If you frequent local theatre productions in Southern CA, then you’re certainly familiar with the transcendent work of Los Angeles based actress and singer, Cassandra Murphy. Not only has she transformed herself into some of theatre’s most iconic characters, but the consummate artist delivers standing ovation performances time & time again. I got to chat with Murphy recently to discuss her latest project, the reason why she loves challenging roles and how she met her real-life prince playing his on-stage princess
You’ve portrayed everyone from Fantine in “Les Miserables,” to Eva Perón in “Evita” and currently as Aldonza in “Man of La Mancha.” The list of characters on your resume seem quite daunting. How do you select your particular roles?
I am always up for a challenge. If it’s not hard it’s not worth it. What excites me about a role is the arc of a character. Where they start and how far they have to go to get to the finish line. And these 3 roles that you’ve mentioned were all very challenging physically, musically and emotionally. I want to constantly be pushing myself in any and every role that I’m lucky enough to play. The more boundaries and walls the character has to push through and break down the more excited I am as an actress to portray them. There are so many amazing actresses in LA I feel very fortunate that I’ve been trusted to play these characters.
As I mentioned you’re currently starring in A Noise Within’s “Man of La Mancha.” Please tell us about the production.
A Noise Within’s “Man of La Mancha” is unlike any you’ve seen before. The concept is modern, gritty, full of imagination and hope. Without giving too much away…Our brilliant Director Julia Rodriguez-Elliot created a world that is recognizable and also threatening. She’s revived the show but kept all the truth and underlying themes that the original had. The story is about finding hope and freedom in impossible circumstances. I think our production gives you that and so much more. Geoff Elliot who plays Don Q is easily one of the best actors I’ve ever shared the stage with. He’s so full and present every show. It’s such a honor to be working with all of the players in this production. And with the ANW’s space being so intimate you get to take the journey with us up close.
As an actor, is it much different performing in a smaller theatre like at ANW?
I get asked this question a lot. The work is no different. What I’m doing onstage is the same with 99 seats or 2000 seats. I don’t know any other way to do it. But I do love feeling the intimacy of the audience with ANW’s thrust stage. We are living the show together. There is no wall. And that feeling is different than any other I’ve had yet.
Of course many of your roles have been vocally demanding. How do you keep your instrument healthy?
I’m not gonna lie… I’m easily a bass the morning after shows like “Evita and “Man of La Mancha.” Honestly, I just have to remind myself on days off to take it very easy vocally. Drink lots of water and pray! It’s like any other muscle in your body when you’ve worked it out heavily you have to give it time off to recover.
What are some of your dream roles? I would LOVE to see you as Elizabeth in “If/Then.” I’m not a big fan of contemporary musicals but I do love the songs by Yorkey/Kitt in this one.
I’ve not seen IF/THEN! I need to! I would love to play Guinevere in “Camelot.” I have wonderful memories from my childhood watching the VHS (yeah you heard me VHS) of the movie musical and have always loved the story. Also, Jenna in “Waitress” is another favorite of mine. The music is so beautiful. And since “Phantom of the Opera” was the very first show I ever saw at 7 years old Christine has always been a dream role.
Is there where your love for musical theatre began?
Yes, I was 8 years old sitting next to my Mother, Grandmother and Aunt watching “Phantom of the Opera.” I stole my grandmother’s binoculars, watched silently (which was not normal for me!) and my life was changed forever. After seeing that show I would sit on my Aunts bed and play the cassette tape with my headphones on, look at the program and cry huge tears when the phantom disappears (or dies whichever you believe.) Davis Gaines was the Phantom and I have since worked with him and it was such an incredible moment for me as a professional actress and the 8 year old dreamer inside of me as well.
At “Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular” you did double duty starring as Princess Jasmine, and also serving as the show’s vocal captain. Could you please explain what a vocal captain does?
Aladdin was such a special life and theatre experience for me. I played Jasmine for 10 years and that has to be around 8,000+ performances. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to beat that with any other show from here on out! I became a vocal captain of the show and our “job” was to maintain the quality of the show in all musical aspects. To take notes and report anything we thought needed special care.
After 8000 performances, I’m sure you have a laundry list of mishaps. What’s the worst thing that has happened?
If I told you I’d have to kill you.
You met your fiance, John Shartzer while working at Aladdin. Was it love at first sight?
John and I worked together for years just as friends! We joke at home about him proposing to me on stage hundreds of times during the corse of the 5 years we played opposite each other as Aladdin and Jasmine before I actually said “Yes!”. I think our story is a sweet one. We were very close friends for years before dating and falling in love. That’s what makes our relationship so strong today. He’s my best friend and I thank God for that and for him.
And you both have an adorable dachshund named Archie. Please tell us about him.
His full name is Lord Commander Archie! He’s our long haired mini dachshund blessing. I truly don’t know what life would be like without him! He loves cuddles and to play at the park with other pups. Also, in the morning he smells like buttered popcorn 🙂 no joke. You know this particular breed tends to be stubborn and Archie is just that. But it makes his personality so funny and unpredictable! He’s very loyal to John and I. We love him dearly!
You know what’s better than one dachshund? LOL