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Monday, October 6, 2014

Andrea Martin Joins Pippin Cast in S.F. to Reprise Tony Award-Winning Role

Posted By on Mon, Oct 6, 2014 at 11:57 AM

Andrea Martin performs as Berthe in Pippin. - JOAN MARCUS
  • Joan Marcus
  • Andrea Martin performs as Berthe in Pippin.

In 2013, when actress Andrea Martin won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, she set her golden statue on the ground mid-acceptance speech to nervously double check her notes, eliciting a collective 'Awww!' from audiences across the nation. The musical that won Martin the award? Pippin — where she plays the title character's spirited grandmother, Berthe.

Now, Martin joins the touring cast of Pippin during its remaining performances at SHN’s Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco. SF Weekly caught up with Martin to discuss her role in Pippin, her new book, Lady Parts, and her favorite spot in San Francisco.

You created the role of Berthe in the revival of Pippin, didn’t you?

I created the role in the revival. So, the part was done in [the 1970’s] with Irene Ryan. And so 40 years later when Diane Paulus, the director, reimagined Pippin, she cast me in the part of Berthe. So I originated the part of Berthe in the revival of Pippin — which was in 2013.

And now you’ll be re-joining the cast of Pippin for the remaining weeks of the run at San Francisco’s SHN Golden Gate Theater?

Right now I’m just going back into it for five weeks. I haven’t been doing it for a year.

You get to play the same role again. What’s that like for you? Has the role evolved or changed in your mind at all?

You know, that’s an interesting question. It didn’t change in my mind but it certainly changed in other people’s minds because of the whole new cast. It didn’t change exorbitantly, extremely, extravagantly — but it changed enough so that timing might be off or interpretation of a character might be off from when I did it. So it’s taking a slight adjustment to keep the integrity of how I originally performed it, but also adapt to a new cast.
click to enlarge The cast of the national tour of Pippin. - TERRY SHAPIRO
  • Terry Shapiro
  • The cast of the national tour of Pippin.

Ever-changing casts is one of the most challenging things about live theater. How comfortable are you with the actors that you’ll be performing with in San Francisco?

Well luckily, Matthew James Thomas, who is playing Pippin right now, was Pippin on Broadway. So yes, I did work with him, and loved him. We had a very special bond because I play his grandmother in the piece. His very youthful grandmother! And so it’s wonderful to be reunited with him — I can’t tell you that enough, really. He’s a beautiful actor. And, you know, we’d been rehearsing in Boston, and performed it out of town, and then we did it on Broadway for six months, so we were very connected. And I’m so happy to be reunited with him! Because honestly, [...] that’s really the only connection that’s vital to me in this show; the one with Pippin. The character that I play really has one number, and it’s all with Pippin. So that was the most important thing to me. I’m so happy that [Matthew Jame Thomas] is a part of this.

As if preparing for Pippin weren’t enough, you’ve also just released a book called Lady Parts. Is Lady Parts a memoir?

You know, it isn’t really. It’s kind of a hybrid. There were meant to be kind of humorous essays like Nora Ephron or David Sedaris — but of course, they're stories about me and so in some ways it turned into a memoir-by-way-of-essays. But really, you don't have to read the book from beginning to end. You can pick different stories and by the end you can certainly hear my voice and get a sense of who I am, but it’s not a chronological look at my life.

I was just at Book Passage [last week] to do a book signing. I had never been down to the Embarcadero before. It was so beautiful — I can’t wait to go back down there! And that bookstore is so special. I mean you can sit there, and read a book, and be on the water, and watch the ferries going back and forth. It’s just delightful.

Pick up a copy of Andrea Martin’s Lady Parts and see her in the role of Berthe in Pippin, presented by SHN on Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. and continuing through Oct. 19 at SHN Golden Gate Theater, 1 Taylor St., S.F. Tickets are $45-$210; call 746-1799 or visit shnsf.com. 
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Laura Jaye Cramer

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