he goes, “What happened to you in the last three days” I went *Gasp* I smoked dope. So I never smoked it ever again. I stopped.
D: Haha! Happy Mother’s day everyone. Kids don’t smoke dope!
C: My other favourite Sportelli story; I was having trouble with it all sitting too far back, words is like God and stuff like that was... And we realized, because he was a transplanted American, he'd come up to do shows, and we realized that I was singing with a Canadian accent and it was all going back in my throat, so he made me sing it with an American accent. so I would say God, and it would come forward and it was fine. Yeah, words like God and I don't know, other vowel sounds like that, we tend to swallow and it goes to the back of our throats, so that's a lesson that I learned from him that I've used ever since to brighten it up and bring it forward and open it up.
D: Pro-tips. Friends, pro tips right here. I'm obsessed with you. Ethan is asking, How do you bring your authentic self into spaces and not buy into self-doubt?
C: Oh, that's a tough one. So I used to have paralyzing self-doubt and now I just sort of say, oh get over it… Like I just coached myself into getting over it. But David, you'll remember the first day of Marathon of Hope, we had the whole big circle, I don't know how many people were there, it was all of admin and all the wardrobe and everybody introducing themselves, and I don't introduce myself as Betty Fox, I introduced myself as Betty White. Like where the hell did that come from? I must have been the colour of a ripe tomato! I don’t know where that came from. And that was just my nerves getting the better of me. Right? And that was only a couple of years ago. The best thing to do is just to say yourself, get over yourself, everybody else.. hmm no, this is better advice. Everybody else is feeling the same way. Everybody else is nervous. Everybody else is thinking, “what if they don't like me?” Well, you want them to like you…So they're gonna like you because if you’re a nice person they’re gunna like you... And ultimately, it's all about just getting down to work and doing the work, right?
D: You just try liking them.
C: Yeah, yeah.
D: Yeah, that's a beautiful... what are some of your favorite pre-show rituals or warm-ups?
C: I don't warm up as much as I used to, I used to warm up a lot. When I was in my 20s I did a play, and I was taking some voice classes from David Smuckler and he had all these things, where we’d roll down and he’d say “touch the swamp” and he always talked about touching the swamp and doing these sounds…So I'm doing this play was at the St. Lawrence Centre, Fiona Reid, was the lead in it. So I, I'm in my dressing room that I had to myself, with the door closed during the half hour and then I hear Stage Management, “Miss Reid has requested that you not do that after the half hour, it’s freaking her out.” Because it sounded very, sort of, I don’t know… ritualistic. So the next thing I do it and I stop at a half hour and I open my jammer, there's a little pile of offerings from the other actors as a joke, like they built a little shrine. So I stopped doing it, after that.
But I like to... If I do a musical, if I'm singing, like when I was doing Damn Yankees and I had to sing a lot of high stuff, which I'm not used to, I would sing along to Kelli O’Hara in Bridges of Madison County in the car on my way to work and I would warm up with Kelly. What I like to do, if I have a really big sing is I like to... Lots of breathing exercises, trills, articulation exercises are really important to get it forward in your mask, humming, you know all that stuff.
But I like to sing along with something that's not the show, but is a similar vocal type to what I want the character to sound like, 'cause the thing that I do that I don't know if a lot of people do, I tend to sing slightly differently for every character I play... Because in a way that I walk like that person and talk like that person, I think I also need to sing like that person. Lucy van Pelt... does not sound like... in Charlie Brown, does not sound like Mrs. Johnstone in Blood Brothers. Right? Or sound like Mama Rose, or sound like the wife in Damn Yankees, so each one sounds... Each one, manufacturers the sound slightly differently and some are healthier than others.
D: That’s amazing. After coming out of college. How do you get yourself out there to be noticed? Professionally.
C: Now, of course, it's online stuff. I don't really have a good answer to that question because it's been so long since I was in college, and when I got out of college, I actually left...I was in a four-year program at York, and at the end of third year, I go into the Charlettetown Festival. So I didn't complete my degree and I sort of slammed into the business, that's how I got my equity card, that's how I met a lot of the really important people in my life, so I'm not a good person to ask that advice. Like two months ago, I would have said go sing at the 120 Diner. Right? So it's a... It's a whole new world. So sadly, I do not have advice for that scenario.
D: The people that I'm talking to are really big proponents of getting in front of this camera, of getting... Putting stuff on tape and using this time to look at yourself and analyze what you sound like, 'cause it's not what you hear when you sing, and how you relate to the camera is often how you relate to a... So that's one piece of advice that's been coming up, is just to just keep going, whatever that means, when you feel like it...
C: They used to say before the advent of video, or this kind of video, they used to say to put yourself on tape and listen to it, because you don't sound like what you think you sound like... Yeah, that's very true. It's very true.
D: You've transitioned; You played Louise and you’ve played Mama Rose, and you played every character in Anne of Green Gables and in Cabaret you were Sally, and then you were so magnificent in that production, just... So I go, I hope no one else ever tries to play this part because... There it is, so, you know. Oh my gosh, in...
C: We still got our fingers crossed, about the tour in the new year, but we'll see.... I'm sorry, what was the question?
D: Advice on transitioning through a career where you need to leave some things behind and move forward is there...
C: I think the first time I ever saw a show or heard a show where I went ah fuck I’m too old, was Wicked. And that was what, 15 years ago when that came up, and that's when I realized that I would never be Eliza Doolittle... I would never be that. But again, I know you poo-poo’d me when I said at the beginning, I've been very lucky, I have been very lucky to get a lot of these parts and have the opportunity to play a lot of these parts, and so I'm not gonna regret anything and being able to graduate to Fraulein Schneider, after playing Sally 30 years ago, it's a great honor. It's a great honour, because I've already been inside the show, I already know the show, and now I'm getting to re-examine, revisit this magnificent piece of theater from a totally different perspective.
One time when I was doing Mama Rose, Marla McLean was the Louise, and we were doing that last scene where it's the only time in the show where Louise says more than half a sentence. When I was playing Louise, I wrote down all my lines and they all fit onto one page, and the only time she said more than half a sentence was that last scene where she gives her mother shit. So I'm on stage as Rose and there’s Marla McLean, and she's doing that piece as Louise and I came completely out of the play and went “man, I never realized... She's way better than I was”. I almost missed my next line. Oh my god, never doing that again! So I think that transitioning is just a different... It's a different fork on the adventure.
Can I tell you a Martha Henry story? Okay, I was in the Grand Theatre Company, ill-fated company, which only lasted one winter season at the Grand Theatre run by Robin Phillips. Martha Henry William Hutt, me and Neil Foster were the two youngest people in it, we were both 24, and I got the opportunity to watch Martha, in a few rehearsals, and what she did was she would... Okay, tell a very specific anecdote, I was watching the rehearsals for Dear Antoine... I wasn't in it, and there was the usual set: the couch and an easy chair. And so Martha, the whole rehearsal had been in the easy chair, and she comes in and she, Oh, they got this set up on stage the first day on stage, she comes and she stands at the front of the stage, she turns her back to the audience, and she just looks at set and she goes and sits in the easy chair that she'd been rehearsing in, and she kind of goes… and she comes back to the stage, puts her back to the audience, looks again and goes and sits in the corner of the couch, and that's where she sat, 'cause she was playing dowager who didn't move, that's what she sat through the rest of... That was it, she had changed her mind, and so what Martha would do was she would to look at all the possibilities and she'd go that one, and then she'd go there and all those other possibilities would fall to the way side, and then when she was here, she'd go all the possibilities, that one, and she'd go there and she would never regret things that she gave up, because she made her decision.
So the end of this day, she spent the day in the corner of the couch and I'm just sitting in the back watching 'cause I'm mesmerized by the whole thing. And over the course of the day, she starts doing this *Holds hands out, crossed in front at chest height* her hands were like this at the end of the day, the next day, there was a cane under those hands... That's my Martha Henry story.
D: That's a good story. What do you love so much about theatre?
C: Wow, that's a big question, David Connolly…
D: you just love it, you love it more than like...
C: It’s my favourite place in the world to be. Let's put it that way. Yeah, I love it. When it works, I'm heartbroken by it. When it doesn't work…but there's always a reason why you’re heart broken by it. Is it a lesson that you can learn? Two years ago, at Drayton there was a show I wanted so fucking bad, and I didn’t get it and I was so upset that I called Bruce Dean, poor Bruce Dean... And he says, “I don't understand why you’re so upset, you’re just an actor who didn’t get a part” and I'm like, “Yeah...” But because I didn't get that part, I got to go to Morocco with my friends. So there you go. There's no saying that things don't happen for a reason.
There's lots of people that you meet on your journey and you don't get to see them very often, but when you do get to see them and work with them and do the work together in a way that celebrates everything, that's one of the reasons I love working with you because you celebrate... You celebrate the work.