An afternoon with Christine Pedi coming to Academy Players

by Frank O’Donnell

When your summer acting workshop for teen performers is “Forbidden Broadway,” who do you get to run a master class?

For Rita Maron, artistic director at Academy, it was a no-brainer. You call Christine Pedi, the morning host of Sirius XM’s Broadway channel. “She was a cast member of ‘Forbidden Broadway,’” said Maron. “Comedy is our concentration this summer, and who better than Christine Pedi” to run a master class, because she ”can do it all.”

Pedi says she’s excited to meet the young performers, and she will wait to meet them before deciding where to go with the class. “It all depends on the performers,” she said recently. “It all depends what they present to me. Sometimes, they just need basic technical mechanical changes. Sometimes, they’re absolutely perfect, so I get them to try it from a different perspective. That was sweet and dopey. Now try hard-boiled and grizzled. It’s all an exercise. And it all depends on the kids.”

“Forbidden Broadway” has been around for about 36 years, and takes some healthy pot shots at Broadway shows, using impressions and parody to gently poke fun at classics and new shows alike.

Pedi’s been part of the “Forbidden Broadway” cast for about ten years. “I have literally been all over the world” with the show. Pedi’s strength lies in her uncanny ability to imitate some megastars of the stage. “At my first audition, I did Carol Channing.” She’s since taken on Ethel Merman, Patti Lupone and Liza Minelli. “The more you do them, the easier they get, and the better they get.”

Her new favorite voice is Barbra Streisand. “Seeing her in concert helps. I do her singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame.’ It’s outrageous and overblown.” She treats me to a little taste of it. It is both, and it is hilarious.

“I do a funny medley of Liza Minelli doing songs from ‘Mamma Mia!’” and she gets a lot of help from her pianist. “He’s a very funny man. People laugh at his piano work as much as they laugh at me.”

Her pianist will be with her at the workshop. “He can transpose instantly,” helping the performers work in a key that is comfortable. Pedi will spend a lot of time discussing the show’s lyrics and understanding the story. Both elements are extremely important to proper communication of comedy, she says.

“Comedy is hard to deliver,” says Maron, and Pedi is “so experienced in comedy and musical comedy. We see so many actors miss the opportunity to get that big laugh because the delivery wasn’t quite right. That’s what Christine will be talking about.”

Pedi has been on Sirius XM for about 16 years, calling it a “wonderful, wonderful job.” She laughs when she talks about meeting “kids who grew up listening to me.”

When she’s not on the radio or doing a “Forbidden Broadway” show, she is involved in a lot of different projects. “I seek out things to do. I do every benefit, every reading.”

She’s also part of the production team for “Spamilton,” a spoof of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s megahit, “Hamilton.” Pedi says she was approached by the show’s creator, who also created “Forbidden Broadway,” about being a producer. “They showed me the cover of the script, and I laughed hysterically. Of course I’ll do it.”

The parody has a very successful run, says Pedi. “It was a limited engagement. We just couldn’t find a theater. They’re hard to find, and ridiculously expensive.”

Pedi also works on “54 Below at Sea,” a cabaret show on a boutique ship that travels to Italy, Norway, France and other spots. And around the holidays, she does a show called “Snow Business.” “It’s one, maybe two nights at Feinstein’s 54 Below.”

So, what’s the biggest tip she’ll have for the performers at her workshop? “Relax, calm down, don’t fret.”

Maron hopes that Pedi’s workshop will help give the young performers a fresh perspective. “It’s always about hard work and dedication, and comedy should be respected just as much as choreography and vocal and acting skills. Comedy is an art.”

Christine Pedi’s workshop will be on Wednesday, July 18 at Academy Players in Providence. It is open to anyone who wants to come in and observe. Only members of the teen summer troupe will be part of the workshop. For complete information, visit Academy’s website at www.academyplayersri.org. For more information on Christine Pedi, visit her website at www.christinepedi.com.

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