DIVA TALK: A Chat With Two-Time Tony Nominee Alison Fraser, Star of Tennessee Williams Songbook and Love Therapy (Plus Video)

By Andrew Gans
22 Mar 2013

Alison Fraser
Alison Fraser

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Alison Fraser
Alison Fraser has always been one of the more versatile theatre artists — transitioning from Tony-nominated turns in Romance/Romance and The Secret Garden to acclaimed runs in such non-musical fare as The Divine Sister and In Masks Outrageous and Austere. That extreme facility in moving between performance modes has never been more evident than in her three current projects. Fraser, who was most recently on Broadway as a humorous and touching Tessie Tura in the Patti LuPone revival of Gypsy, is currently in New Orleans starring in the one-woman Only a Paper Moon: A Tennessee Williams Songbook, an evening of music inspired by Williams' works that the actress will perform in various cities, with the ultimate goal Manhattan. The gifted artist can also be seen in delicious diva mode in the new Wesley Taylor-Mitchell Jarvis webseries "It Could Be Worse," which debuts each week on Playbill.com. And, beginning next month Fraser will star in the Off-Broadway production of Wendy Beckett's Love Therapy, a new play that begins previews April 20 at the DR2 Theatre. Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of catching up with the singing actress, who spoke by phone from New Orleans about her numerous and eclectic projects; that interview follows.

Question: What brings you to New Orleans? Are you performing the Tennessee Williams show?
Alison Fraser: I'm doing the Tennessee Williams show for the festival there—the big Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival happening down here, and we're also recording a CD. We decided that since we had just absolutely spectacular Dixieland musicians down here that we said, "Hey! We're going to be there, we're going to be rehearsing, we're going to be doing the show with these guys day after day after day… It's a perfect opportunity to record." So we're doing that Saturday and Sunday, and I could not be more excited about that.

Question: I love the clips of the show that I've seen.
Fraser: Oh, thank you so much. I think it's one of the most exciting shows I've ever done, and I'm dying to try to get it done in New York. We have some meetings coming up. I just think it's beautifully, beautifully constructed. I think that the same documentarian that did those clips that you saw is going to do the whole show down here as a documentary. The Tennessee Williams estate really loves our show, and they're behind us all the way, so we're very, very lucky. I manage to get myself involved with really interesting projects! [Laughs.] The three that I'm doing right now pretty much simultaneously are, of course, the Tennessee Williams show, which is ongoing — A Tennessee Williams Songbook — and Wendy Beckett's new play, Love Therapy, and she wrote the part of Madge with me in mind, and that's, of course, a thrill. I feel so lucky when people actually write me parts because I'm terrible at auditioning, so it's a good thing that people are writing me parts and I don't have to audition! [Laughs.] And then, of course, Playbill has been pretty supportive of the wonderful new web series "It Could Be Worse," Wesley Taylor and Mitchell Jarvis'… I think those guys are terrific, and, again, I just so lucked into that. I worked with Wesley when I did "Smash." I did an episode of "Smash," and I was standing next to Wesley Taylor all day, and, oddly enough, two weeks later we were doing a Project Shaw reading, and he was splendid in that. And, Mitchell is with my agency, and the two of them got to talking and thinking, "Hey, Alison might be a really great choice to play the horrible diva!" [Laughs.] … I play just a hell-on-wheels star of screen, television and Broadway, and she's just not the nicest person in the world, but she's a great big star, and Wesley's character has been cast opposite her, and she makes his life a living hell! [Laughs.] And, I guess she's very, very glamorous. It's so much fun because they made up this whole legend. I have a mythology — Veronica's mythology is Alison's film clips, and Alison's pictures. [Laughs.] It's a very Meta experience for me.

 Continued...