Massachusetts native Katie LaMark, 27, leads the cast as Sherrie Christian in Rock of Ages, playing at the Boch Wang Theatre on Oct. 23-28. Born in Boston, she was raised in Andover and graduated from Andover High before earning a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University. She recently finished the 20th anniversary national tour of Rent and off-Broadway, she starred in 50 Shades! The Musical Parody. On television, she has appeared on the USA Network hit Mr. Robot. She lives in New York.
Jonathan Soroff: So how psyched are you to be performing in Boston?
Katie LaMark: Absolutely so psyched. Anytime you have the chance to come home and have your family and friends, who have been rooting for you, see you, and in such a huge theater, it’s so exciting. It’s a nice way of saying, “I hope I’m making you guys proud.”
Favorite play of all time? For a musical, I’m going with West Side Story, because I’ll never be in it. It’s one of those musicals where there’s no part for me as an actor that’s appropriate, so I can just sit back and be an audience member, and it totally takes me away. As for my favorite play, I honestly think Noises Off, when done well, is so spectacular that I’m always taken for a ride.
Would you rather perform in a musical or a straight play? I think just the way my career has gone, and based on how much I love music, I love being in musicals. But I do also love being in plays, because it gives me an opportunity to exercise some muscles that I don’t always get to use. The part of me that actually has to speak my feelings, instead of saying, “And now, a song,” loves that.
Favorite theater to perform in? I love performing at North Shore Music Theatre. I haven’t for a while, but there’s something about theater in the round that made me a better actor overall. It brings awareness in how to make everything you do visible to everyone and it helps me to remember how to inhabit a space. I’d say that’s my favorite regional theater. For touring, though, the Dallas Opera House is my favorite. They designed it so that it feels like you’re inside of a speaker. It’s so beautifully designed. There are no sharp edges. Everything is a soft surface and rounded. It’s just so cool.
What theater superstitions do you observe? I observe not saying Macbeth in the theater, mostly because it lets you know who you’re working with. I also try not to say, “Good luck,” but instead, “Break a leg.” And also, I guess it’s not a superstition, but I never warm up. All my voice teachers would lose their minds if they heard me say that, but it psychs me out and tires me out before I actually do the job. I lucked out that the place that I sing from is the place that I speak from, though
Biggest difference between doing theater and television? In the theater, you have to create a character that people are rooting for right away. You only have a slim margin of time, and you have to get their attention immediately, because they’re right in front of you and they can’t hit rewind. With TV, maybe you can have some more secrets because there’s more opportunity to reveal things over time
Role you desperately wanted but didn’t get? I am almost getting to be at an age where I can’t play Little Red Riding Hood in Into the Woods. I was in that show twice where it didn’t work out that I played that role, and I love the show, so that is my Waterloo.
You play at least three instruments. Anything you wish you could play but can’t? Yes. Saxophone. I play trombone, which is great, because I play a brass instrument, but I’ve always wanted to learn how to play a reed instrument. When you look at the sound waves of a saxophone, it’s very close to the sound of a human voice. In fact, there’s a very old Disney cartoon, from maybe the 1930s, about these dueling islands. The two main characters are a violin and a saxophone, and even though there’s no dialogue, you understand everything as if it’s spoken. It’s the coolest thing.
Person you’re dying to work with? You’re going to laugh, but I want to work with Martha Stewart, and here’s why. I consider her part of the entertainment industry and I’ve always been so intrigued by her ability to create a brand and transform so much from the person we first met when she first came onto the scene to the woman she is now. My dream would be to work with her to somehow create a theatrical version of her life story. The evolution of Martha is the most interesting thing that the entertainment industry hasn’t tapped into yet.
Fantasy love scene partner? Kate McKinnon from SNL. I feel like it would be equal parts very serious and also very silly.
Last time you told a lie? This morning, when I said I was ready to do this interview, because I haven’t had my coffee yet.
Biggest lie on your acting resume? Hmm…That I’m 5’2”. I’m actually 5’1”, but for some reason that seems to be a cutoff point. It doesn’t make much difference when you’re looking at someone, but it takes you from being an adult who looks like a child to a small adult, for whatever reason.
Role you got that was the biggest stretch for you? Well, I was Maureen on the national tour of Rent and I just never thought that would ever be me. It took me a little while to get over the mental hurdle of feeling like I wasn’t right for the part. And they gave me a lot of latitude to make it my own. Once I realized that Maureen was a happy person who believes in her cause and loves being the center of attention, I realized, “I guess that isn’t such a stretch.” It turned out to be a role that was actually very close to who I am.
Biggest audition nightmare? My agents once sent me to an audition to be the next face of Adidas. It was absurd. I had no idea what to expect. They wanted people who were true athletic types with visible muscle. I’m very body-positive and confident, but I also was not able to make myself have visible muscles overnight. I tried to back out, but they said, “Your feet are a size seven and a half,” which was clearly the only reason they wanted me. So I went, and they lined me up with like 100 fitness models. They asked, “What’s your fitness routine?” And I didn’t want to lie, so I said, “I love to dance.” I did some very musical theater dancing, which I think made them laugh, and I finished by landing in a split with my arms over my head, smiling. Then I curtsied and I ran out of the room.
Last TV show you binge-watched? Big Mouth, season two, on Netflix. It’s the funniest show. It’s an animated show, and the premise is these kids are going through puberty, but it’s externalized through these Hormone Monsters. Most of us in the cast of Rock of Ages are completely in love with that show, so as soon as it was released we all binge-watched it.
Do redheads have more fun? They do, and you know who has even more fun? People with pink hair, which is what mine is right now. It’s been a whirlwind of pink adventures.
Three adjectives to describe yourself? Ambitious, fairy-like and silly.
Is Mr. Robot the best show of the past five years? It’s such an amazing show, and Sam Esmail, the creator, is one of the sweetest, most intelligent people. Even though I played a very, very minor character, he made a point of coming over to say hello and introduce himself. He’s so hands-on with how he creates that show, and it shows in how amazing it is.
You have perfect pitch. Do you love the movie Pitch Perfect? I wish I liked it more, because I wish they all had perfect pitch. [Laughs.]
Song you sing the most in the shower? In the shower, I sing opera. Candide. I like to do the scene where they’re reunited. I love having that echo chamber of the bathroom.
Did you read the 50 Shades of Grey books before you did the parody? I think I got to page 70, and I had to give up. So, kind of. [Laughs.]
One person, living or dead, you’d most like to perform for? Freddie Mercury. Just because one of my favorite things to do to psych myself up before singing is a backing track where it’s just the lead vocals for Under Pressure. Just the expansiveness of the sound that he could produce gives me chills.
Remy Malik plays him in the new biopic. I know! I’m dying to see it. I didn’t have any interaction with him on Mr. Robot. We had no scenes together, but I think he’s such a spectacular actor. I have no fear that he won’t do it justice.
Diva you idolize? Aretha Franklin, bless her soul. I was very into her when I was around 10, and my Dad played in her band when she was in Boston. So for my 10th birthday, he got me unbelievable tickets, and I might not be a big black woman, but she was so calm, and relaxed, and everything she did came from such a place of truthfulness, that I wasn’t watching a singer. I was watching a storyteller. I love everything about her.
Are you a neat freak? Big-time. I’m the cleaning fairy. But I also recognize that there’s no way I could ever hold any other human being to my standards of tidiness. My roommates laugh because I clean in the middle of the night or while they’re out.
Favorite song of all time? Africa, by Toto. I know that’s the worst answer ever, but my parents are both professional musicians, and we listened to a lot of amazing music. Africa was the first song I found on my own. I was like, “What is this musical genius?” Of course, now it’s like the big joke. But I still love it. It’s so bad, it’s good.
Worst job you ever had? The genuinely worst job ever was working for Coyote Ugly, but I didn’t actually work there, because they rotate their employees among various locations so that they don’t get stalkers—if that’s any indication of the job quality. And my boss told me I didn’t dress skimpily enough to come to work. That was not an environment for me. Otherwise, Tavern on the Green was awful. The new owners are criminals, and they’re running that place horrifically.
So how long before you score a Tony? You know what? When the Martha Stewart musical comes out, call me back. Let’s give it a solid 10 years. ◆