This week, How Did I Get Here—featuring not only actors, but directors, designers, musicians, and others who work on and off the stage to create the magic that is live theatre—spotlights Phillipa Soo, who is currently starring in Lincoln Center Theater's Tony-nominated revival of Camelot at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.
It's been an especially busy time for the Hamilton Tony nominee, who rose from a princess to a queen all within the same Broadway season. The Illinois native began the season playing an especially frantic and tripping-prone Cinderella in Lear deBessonet’s stripped-down, Tony-nominated revival of Into the Woods, which transferred from the New York City Center Encores! series to a much-extended limited engagement at the St. James.
Soo, whose beautiful renditions of "On the Steps of the Palace" and "No One Is Alone" were among the production's many highlights, subsequently journeyed out of the Woods and into the land of Camelot, where her rich, soaring soprano now shines eight times a week on such Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe classics as "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood," "Take Me to the Fair," and more. But it's not only her vocals that cast a spell over the audience; Soo has created a more modern, shrewd Queen Guenevere, one who emerges as a guiding force in the male-dominated world that surrounds her.
On Broadway Soo also created the title role in Amélie, A New Musical and Eliza Hamilton in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Hamilton and played Rebecca in Beau Willimon's The Parisian Woman; her screen credits include One True Loves, Shining Girls, Dopesick, Hamilton, The Bite, The Code, Here and Now, and tick, tick… BOOM!
In the brief interview below, the Broadway favorite looks back at her days at Juilliard, reveals a memorable day job, and offers three pieces of advice to aspiring artists.
Where did you train/study?
Juilliard Drama School.
Was there ever a teacher who was particularly impactful/helpful? What made this instructor standout?
Deb Lapidus was my singing teacher at Juilliard. I really felt that through her class I learned how to tell a story through song. I was able to understand a character’s thought and intention on a much deeper level.
What made you decide to become an actor? Was there a particular production or performance that influenced your decision?
I remember my mother taking us to a lot of theatre in Chicago: Steppenwolf, the Goodman…I was exposed to incredible theatre from a very young age, and I remember I had this gut feeling, “I want to do that.”
What do you consider your big break?
My first job in theatre was the original production of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 at Ars Nova [Off-Broadway]. I had been out of drama school for a few months, auditioning like crazy. It was the first job I booked. I consider it to be my first big break.
What is the most memorable day job you ever had?
I used to teach children’s theatre at a place called the Wishing Star Theater in my hometown during the summer when I was in high school, and a few summers when I was home from college. We built the sets, made costumes, directed, choreographed, played theatre games. It was a lot of work, but I look back fondly at that time.
Is there a person or people you most respect in your field and why?
I have a deep respect and admiration for writers. To me, the writing is everything. It is so incredibly difficult to do, you have a huge responsibility, and I imagine it can be incredibly lonely for a time if you aren’t writing with a partner. Incredible acting performances would be nothing without good writers.
What advice would you give your younger self or anyone starting out?
1. Have high confidence, but low expectations. 2. This is a long career, give yourself permission to be present and go slow. 3. And fill your life with experiences—go see art, immerse yourself in culture, engage in your community, read, learn new things. All of these things will only feed your work.