Anyone who was at one of our last two teen-adult recitals will remember this month’s Student Spotlight, Leesel. Amidst the many talented teen alt-rock singers, Leesel was the dynamic Broadway singer belting out Sondheim and Kander and Ebb with the magnetic stage presence. A triple threat (that is, a singer, dancer, and actress), Leesel performs throughout Southern California.
MM: Introduce yourself to the readers! How long have you been singing – how did you get started, where do you want to go with it?
LT: When I was little I was terribly shy. My mother didn’t know what to do with me so she put me in a summer musical theatre workshop hoping to cure it. Well, it backfired because I never left. I sang in choirs and shows growing up and started taking voice lessons on and off when I was 13. Honestly, I think the shyness stuck around more than I thought because I never felt confident in my voice. I always considered myself an actor, then a dancer then lastly a singer. BUT I always loved it. I studied Musical Theatre in college at The Univ. of Mississippi and moved west to LA after graduation to pursue a career in acting. With that move I really kind of put away my dance shoes and voice and focused more on straight acting for film. After a few years I realized, even though I was working I wasn’t really artistically fulfilled. I wound up spending a lot of my days walking in to commercial auditions, saying one line and walking out. Not a whole lot of character development there. I found my way back to the stage in SoCal but still focused only on straight acting. I think I was nervous to step back into musicals where, though I loved them, didn’t feel the most confident. About 4 years ago I decided to step away from acting as a career but found myself back on stage a year later. This time solely for the love of it and it has been wonderful. I started working with Molly about a year ago and I was very surprised by how quickly all of my vocal studies came back to me. What I was most surprised by though, was the confidence I had found in my voice. Apparently singing along to the car radio can be good training. I’ve realized that singing is something I love to do. I may not be the very best at it but my voice is my unique instrument and I have the privilege to share it with others and tell stories through song.
MM: Molly said you’ve been in Choc Follies. Tell me about your experience and how you got started doing that.
LT: Follies is a really amazing organization that puts on an original musical every year with all proceeds benefiting the Child Life Department of CHOC. To date CHOC Follies has raised over $7 million for the hospital. The cast consists of about 100 Community and Civic leaders from throughout Orange County. My husband introduced me to the organization and encouraged me to audition. This was my first step back into theatre after stepping away professionally so I was apprehensive. But it was for an amazing cause and decided to go for it. CHOC follies really helped me rediscover my love for theatre and specifically musicals.
MM: How do you share your music with family, friends, or your community now, and in the past?
LT: Sharing music with my family and friends is in some ways new to me. With my increased vocal confidence I have found myself participating in Molly’s recitals and sharing those performances with my friends. I’m always singing around the house and have an amazing support group of friends that always attend my performances. I’m excited to step into the community a little more and pursue some theatre endeavors here in Orange County.
MM: Do you have a favorite musical theatre actress who inspires you or whom you feel you can relate to?
LT: I absolutely adore Sutton Foster. I love the quirky characters she chooses to play and the way she tells a great story through her songs. She doesn’t just sing, she is talking through the song and sharing a great story with the audience. She has an amazing voice and is a true triple threat. I actually had the privilege of seeing her perform in Violet on Broadway and was blown away by the subtlety and depth of her performance. It was really neat to see someone who is known for her big showstopping numbers take on a dramatic role outside her wheelhouse.
MM: What’s your favorite musical? What’s your dream role?
LT: Favorite musical is The Sound of Music (my mom named be after it so I feel like it was meant to be). My dream role would be Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
MM: What’s your favorite song to sing right now?
LT: My favorite song right now is one that I just performed at the recital called “I Think That He Likes Me.” It’s a really cute and funny song that tells the story of a girl realizing her best guy friend likes her. It’s quirky and really fun to perform.