Hannah Willman on getting the sudden call to play Eliza

She became everyone’s fair lady when she stepped from the ensemble into the leading role of Eliza Doolittle at Arena Stage last Saturday night and turned in a heart-stealing performance.  We were able to catch up with Hannah Willman who told us what the experience was like.

Hannah  Willman headshot courtesy of Arena Stage

Hannah Willman headshot courtesy of Arena Stage

When did you find out you would be playing Eliza?

Hannah: The creative team approached me around 6pm the evening of the performance.

What was your reaction? 

I was astonished and flattered that I was even being considered.  I was also sensitive to the fact that I would be going on for a good friend, Erin Driscoll, who was ill.  She is a terrific performer, and I wanted to be sure that it was okay with her, and safe for the rest of the cast.

What was it like playing opposite Bev Appleton?

Bev Appleton [a fellow member of the ensemble], who was in for Alfred Doolittle, is a treat and a treasure.  He is so much fun on stage, and I was never worried about making a wrong step, because I knew he would just play with it. Bev is an excellent improviser!

What were your thoughts during the show and when you felt the audience’s reaction after your big numbers? 

I truly didn’t have time to react in the moment, because I was being changed, handed my next portion of the script, and directed to the appropriate entrance.  The backstage team was a dream!  The audience that evening was so generous.  I am incredibly grateful for their support, but even more for the wonderful way our entire cast worked as a team.  This was a company of fantastic performers!

And how did you feel when it was over?

I was definitely moved at the end.  It all went by so quickly, I think I was waiting to exhale, which finally happened when I left after the curtain call.  It was a teary evening.  And I was EXHAUSTED!  Manna and Erin did this track so many times, it’s phenomenal that they were consistently brilliant!  I was also grateful to Molly Smith (director), Paul Sportelli (Music Director) and Susan White (Stage Manager) for their confidence.

Does this change your ideas about your future onstage either here or elsewhere? 

I adore the Washington-area theater scene and it’s diversity.  I look forward to continuing to perform, along with teaching voice and yoga.

Description of the Saturday night performance

Learn more about Hannah Willman

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