Interview with NOELLE HANNIBAL – ‘HAIR’ star and In The Wings Promotions founder

ITW's production of the hit musical returns to the MainLine August 30 - September 9


From August 30th to September 9th, 2017, In the Wings Promotions (ITW) proudly presents the remount of its critically acclaimed and sold out 2016 production of HAIR: The American Tribal Love-Rock MusicalDirected and choreographed by META winner Nadia Verrucci with Music Direction by META nominee Ian Baird, the hit show returns to play the MainLine Theatre in timely celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the musical’s original production.

Montreal Theatre Hub interviews NOELLE HANNIBAL, who here prepares to reprise her role as the headstrong political activist, Sheila. A veteran of the stage and screen, the Los Angeles native is widely credited in Montreal theatre for her active contributions to the local community as the passionate founder of In The Wings Promotions, which, in addition to presenting full-book musicals, produces special theatrical events along with a popular Broadway masterclass series. Read our full interview with the artist-entrepreneur below.



MTH (Montreal Theatre Hub): How did you first get into acting and theatre?

NOELLE HANNIBAL: My father was an actor and singer, so I was exposed at a very young age. I performed in my first school show when I was 5 years old (I sang “On the Good Ship Lollipop”) and I did my first book musical when I was 10 or 11 (Annie).

Why the particular choice of HAIR for ITW’s third full book musical?

I have had an insane love for the show since playing Crissy in a Los Angeles production many years ago. It’s a show I always wanted to revisit. I love rock musicals and Hair is the definitive rock musical. I was on my way to closing night of our production of The Who’s Tommy when it literally popped into my head. I mentioned it to Ian (Baird, MD) and he thought it was the perfect choice.

How has your relationship with and understanding of Sheila evolved since first taking on the role?

What’s great about remounting the show is that we have more time to fine tune our characters. We work with such a limited amount of rehearsals that we haven’t had a lot of time for back story and developing character relationships that aren’t on the page. We had a great rehearsal last week where the we introduced ourselves to each other as our characters and gave a little back story. We are also planning to attend a protest, which I think will be great as Sheila is such a passionate activist.


Rosie Callaghan, Noelle Hannibal, and Meghan Blakeburn in HAIR at the MainLine Theatre, 2016. (Photo courtesy of In the Wings Promotions)

Can you share your process as an actor and performing artist? How have you prepared for this role, in particular?

Hair is really Claude’s story. It’s about his journey, so it was really important for me to figure out what Sheila’s relationship to him is. It was also important for me to fully understand the dynamic between Sheila’s relationship with Claude and Berger, as they are a bit of a love triangle. Talking with Matheiu Samson (Claude) and Franco Decrescentis (Berger) was really helpful in developing that dynamic. I have read the script backwards and forwards a number of times to discover what my true place in the tribe is. From the musical side of things, it’s always important for me to monologue my songs to fully understand the text.

Any changes or developments from last year’s wildly successful production to this remounted version?

There are definitely some changes, all for the better! One number has been completely re-choreographed (Nadia Verrucci is the GREATEST). There has been a lot of tightening up. We paid attention to the feedback we got from our audience and tried to build on that. Of the 17 actors we had last year, 2 were unable to return. We recast one role and redistributed the dialogue and music bits of the other amongst the tribe.


The “granddaddy of all rock musicals”, HAIR is at once both a joyous celebration of youth and a poignant journey through a tumultuous 1960s America. This exuberant musical about a group of hippies searching for truth, peace and love in a Vietnam War era, has struck a resonant chord with audiences of all ages. HAIR features an eclectic score filled with classics, including “Aquarius,” “Let the Sun Shine In,” “Hair,” and “Easy To Be Hard.” Pictured: the cast of the 2016 production of HAIR at the MainLine Theatre (Photo courtesy of In the Wings Promotions).

What have been the greatest challenges and rewards of bringing this large-scale production (ITW’s most ambitious yet) to the stage?

Managing 20 people’s schedules has been the biggest challenge! It’s a large cast and we try our best to work around everyone’s availability.

Now in its remarkable 50th anniversary year, why is HAIR still relevant to audiences today?

Hair will always be relevant. There is always going to be something going on with our government (or that in the US) that doesn’t resonate well with the people. But more importantly, I can’t believe in 2017 we are still fighting for basic human rights. 

What stories do you wish to see more on stage? What intrigues and inspires you, artistically?

I love great storytelling. My favourite musical is Sweeney Todd, which isn’t a story one would think would make a good musical, but it is spectacular. I love intimate shows, but I also have a fondness for a big, splashy musical. I definitely favour the more contemporary. I love transformative roles. One of my favourite roles was (another) Sheila, “The Bitch” in South Park.


The cast of the 2016 production of “HAIR” at the MainLine Theatre. (Photo courtesy of In the Wings Promotions)

In The Wings has long been at the forefront of the rock musical theatre movement in Montreal. What draws you to the genre?

I think it stems from my love of classic rock. As a kid, I loved musical theatre and classic rock equally. I still have all my vinyl from artists like David Bowie, Queen, Heart, Styx and so many more. A lot of classic rock is theatrical, so it seemed a no brainer to me that musicals would evolve into having crossover appeal. Montreal is a hard rock and metal town, with a fairly small (but mighty) musical theatre scene. I want to appeal to not just musical theatre audiences, but the wider, rock loving crowd. So far, so good!

ITW’s masterclass series is also a unique and important initiative here in the community, providing local artists with the opportunity to work one-on-one with Broadway legends such as Michael Cerveris, Adam Pascal, and Seth Rudetsky. What can we expect from the next event?

I am so excited to be bringing Tony Award nominee Mike Faist, who originated the role of Conner Murphy in this year’s Tony Award winning musical, Dear Evan Hansen. The class will be held on Monday, September 18 from 6PM-10PM at the MainLine Theatre’s MiniMain. Mike made his Broadway debut as Morris Delancey in Newsies. I saw DEH in May and was completely blown away from his performance as the enigmatic Conner. I think it will be an excellent class. We have another class scheduled for November 6, with another Tony nominee, which we will announce in September.

For more information about the upcoming Mike Faist Masterclass, visit
www.inthewingspromotions.com/masterclasses



RAPID-FIRE QUESTIONS

3 words to describe yourself?
Geeky, Conscientious, Adventurous.

Favourite place in Montreal?
At the theatre!

Best piece of theatre you’ve seen in Montreal?I’m still thinking about CSLDS’s production of Little Shop of Horrors, which was outstanding. My favourite straight play of the last several years would have to be Sherlock Holmes, directed by Andrew Shaver at The Segal Centre.

Someone you’d want to reincarnate as?
Sutton Foster! I sat in the front row when she did Anything Goes on Broadway and I was hoping she would sweat some of her talent on me.

Guilty pleasure?
The TV show Nashville.

Song you wished you’d written?
“Being Alive”.

Most embarrassing moment on stage?
Getting my hair stuck in another actor’s coat buttons. The few seconds it took to untangle ourselves felt like a lifetime.

Show you could watch over and over again?
There are many! Sweeney Todd, Newsies, Hamilton, Rent, Company, Godspell, Wicked.

Dream role?
Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd or Diana in Next to Normal.

Number one on your bucket list?
Being involved in any capacity with a show on the Broadway.

Moment you wish you could relive?
My 54 Below (New York City) debut in January 2016. Standing on the stage where so many Broadway greats have performed was a dream come true.

Something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m actually shy and slightly socially awkward.

Best advice you’ve ever received?
Be authentic.

***

For more information on Noelle Hannibal, visit:
www.noellehannibal.ca | www.facebook.com/NoelleHannibal
Twitter: @noellehannibal | Instagram: @noellabella07



In The Wings Promotions presents

HAIR – The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical

50th Anniversary Production

August 30th to September 9th, 2017
MainLine Theatre (3997 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal)

Book & Lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado
Music by Galt MacDermot
Directed and Choreographed by Nadia Verrucci
Musical Direction by Ian Baird

General admission: $24 | Students/artists/QDF/seniors: $18
MainLine box office: 514-849-3378
Buy tickets online


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