Broadway star Stephanie J. Block heads to Ridgefield Playhouse
For Stephanie J. Block, playing a musical icon is nothing new. The actress-singer made her Broadway debut playing Liza Minnelli in “The Boy from Oz” in 2003 opposite Hugh Jackman as Peter Allen but it’s still quite a challenge to portray a living person. Now picture someone like Cher who is so well known. Many people can remember her from her days on the Sonny & Cher show or seeing her in the extravagant Bob Mackie gowns she has worn on the red carpet.
It’s perhaps not surprising then that Block actually turned down the role of Cher when producers were casting three actresses to play Cher at various stages of her career for “The Cher Show,” which debuted on Broadway in December 2018.
“I actually said no to the offer multiple times over. I just didn’t think I was the right actress to fill Cher’s shoes. I blessed whoever they were going to choose to play the role but I was like, it’s not going to be me,” she said recalling early meetings with the director that ultimately sold her on the show. “And little by little I would meet with the director and he would tell me his vision and I loved the way he was going to tell the story with three Chers on stage. We would talk to each other, reminisce and we would encourage one another so that was a really cool concept and theatrical device that I was excited to play.”
A tireless performer who loves performing live, Block will perform a concert at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Jan. 31 at 8 p.m. A three-time Tony Award nominee, she won her first Tony (Best Actress in a Musical) for her role as Cher in 2019 so musical theater and songs from “The Cher Show” and other productions she has been involved in will be at the heart of this show.
“Musical theater is my passion and that is what has gotten me to a life in the arts. There will be highlights from ‘Wicked’ and ‘Falsettos,’” she said, adding that she will also include other songs that move her, which she hopes will also affect the audience. “Everything will be in the genre of storytelling and musical theater.”
One of those songs is likely to be a beautiful song written by a pair of theater veterans: arranger Stephen Flaherty and writer Lynn Ahrens called “Something Beautiful.” “I find it not only moves me but moves the audience so it’s like food for the soul,” Block said.
Asked what feeds her soul as an artist, she said that will change depending on what stage of her life she is in. As a mom with a young daughter, she says she is attracted to music that touches her heart and transports her to a different place, a different time or memory that she can hold on to. “That really feeds my soul and any time I can really feel a connection with those enjoying my music that really feeds me,” she said. “That’s why if I have my druthers, I will always choose live theater because of that connectivity with the people sitting in the audience. Having that energy under one roof feeds me.”
Variety magazine wrote that Block “conveys her feelings with depth” in her concerts and notes her powerful presence on stage. Versatility has long been a hallmark of her career and she has played a wide range of singing roles on the Great White Way, including Reno Sweeney in “Anything Goes,” Elphaba in “Wicked,” Trina in “Falsettos” and Judy in “9 to 5: The Musical.”
While musical theater has been a career mainstay, singing live in concerts is her passion. “In Broadway, there is a wall called the fourth wall, which is between you and the audience. You are there really just to facilitate the story and be a vessel for the words the author has written or the composer and lyricist have written,” she said. “When I do my concert, I get to be me and I get to look out to the audience and react to how they are feeling or how they are responding.”
For more information about Block’s concert, visit ridgefieldplayhouse.org.
Correction: The headline previously misidentified the venue as ACT instead of the Ridgefield Playhouse. Stephanie J. Block will be performing at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Jan. 31.