HEROINES: Caroline O’Connor

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So, I wasn’t planning on it, but I ended up watching the Tonys the other night. I’m glad I did. I think it was the best Tonys in years. I don’t always love the Tonys, or quite frankly what Broadway musicals have become. It’s so commercial and so shiny. A lot of times I feel like the individuality of a performer is stamped out in some effort to appeal to the masses. The young leading ladies of Broadway musicals are so similar nowadays in appearance and vocal quality that many times I can’t tell them apart. There are exceptions of course, but for the most part I miss the individuality and comet-like stage presence, and ACTING CHOPS, of women like Bernadette Peters and Patti Lupone. So I was so relieved that one of the first things I saw when I tuned in was Caroline O’connor KILLING a tap number in A Christmas Story. So fierce.

Who? I realize she’s not a household name to non-theatrical folk or even to some theatrical folk, but she is one of my heroes. Maybe this will clue you in. She played Nini Legs in the Air in Moulin Rouge and danced this PHENOMENAL tango.

The first time I saw that, I lost my shit. It was the sexiest, most emotional, incredible dance I’d ever seen. Caroline not only wiped the floor with this tango, but she stole every scene she was in in the movie. She was so expressive. Her comic timing was impeccable. I didn’t know who she was at the time, but she left a huge impression on me. I have also watched that clip hundreds and hundreds of times. It’s one of my favorite things in life. I find it incredibly inspiring and so passionate.

Caroline O'Connor in Chicago.

Flash forward a couple of years. It was the Summer I got out of the Navy. I was in NY auditioning for Juilliard. (Another story entirely). While I was there, my mother and I met up with a family friend that we knew from when we lived in NY and we went and saw Chicago on Broadway. As I was reading my program, I realized that the woman playing Velma was the tango dancer from Moulin Rouge! I was so excited and she did not disappoint. She was brilliant!

Flash forward another couple of years. I’m living in Chicago and working as an actress. I hear that Caroline is going to be in Follies at Chicago Shakespeare Theater with some of my friends incidentally! I knew I had to see her. I ended up going, and not only saw a terrific show, but had drinks with her afterward! She was a complete delight. We drank whiskey together and she told me with a twinkle in her eye to “never trust a New Zealander because they’re all inbred.” I don’t know if this is true, but it cracked me up. I love that she’s such a dame. Such a broad. We need more of those in musical theater. And she’s SUCH a triple threat. A TRUE one. When she writes Actor/Singer/Dancer at the top of her resume, she’s EARNED it. She’s also earned a spot on my heroines list.  I mean, just LOOK at this:

imagesHarmony

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