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Friday, January 13, 2012

Leslie Bellair brings baby bump to Horizon's 'Avenue Q' remount

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: Leslie Bellair (center) on Avenue Q
  • Horizon Theatre
  • ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: Leslie Bellair (center) on 'Avenue Q'
Initally I interviewed Leslie Bellair for last year’s Fall Arts Issue, in advance of her appearance in Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them at Actor’s Express. Bellair had to withdraw from the play, however, upon learning that the role’s physical demands, including a fall, were incompatible with her attempts to conceive. Bellair and her husband expect their first baby in late May, but before then she’ll appear in Horizon Theatre’s remount of Avenue Q (opening Jan. 13), with some adjustments to her costume as Christmas Eve. Bellair first earned local notice by playing the title role of Mulan for the Alliance Children’s Theatre, and works as a certified speech pathologist for her day job. Bellair’s answer to my first question proved prophetic.

What’s next for you after the Actor’s Express play?
My original plan was for last summer’s Avenue Q to be my last play before I started trying to have a child. I was talked into doing A Chorus Line [last Aug. 4-Sept. 4 at Aurora Theatre], which has a lot of dance involved. Why not go out with a show that would challenge me physically? Horizon has official plans to remount Avenue Q, so I’ll be reprising Christmas Eve. It’ll work with the character if I have a baby bump.

What’s your background?

My mother is Chinese and my father is Caucasian — they met in Taiwan. I grew up in Georgia and feel like I have a connection to my [Chinese] heritage. Growing up, my mother taught at the Chinese community center, so my sister and I took Chinese and went to a Chinese summer camp. I feel a very good connection to that. It’s very easy to tap into an Asian character.

How do you handle roles that might contain Asian stereotypes?
A lot of Americans tend to lump together Asian cultures, and some times the acting roles are written that way. In Avenue Q, Christmas Eve is specifically Japanese, so I try to do the accent as specifically as possible.

Does your background as a speech pathologist inform your stage work?
They definitely inform each other. My mom likes to tease me: “Aren’t you glad I made you finish grad school?” It helps with my accent work. I worked as a dialect coach for the two Asian characters in Thoroughly Modern Millie, and would like to pursue more dialect coaching.

Would you say that you’re a triple threat as an actor, singer and dancer?
I know that I’m pretty humble, and mom has told me to be less so, but I will say that I am a triple threat. I wish I had a little more dance background. I think the natural ability to dance has been there, but could use more of the technical ability. I’ve come to realize that I’m suited more for younger, ingénue parts, but can do comedic parts as well. When I was in college, Rent was coming out and musical theater had a more contemporary quality, so you didn’t have to be a triple threat.

How do you feel about your non-musical role in the Actor’s Express play?
With Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, I was joking with my friends that the idea of just doing the acting makes me a little nervous. I thought, If I’m a little nervous about a scene, should I ask the director if I can break out in a song and dance?

How did it feel last when the Suzi Bass Awards nominated you for awards in three shows: Singin’ in the Rain, Avenue Q and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee?
It was extremely exciting. I felt so fortunate to play all those roles, so to be nominated for three was more than I could’ve hoped for. It’s nice to be nominated with peers I’ve worked with.

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