Sarah Pidgeon finds her voice, her inner rock god and a Tony nomination in Broadway's 'Stereophonic'

NEW YORK (AP) — Sarah Pidgeon is making her Broadway debut this season in a celebrated, thoughtful show about how art is created. And getting her first Tony Award nomination. And in a play that's transformed her into a member of a rock band. And notching her first cast album.

“I’m having so many pinch-me moments,” the actor says. “I am living the dream, and I didn’t have the dream because I hadn’t read the script yet. I didn’t know it existed.”

Pidgeon co-stars as rising singer-songwriter Diana in “Stereophonic,” playwright David Adjmi's story of a Fleetwood Mac-like band in the mid-'70s recording music over a life-changing year, with personal rifts opening and closing and then reopening.

Diana's boyfriend is the band's perfectionist guitarist and de facto leader, and cracks soon appear in their relationship as business and personal needs clash.

“I’m breaking up with my boyfriend every night, and I’m fighting for independence and agency as an artist and as a person,” says Pidgeon. “I’m not alone. I think every character in the show is under an insane amount of stress and anguish.”

In one memorable moment, Diana struggles to hit a high B. She has to sing the same line over and over until she can hit that note. “Her voice is literally cracking as her relationship is also cracking,” the actor says.

“Stereophonic,” the most-nominated play in Tony Awards history, has become a hit as a hypernaturalistic meditation on the thrill and danger of collaborating on art — the compromises, the egos and the joys.

“Although these people are rock stars and playing Madison Square Garden, they’re still very much human,” Pidgeon says. “While in the frame of being world renowned musicians, they still struggle with the same things that our audience does when they come and see us.”

Pidgeon didn't set out on a Broadway career. She is a classically trained pianist who did some musicals in high school, theater in summer camp and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 2018. “I consider myself an actor who can sing,” she says.

Pidgeon has appeared in the Hulu limited series “Tiny Beautiful Things,” which earned her a Hollywood Critics Association Award nomination, and the Amazon Prime series “The Wilds.” She auditioned for “Stereophonic” when it was off-Broadway, not expecting a Broadway transfer or cast album.

“What drew me to this play was just how it fearlessly went towards humanity and the ugly aspects of it that make it so beautiful. I think that’s what I look for in my projects,” Pidgeon says.

On Tony night, for the best featured actress in a play award, she’s up against her co-star Juliana Canfield, Quincy Tyler Bernstine from “Doubt: A Parable,” Celia Keenan-Bolger in “Mother Play” and Kara Young from “Purlie Victorious.”

To sound like a ‘70s rock star, Pidgeon made playlists and listened to recommendations, like the Mamas and the Papas and plenty of “Rumors.” Her father is a big Bob Seger fan, and she grew up listening to Adele. “I think I had her album ’21' and was learning to drive in Ann Arbor, Michigan, belting ‘Rolling in the Deep.’”

She is a little anxious about her voice but so is her character, so she uses it: “So much of this singing isn’t necessarily about perfection. It has so much to do with vibe and energy and emotion,” she says. “That is sort of giving me a lot of freedom to explore.”

To make "Stereophonic," Pidgeon and her co-stars have become a real band, some learning to play their instrument for the first time. Pidgeon learned to play the tambourine. “You think it’s easier than it is,” she says.

It's Pidgeon singing lead on “Bright,” one of the terrific songs by former Arcade Fire member Will Butler. Actually, there are three versions of “Bright,” as the band changes directions. Pidgeon is also featured on several other songs and fragments.

“I can’t believe that there’s something physical that I can show because theater is so fleeting. The fact that there is something like a hard copy of this experience and sort of this meta version of this play, in the form of a record, is sort of insane.”

Butler is also pleased, crediting the cast for stepping up outside their comfort zone: "To have Sara Pidgeon singing a song she just learned and just discovered her own voice — it’s like a very special thing."

A Broadway debut, a Tony nomination, a cast album — which she hopes to send as a streaming link if future auditions require proof of singing — and a whole bunch of new friends. She's not sure what's next.

“If I’ve learned anything about this career that I have no idea what is going to happen,” she says. “Whatever I do next after this project, it’s going to be really hard to beat this.”

The Tony Awards will be held June 16.


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