Melanie Brezill made her Goodman debut this summer in Crowns, but this Chicago native is no theatrical rookie—she’s already appeared on Broadway in The Book of Mormon and throughout Chicago in roles at Court Theatre, Writers’ Theatre and Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire, among others. Here’s our backstage interview with this talented Chicago-grown thespian.
Place of birth and/or hometown: Sweet home Chicago!
| Melanie Brezill in Crowns
First professional role/ production you were in: My first professional role was playing Addy at the American Girl Place. It was the perfect balance between a nurturing and professional environment. Everyday felt like a big sleepover, yet we were expected to sign-in at half hour like professional actors.
Favorite professional role or production you were in: My favorite production so far would have to be Caroline, or Change at Court Theatre. I played Emmie Thibodeaux, an outspoken teenager whose views clashed with those of her mother. It was one of those shows where the cast, the music and the timing just clicked. We performed this story about change during one of most historic election years ever. Not to mention, I got to play E. Faye Butler’s daughter! Crowns will be our third production together.
Dream role or production you hope to be in in the future: If Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God ever becomes a play or a musical, I would love to play Janie!
Role you know you'll never get to play because of your age/sex/race but would love to in an alternate universe (and why): I would love to play Booth in Topdog/Underdog. It was one of the first plays I saw in college. I got so entangled in the hustle of these two brothers on stage; the performances were so raw. While I didn’t get a chance to see it on Broadway, it was performed by Don Cheadle and Jeffrey Wright, two of my favorite actors.
Production or role you've experienced as an audience member that left you speechless: Ragtime. I remember sitting in the audience wanting to jump onstage. It was the show that made me want to pursue theater.
Biggest on stage flub and how you handled it: Yikes; this one still hurts. My biggest flub was the night I made my Broadway debut in The Book of Mormon. It was the big Broadway number and I was front and center. I turned to reveal my hat and *Boom!* it falls to the ground! The entire company was on stage for this number dancing in tight formations while I was scrambling to pick up my hat! Eventually, I got it up and continued to kick-ball-change through the end. The company was awesome about it and several people told me dropping the hat was a rite of passage. In spite of the flub, I still had the time of my life!
Pre- or post-show ritual: Tea and prayer. Drinking tea slows me down and allows me to get into a place of focus. Usually around 15 minutes before places I make some ginger tea, take it back to my dressing room, and drink it while looking in the mirror. I’m not quite sure why I have to drink the tea in front of the mirror but it wouldn’t feel right anyplace else. Right before I actually take the stage at places, I always say a prayer for safety, creativity and an overall great show for my cast.
Favorite thing about working in Chicago: You just can’t beat hometown love. There’s nothing more fulfilling than working in your hometown where friends and family can come and support me. My family, my third grade teacher, members of my church and even the owner of my favorite sandwich shop have all came to see Crowns. Chicago is a city that loves its theater!
"E. Faye Butler as Caroline and Melanie Brezill as Emmie" Caroline, or Change. Court Theatre, 2008 http://www.courttheatre.org/season/photos/caroline_or_change/.