MARLA MINDELLE

Marla Mindelle Talks Starring As Phyllis Nefler in ‘The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Troop Beverly Hills’, Broadway roots

And 15 other fun facts including flashmobs, ‘Friends’ and Tom Cruise.

Marla as Phyllis

Mindelle as den mother Phyllis Nefler

 

By Patricia de Pastors

8:16 PM PST 8/26/16

 

Marla Mindelle is a musical theater actress who has starred in Broadway’s ‘Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella’ (2013), ‘Sister Act’ (2011) and ‘South Pacific’ (2007), as well as on a series of musical parodies such as ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, ‘Scream’ and current hit ‘Troop Beverly Hills.’

In 2014, the Philadelphia performer moved to Los Angeles to try her luck in the television world, and has since taken part in screenwriting lab Film Independent, prestigious workshop The CBS Diversity Showcase and other projects with writing partner Jonathan Parks-Ramage like ‘The Devil’s Bitch’. She has also co-written and starred alongside her friend, comedy writer Ashley Skidmore and her sister, fellow actress Lisa Mindelle, in their YouTube sketch show “CUNexTuesdays.”

For the few not very familiar with the original film, released in 1989 and starring Shelley Long and Craig T. Nelson, Phyllis is the whimsical yet good-natured shopaholic woman who takes over as den mom to prove to her soon-to-be ex husband that she is still the committed mother and wife he married. However, district leader Velda’s constant attempts to sabotage her troop, lead her to realize that this new life is not as easy as baking cookies.

Inglés de Cine: Congrats on landing the lead on such a beloved production! After starring in musical parodies ‘Scream’, ‘Home Alone’ and ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ at Rockwell Table and Stage (Los Feliz, CA), often alongside Drew Droege and directed by Tye Blue, how have all those hours spent together helped you guys develop this show? 

Marla Mindelle: Thank you! Playing Phyllis Nefler in Troop Beverly Hills has been a dream come true. This is going to sound so corny, but because the cast and crew genuinely like each other so much, it makes developing the show so easy. Rockwell is not a typical theatrical situation. For instance, there are no dressing rooms — so we all hang out, eat and dress together before the show in this one green room area. We’re kind of on top of each other in that sense, but it forces us (in a good way) to connect, laugh, bitch, sing, etc. In terms of developing a show, it’s an extremely communal process. We try out jokes on each other, we choreograph things together, we brainstorm songs if something’s not working. The show is so special in that way because there’s openness to listening to new ideas. Our director Tye and producer Kate should get credit for that. They shape the show but leave a few details to the cast and that makes it feel like a real team effort. I think that comes across in this production more than ever.

 

IDC: Drew, Constantine Rousouli and Lana McKissack are also brilliant as your antagonist Velda, your soon-to-be ex husband Freddie and your maid Rosa. What do you enjoy the most about working with such talented actors?

MM: Well, Drew is a literal genius. I have never worked with someone with a handle on comedy that is so sharp. It’s a real treat to have someone who comes from Groundlings because his improv skills have helped the rest of the cast try new material. He’s a true force — even after doing the show for over a month, he’ll say things that will make the cast crack up on stage…Which is technically unprofessional, but the audience loves it, so whatever. Side note: Drew also happens to be the nicest guy in the world…So I’m just waiting for him to become a huge star and bring us with him.

I knew Connie from New York, but we never worked together until now — isn’t that crazy? In NYC we both fit into a mold or particular type for certain shows but Rockwell broke that for us. We get to play roles we’ve never had a chance to do before. So, for Connie especially, I was shocked to see how hysterical he was because I never saw him do anything like that in NYC. Connie is the full package and I love performing with him on stage because we get to sing some of the best songs in the show together.

Lana is crazy talented. Her voice is insane and she spun both her roles as Rosa the maid and Lily Tso into gold. Anytime my friends come and see the show, they always ask about her. I worked with her in “Devil Wears Prada”, too and she played a more serious role. So again, I was really pleasantly surprised when she came up with hilarious material and jokes for her characters in ‘TBH’.

  

IDC: Numerous publications like LA Weekly or Broadway World have particularly singled out for praise the covering of familiar pop tunes, which cunningly advances the plot lines. How do you think this favors a more immediate bond with the audience?

MM: In that the movie itself and the songs are instantly recognizable. In ‘TBH’, the songs are mostly from the late 80s, early 90s. Madonna, Paula Abdul, Whitney Houston…AKA, they’re fierce. So, there’s a nostalgia factor, a camp factor, an “awwww…” I remember when this song came out and it was my “JAM” factor. This kind of set up works really well in L.A., which finds a cult movie in a TV/movie obsessed landscape and turns it into a musical with songs that everyone knows and loves.

  

IDC: With your father being a composer and your mother a member of the theater community, you once mentioned to Actor Chat that you fell for the musical theater almost as you were born. Did they play a similar role as regards your love of comedy? 

MM: Oh, absolutely. My family is hilarious, so my love of comedy probably comes from us cracking jokes and teasing each other around the dinner table. I laugh more with my family than at any TV show (except maybe ‘Friends’). Also, I truly believe that because I can’t really dance, it’s forced me to make up for it with some sort of skill and I think that’s where comedy comes into play. Lol.

 

IDC: What has your experience at The CBS Diversity Showcase and Film Independent mainly taught you about comedy writing?

MM: It taught me that writing comedy is really hard. Sounds stupid, but it’s true. At CBS, my writing partner Jon and I would write sketches that we thought were so funny, then we’d put them on their feet and they wouldn’t get a laugh. But…That taught us not to give up. CBS was a boot camp — we wrote constantly and learned a lot.

 

IDC: On Broadway, you have played the devious stepsister Gabbrielle (‘Cinderella’), mousy Sister Mary Robert (‘Sister Act’) and driven nurse Ensign Cora MacRae (‘South Pacific’). Learning you’d been cast must have felt amazing. What are your fondest memories from your time there? Would you like to return some day if the opportunity came up?

MM: Yes, I’ll never forget learning I was cast as Sister Mary Robert. It was one of the best days of my life. I have the best memories doing all those shows. Making so many friends, performing on the Tony’s, creating iconic roles. I would definitely return to Broadway if the opportunity came up. Broadway has and will be a huge part of my life.

 

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To wrap up the interview, I ask Marla some rapid-fire questions.

1. Favorite ‘Friends’ moment: Ugh. That’s so hard. The episode where Phoebe and Rachel jump out of the curtains at Ross’s apartment and scream “Unagi! Salmon skin roll.” But also the episode where Chandler and Joey compete for Monica and Rachel’s apartment and Rachel guesses Chandler’s job is a “TRANSPONSTER!” and Monica screams back “THAT’S NOT EVEN A WORD!” I could go on…

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2. The #1 destination on my bucket list: Croatia.

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3. Where would you do an epic flashmob and who’d be your squad? I would not do a flashmob — I would be the awkward viewer that couldn’t peel their eyes away from it.

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4. Two shows I can binge-watch like there’s no tomorrow: ‘Friends’ and ‘The X-Files.’

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5. Perfect caption for my epitaph: “Lolz I’m dead!”

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6. If I had an Idina Menzel moment, I’d switch Travolta for… Oof. Tom Cruise? Just as awkward and also in Scientology.

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7. Best gift I’ve given and been given: A thrift shop GEM. A brown triple XL Evanescence t-shirt from my friend Matt.

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8. A cool NYC and LA spot I’d even bother reviewing on Tripadvisor: Yerba Buena in the East village of NYC. Bowery Bungalow in LA.

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9. I’d die satisfied if I was played in a movie by: Anyone campy. Wendie Malick.

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10. My most gratifying and my most challenging career decision: Moving to L.A.

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11. Invisibility or telepathy? Invisibility.

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12. How I like my Starbucks coffee: Latte.

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13. This is a toughie: Gillian Anderson or Justin Timberlake? I decided to re-watch ‘The X-files’ this year, so definitely Gillian Anderson. Sorry, Justin.

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14. Favorite dessert: Vanilla birthday cake from this bakery in my hometown.

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15. Do you ever get tired of people telling you how great you are? Few people do it, so it’s still rare and very appreciated!

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Meryl Kimmel

Meryl

 

 

Marla Prada

As Emily, in the parody of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’

 

This story appears on the WordPress blog and Facebook page “Inglés de Cine.”

The Spanish version of this interview is yours to read right here.

 

Follow Marla on TwitterYouTube and Instagram @marlamindelle. Tickets for “The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Troop Beverly Hills” are available from the Rockwell Table & Stage.

All the pictures are taken from Google Images.

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