Popular leading lady Billie Wildrick stars as Sally Bowles in Village Theatre’s upcoming version of the musical “Cabaret.”
So you’re a buxom blonde who can exude the va-va-voom glamour of bygone silver-screen stars — and sing like a nightingale, too.
Lucky Billie Wildrick. She has these attributes, plus charisma to burn.
But this lauded player in Seattle’s bounteous musical-theater scene chafes at being typecast as that perennial cliché, the blond bimbo.
By Joe Masteroff, John Kander and Fred Ebb. Thursday, May 14-July 3 at Village Theatre, 303 Front St. N., Issaquah, $35-$67 (425-392-2202 or villagetheatre.org). Also July 10-Aug. 2 at Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett (425-257-8600 or villagetheatre.org).
“What’s always hard for me is playing stupid,” she says, with typical candor. “With a bust and blond hair they want you to do all these daffy ingénues. But my whirring brain gets in the way. I have to try and find something smart or interesting in my character.”
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That’s not difficult for Wildrick as she readies her portrayal of Sally Bowles in the Broadway musical “Cabaret.” Directed by Village regular and Tony-winning writer (for “Next to Normal”) Brian Yorkey, the show opens Thursday, May 14, at Issaquah’s Village Theatre.
5th Avenue Theatre patrons have caught Wildrick as an effervescent Carrie Pipperidge in “Carousel,” a sniffily Miss Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls” and a fetching kid sister in “On the Town” — some of her favorite parts.
Now she’s depicting the madcap bohemian British cabaret performer created by Christopher Isherwood in “Sally Bowles,” his 1930s novella of pre-Weimar-era Berlin, on the brink of fascism.
Like Liza Minnelli in the hit film version of “Cabaret,” Wildrick gets to belt out such John Kander-Fred Ebb tunes as “Maybe This Time” and the title song, an invite to “come to the cabaret old chum.”
“I really do love Sally because she’s complicated. She has great love and compassion and makes choices, horrible choices sometimes, but they’re very brave. She doesn’t just let life happen to her.”
“There are the obvious things that Billie brings to the part — a powerhouse voice, a nuanced way with a theater song, a sophisticated musicality and presence,” declares Yorkey.
He sees Sally and Billie “both as showbiz survivors. They know the highs and lows of the performer’s life, the courage it takes to pour your soul out for an audience, the personal sacrifices demanded by a career.”
Wildrick discovered that singing was “a superhighway to the heart” as a young child. “The legend goes that I was singing before I could walk. When I was little, Mom would take me down to a cocktail party and I’d sing ‘Summertime’ for everyone.”
While growing up in the Midwest, she went with her mother to New York to explore performing opportunities. “We saw awful things, parents pushing their kids like they were products. Mom said, ‘I can’t do this to you, I want you to have a well-rounded life.’ And I’m desperately glad for that.”
After the family moved to the Seattle area, Wildrick attended Snohomish High School. But it was as a student at Western Washington University that performing became her calling, and led to professional work on Seattle stages.
In 2011, Wildrick made it to Broadway in the Kathie Lee Gifford musical “Scandalous.” It promptly closed, but she decided to give New York another try. “It was fun while it lasted. But I missed Seattle, the greenness of it. And I didn’t like how I was supposed to become the smallest, most specific version of myself to be marketable.”
Despite critical raves and collegial respect, Wildrick says she still struggles to find consistent work in Seattle. (“There are just so many more roles for men than women.”)
Now branching happily into directing, she staged “Kiss of the Spiderwoman” for Redmond’s SecondStory Theatre last season, and will helm “Jesus Christ Superstar” for Seattle Musical Theatre this fall.
Far off Broadway, believes Wildrick, is where she belongs. “Theater is an art form for a community. I love that people come to the stage door and say they’ve been watching me for 10 years. This is how theater should be. You should have a home team to root for.”