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Stephanie J. Block
Broadway Barks + WSJ 
14th-Jul-2009 12:34 am
bsg → call me god
Stephanie appeared at the 11th Broadway Barks yesterday.
Look at the cute pictures!

Also, she did a short interview with The Wall Street Journal.

“9 to 5’s” Stephanie J. Block on What She Does “5 to 9″
By Michelle Kung

Stage actress Stephanie J. Block made her Broadway debut as Liza Minnelli (opposite Hugh Jackman’s Peter Allen) in “The Boy From Oz,” which she quickly followed with leading roles in the national tour of “Wicked” and the short-lived “The Pirate Queen.” Ms. Block can currently be seen as the nervous new employee Judy Bernly in the Tony Award-nominated musical adaptation “9 to 5.” Like many soaring voices of the Great White Way, she released a solo album entitled “This Place I Know” last month. But unlike most Broadway recording artists, she asked the composer of each her selected songs to perform with her, including “Wicked” composer Stephen Schwartz and, of course, “9 to 5″ song writer Dolly Parton. We recently spoke to Ms. Block about the evolution of her debut album, from which she’ll be singing several selections when she performs at Manhattan’s Birdland nightclub Monday evening.

The Wall Street Journal: The concept behind your album is that you’ve asked each song’s composer to join you in performing each selection. How did you decide on that idea?
I first started planning my album several couple years ago, when I was doing this little evening of music that I’d put together. Specifically, I knew I wanted to get the composer Stephen Schwartz to record a song called “Making Good” with me; [the song] was originally a part of “Wicked,” but then got replaced with “The Wizard and I.” He was very open to it, so in 2006, we laid down that first track. After doing that first song, I realized this was the concept I wanted to thread together my album with and started reaching out to other composers.

How many composers did you reach out to?
Probably 14 or 15. 12 to 13 actually said yes, but with everyone’s different schedules, not all of them made it onto the album.

That must have taken a ton of coordination.
Yes. In addition to arranging their schedules, each composer really wanted their own specific arrangements and musicians. Usually when you record an album, you have studio musicians that will sit there for 2 days. This was different, because each composer wanted different musicians, so in the studio, we’d do sound tests with one group, and then they would leave and another group of musicians would come and you’d need to reset the entire studio for a whole new instrumentation and arrangement. It became a lot more complicated than I was expecting and took a lot of extra time and care. But it was worth the two years in the making and the emptying of my bank account.

Yikes. Was the music licensing very expensive?
Well, we had to license the music, but I also wanted to produce this myself — I wanted to make sure that the final say on every decision came down to me, and that takes a producer credit, and that takes money.

You sing one of Dolly’s most iconic songs — “I Will Always Love You” — on the album. Was that intimidating?
It was actually her idea — I think, in humor and humility, she said, I wrote this song and Whitney Houston has recorded it [for the movie "The Bodyguard"], but I think your voice would sound great with it and we can do something completely different, so there is no sort of people reminiscing about other recordings. I thought about it and said, “Let’s really focus on the lyrics, and make it almost the most simple track on the CD — almost like lullaby.” The lyrics really are heart breaking. When you listen to the Whitney version, it’s all about the vocal tricks and sounds very produced. I mean, Whitney can do amazing things, but I wanted to focus on the lyrics.

What can audiences expect to hear at Birdland on the 13th?
Half of the set will be from the album, and the other half will be some of the tunes I fell in love with, but didn’t quite make it onto the album. Not that they’re sub-quality; they just didn’t work with the flow and cohesiveness of the album.
The first time I played Birdland was in 2004 and I was nervous as all get-out, because it was truly the first time I was going to step on stage in New York as myself — it’s very different playing a character and singing music that was written for a character and services the play. When you’re standing up there for yourself, there’s really a vulnerability and a feeling of being naked. I love it now, but with every set date, it gets to be a little nerve-wracking because you hope that you’re giving the audience the same experience that you first got at your first show.

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