Michelle DawsonPublished: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 By: Jim DeBlasi Source: SPOTLIGHT
Michelle Dawson is currently appearing as Donna Sheridan in the Westchester Broadway Theatre’s production of MAMMA MIA! – a role that Ms. Dawson has performed on Broadway. Michelle is no stranger to the WBT having appeared in their productions of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (Candy), MAN OF LA MANCHA (Aldonza), SOUND OF MUSIC (Elsa), JELYLL & HYDE (Lucy), and OLIVER ( Nancy). Ms. Dawson’s National Tour credits include MAMMA MIA!, SEVEN BRIDES… and THE SECRET GARDEN.
CUE: How did you get started in theatre?
MD: I grew up in Vermont and started acting in grade school. My first production was THE WIZARD OF OZ, and no, I didn’t play Dorothy, I was actually a made up role but I knew even then that this is what I wanted to do. I started studying voice and continued with the school plays.
CUE: Was there a single event that led to your decision to pursue this professionally?
MD: I wish I could say yes to that but the truth is I just feel this is what I was meant to do and it was always there to me. I had no other real interests other than the school musicals and appearing in community theatre productions. This was just my path – there was no other career driving me.
CUE: Did you find that community theatre was helpful to you to prepare for a career?
MD: Absolutely. It was such a great way to get experience and to seize opportunities. My first show was ANNIE GET YOUR GUN where I actually learned to tap. Community theatre helped me to understand the foundation of what is involved with putting on a show. You learn that while you need to work hard, you start to understand how your role fits into the overall development of the show as a whole.
CUE: What do you consider your first big break?
MD: I would say that getting my Equity card was a big break and opened up opportunities for me. It’s funny but sometimes I think just being able to continue working in this field is your big break. Some people measure success and their big break by getting to Broadway – I’ve had 5 Broadway shows and have come to realize that those opportunities come and go, so staying employed is the key to success and working to hone your skills is constantly your big break.
CUE: What would you say has been the biggest obstacle to overcome in pursuing your career?
MD: I would say it is getting past myself! I have to keep trying to stop me from sabotaging me. I can’t let my own insecurities an anxieties get the best of me. I believe that so many actors suffer from this same issue. We can stall our own careers due to self-doubt.
CUE: How did you get involved with MAMMA MIA!?
MD: I’ve worked at the WBT a few times in the past and they have been amazing to me. They are like family. I also think that it worked to my advantage that I had played this part on Broadway. I love the show and I always enjoy working at the WBT so for me this was a no brainer.
CUE: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?
MD: I love performing, “Slipping Through My Fingers.” I have a son who is 12 and for me and lots of other people that song really makes an impact and highlights the relationship. I also love, “Winner Takes It All,” it is a powerful number and I love to sing it. Overall I enjoy so much of the music because it is powerful in how it focuses on relationships.
CUE: Having played this role several times, is it hard to find new things and interpretations?
MD: It is really never the same no matter how many times you do it. You work with different actors who bring their own take on their character which influences how you play yours. Also each production has different staging and blocking. I have usually performed this on a proscenium stage and here at the WBT it is a ¾ round stage so you need to be aware of all sides. There are just differences in each production that require you to be on your toes and not rely on what you’ve done previously.
CUE: How do you deal with auditions?
MD: I am not a fan of auditioning. They generally set off my anxiety and self-doubt. They bring up all my insecurities. Auditions are hard – you need to be yourself yet you try to interpret what they are looking for. You also have limited time to learn the material. So you go in and try to do the work as best you can and look to avoid the distractions.
CUE: What types of roles attract you?
MD: I would say I love an earth mom with complications. I like roles that have baggage – characters that take a journey and have an arc throughout the show. I also like roles that have a little bit of a darker side.
CUE: What has been your best career advice so far?
MD: Actually I think I just got it recently – Don’t get caught up in the results but rather enjoy the process.