A mainstay on the South End, actress/singer/dancer Alexandria Henderson has set her sights on Seattle and Eastside companies recently. Having seen her work, I’d say she has the chops to become the next big musical talent to watch for.
Henderson was featured ensemble at the 5th, Village, and Twelfth Night. Her biggest opportunity was the show-stopping Supermarket Checker Babe in Showtunes’ spring concert of Working. Apparently she was underworked though, because Friday Sept 9 she returns to Working, this time as the Maggie, the Cleaning Woman. I recently caught up with this busy, beautiful lady to get more of her story to Jetspace.
Please give us some background about where you came from, your family, and how you got involved in the arts.
I have been performing since I can remember. Actually, according to my mom, I came screeching out of the womb with high A-flats to drive my parents up the wall. I am one of seven children, from a military family, and my parents had us in church from the beginning. I sang in the children’s choir there, and that is probably my first memory of singing and performing for an “audience.”
Many musical theatre people have never done Working and you’re rehearsing your second production of it in less than 6 months. Describe the differences, your songs, and why you like the show.
I did perform this show earlier this year with Showtunes Theatre Company, in concert form. The difference between that production and Seattle Musical Theatre’s production is having full costumes, choreography, and set. Doing the concert version with Showtunes made me love the show and want to audition for SMT’s production. Working is such a great show to me because it highlights normal, working humans and tells their stories. I think about how actors are often asked to portray characters of fantasy, heroes. folklore, and the like, but in this show we get to portray the seemingly ordinary layperson, and end up telling pretty extraordinary stories. That coupled with the fact that I had a great example going in is what drew me to this production. My mom played Maggie Holmes in a production of this show when I was a kid. (She was a knockout; showstopper every performance.) It is so cool to sing the song she sang, and attempt to do it some justice.
You keep quite busy racking up acting credits all over the place. Do you have a favorite role? What’s your dream role?
Well, thank you! I enjoy performing, so I am thankful for the busy season. I have two favorite roles so far. The first is playing Spider in Tacoma Musical Playhouse Family Theater’s production of James and the Giant Peach. I loved playing such a fun role, and the children were so sweet during meet and greets. Secondly, I loved Working with Showtunes because I sang “I’m Just Movin'” (Babe, the grocery store checker’s song). Our director Timothy McCuen Piggee said that he wanted Babe to have a Tina Turner vibe, so I just had a blast. I am hoping someone will pen a Tina Turner musical so I can go out for it. As far as a dream role is concerned, I do not have just one. I have been asked this question before and my answer is that my dream is to be considered for, and play any role with no limitations.
What is your take on non-traditional casting and the opportunities for it here?
This ties in a bit with my last answer. One day I hope there will be no limitation on shows in which I can participate. I think about Golden Age musicals and wonder if there will be space for people of color outside of the ensemble, but I know that would be earth-shaking. I see it happening little by little with amazing inclusive productions like Hamilton: An American Musical. I love that composer/librettist Lin Manuel-Miranda thought completely outside of the box and cast some of the best talent, highlighting women and people of color. I wonder, however, if my generation and I have to write the shows to see the diversity exemplified in everyday American life.
Who were some of your role models/idols in show biz when you were growing up?
As a vocalist, I am completely here for Brandy, Jazmine Sullivan, Jill Scott, Whitney Houston, and so many others. I consider myself brand new to musical theatre, so it seems every day I find someone new as a role model. I think Audra McDonald is the bees’ knees. I also enjoy Nova Payton (recently in the 5th Avenue Theatre’s Night with Janis Joplin), Alice Ripley, Isaiah Johnson, and Jessie Mueller. Truthfully, I get to perform alongside many of my role models, right here in the northwest, and I consider that a huge blessing.
Do you have a personal motto or belief you would like to share with our readers?
My parents and I have a saying, “Nothing beats a failure but a try.” It basically means, you will never know if you could make it if you don’t attempt it. This has become a mantra of mine, especially when I feel overwhelmed before an audition and think I will never get cast. I tell myself, “Try, girl. You never know.”