#BehindtheCurtain: Get to Know Taylor Henderson and Wendy Waddell
This week, in our behind the curtain blog series, we wanted to do something a little different and highlight not just one, but two, incredible performers! In our production of Xanadu, while most of the muses are bright and bubbly, two of them get to take on the much more “evil” role. Melpomene and Calliope, played by Taylor Henderson and Wendy Waddell respectively, provide some comedically sinister twists to an otherwise upbeat musical and are the perfect villainous duo! This week, we sat down with them both to ask some of our favorite questions that we can’t wait to share with you all. Neither Taylor nor Wendy are strangers to the SDMT Stage, and we’re so happy to have them back with us for this production. They’ve received absolutely glowing reviews for their performances so far, with one critic saying “There are many laugh-out-loud moments, with Ms. Henderson and Ms. Waddell getting some of the biggest for their Ursula-esque moments” and another stating that their vocal duet of “Evil Woman” really shines. With only a handful of shows left, make sure you buy a ticket while you still have the chance so you can come see these two and the rest of our incredible cast on the SDMT Stage from now until June 4th!
What inspired you to get into musical theatre?
Wendy: “Well, I performed in solely non-musical plays for the majority of my professional career. I had a voice teacher in college tell me that singing voice wasn’t particularly pleasant, and I probably wouldn’t ever get cast in musicals. Ten years ago I decided to audition for a musical just to see if I could, and I got cast! Ever since then, my musical theatre career has sort of taken off and I do almost as many musicals as plays now!”
Taylor: “Honestly, for me, it feels like a very full circle moment that my mom took me to see Grease when it was re-released in theaters and to now be doing this show that had the iconic Olivia Newton-John. From when I first saw Grease, the rest is history! I’ve loved performing since before I knew what it was and that movie was hands down the catalyst. There are definitely home movies of me dancing to Greased Lightning in my living room as a kid.”
Does Xanadu have any special meaning to you? And if you could tell the audience anything about the show, what would it be?
Taylor: “Up until rehearsals and now doing the show I really had no notion of the movie or the musical to begin with! LOL now it’s taken on a very special place in my heart simply with the camaraderie and joy that I’ve built with my Muse sisters nine.”
Wendy: “For me, I remember the movie as a kid, and wanting desperately to be Olivia Newton-John! Being in this production is special because as the oldest cast member, I’m proving to myself that I can keep up with these young kids, and no matter your age, what you contribute to love and art is meaningful and necessary. As silly and campy as this show can be, it also resonates with so much heart. I love that our cast is a beautiful reflection of how diverse our world is, and that all those colors and dreams and beliefs are valuable and are what makes life rich.”
Who is your Broadway idol?
Taylor: “That’s an easy one for me: Cynthia Erivo and Rebecca Naomi Jones! Those two together have a body of work that I aspire towards.”
Wendy: “Both my Broadway idols are gone now, BUT I had the good fortune to see them both on Broadway! Madeline Kahn in The Sisters Rosensweig and Gregory Hines in Jelly’s Last Jam. (Fun fact: I danced with Gregory Hines at the opening night party for Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk because I was doing an internship at the Public Theatre where it premiered and he attended the opening night performance.)”
What’s one 80s trend that you’d love to see come back?
Wendy: “Synth-pop music!”
Taylor: “It’s music for me too! I am a huge fan of music of the 80s so as far as trends go, I would love to hear more synthesizers and horns and upbeat, funky music to come back… across the cannon of genres as well! Anything inspired by MJ, The Beastie Boys or RUN-DMC.”
What’s your favorite scene or number in the show?
Taylor: “My favorite scene/song is “Suddenly”. It’s the only number in the show I dedicate to watching from the wings every night. Krista and Jordan are just so pure in their interactions and the way they endear the audience is such a highlight to watch. I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!”
Wendy: “For me, of course “Evil Woman” is where Taylor and I get to shine, but I also really love “Strange Magic” because we’re playing with the audience and it’s so goofy and random.”
How does it feel to be playing the “evil” muse sisters in this show?
Wendy: “Playing the villain is ALWAYS fun. You get to really go for broke with your performance and you almost always have the audience feeling something extreme for you, whether it’s cheering you on or wanting to see you fail.”
Taylor: “I agree, it’s a riot honestly; it’s also a fun challenge to be the foil for the show trying to derail Sonny being inspired. I’ve played big bold characters before but this is my first villain era! 5/5 Stars would try to place a curse again!”
What’s your dream role or dream show to be in?
Wendy: “For me, it’s two Sondheim pieces: Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods and Desiree in A Little Night Music.”
Taylor: “I’ve been very fortunate to have already gotten a crack at some of my dream roles but still on the list are Deloris from Sister Act, Felicia in Memphis, Ursula in The Little Mermaid and The Lady of the Lake from Spamalot.”
If you were a muse, what would you be the muse of? (i.e. the muse of comedy, the muse of great haircuts, etc.)
Taylor: “I’d say I would be the Muse of Libations! Having a background in the service industry I’m always mixing and matching flavor combinations and I’m always looking to try fun and inventive cocktails when I go to dinner!”
Wendy: “Easy. Muse of Snarky Comments!”
Do you have any epic roller skating stories? If not, what’s your favorite jam that you would love to roller skate to at the rink and why?
Taylor: “I’m HUGE into disco and funk music when I roller skate. Anything that has a groovy, baseline, high hats and brass instruments is what I love to skate to: Earth, Wind, and Fire, Heatwave and Stevie Wonder are my favorites!”
Wendy: “I used to LOVE roller skating to a song from the movie Valley Girl called “Don’t Put Another Dime in the Jukebox.” Sigh. They don’t make cheesy music like that anymore. And yes, I did grow up in the 80’s.”
Xanadu Creative Team:
Director: Jason Blitman
Choreographer: Allison Bibicoff
Music Director: Richard Dueñez Morrison
CLICK HERE to buy tickets!