In conjunction with BlackRock’s partners at The Signature Theatre, two-time Helen Hayes Award winner TRACY LYNN OLIVERA is bringing BROADWAY GOLD, a cabaret celebrating the golden age of Broadway to BlackRock Center for the Arts’ Mainstage Theater on Friday, February 1 at 8 pm.
BROADWAY GOLD will feature musical numbers by iconic composers like Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein, from such classic productions as West Side Story, Oklahoma and My Fair Lady. The performance will see Olivera acting as host for the evening, bridging the songs with her enthralling storytelling and contagiously buoyant personality.
“This is one of my favorite things to do, because the choosing of the music is really fun for me,” Olivera said of preparing and performing a cabaret-style production. “I work with my accompanist/friend/arranger, Lenny [Williams], we work together to find stuff that we find to be interesting but also appealing to the audience, and then we try to put our own spin on a lot of the arrangements. So just sitting in a room and just getting to make music with my friend is pretty awesome.”
A long-time performer in the DC musical theater scene, Olivera puts an emphasis on preparing herself physically for new roles. “Right now [in addition to BROADWAY GOLD], I’m getting ready to do a production of Matilda,” she said, “and my role is kind of a dance-heavy role, which I haven’t done while, so I’m trying to get a lot of extra cardio in.”
“In some ways it’s more practice, it’s a lot more self-disciplined practice,” Olivera said when asked how preparing for a solo cabaret performance is different. “You have the luxury of being in a room with 20 other people when you’re rehearsing for a musical and having a director who tells you what to do and having to be completely independent of that is a totally different experience.”
The Helen Hayes Awards are a regional honor for excellence in metropolitan Washington theater, a community that has firmly proclaimed Olivera to be at its forefront with back-to-back honors for the past two years after she was nominated seven other times in prior years. She won in 2017 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical for the role of Lizzie in 110 in the Shade, and in 2018 for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical for the role of Charlotte in A Little Night Music.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Olivera said of the awards. “It sounds so cheesy to be like, ‘it’s an honor just to be nominated!’ but that is more important to me, to be honest, to be able to stand among people who you consider really good and you respect, that’s really cool.”
“Awards feel weird sometimes to me, because artists pitted against each other like horses is kind of weird,” she added. “But at the end of the day, those were two roles I was really proud of, and it’s nice to have a little statue for them. I try to just do good work and if it gets an award, it’s a huge bonus, but I’d drive myself crazy if I started expecting those things or wishing they would happen.”
Performing a cabaret like BROADWAY GOLD is in some ways a return to her roots; before becoming a star of the local theater scene, Olivera was a musician, having played piano since she was 6 years old.
“Getting to make music, which is what it is at the heart of [preparing an original cabaret], is what I love doing the most,” she said. “And I love this band I’m working with, they’re awesome. I met the drummer, he’s a theatrical drummer around town, but I’d never gotten to play with him solo before, and the bassist too, he’s really great. We’ve got these cool, fun, new arrangements and spins on some traditional music theater songs. I like to switch it up.”
In addition to performing, Olivera also teaches at Catholic University of America, her alma mater, citing the late Jane Pesci-Townsend, her former teacher and later colleague at CUA, as her mentor in both performing and teaching.
“I think it’s so satisfying when a student ‘clicks’ into something, to watch somebody’s eyes when they figure something out I think is one of the most gratifying experiences you can have,” she said. “I’m lucky enough to do what I love for a living, and if I can help other people do that too, I think that’s really why we’re here.”
TRACY LYNN OLIVERA will be performing BROADWAY GOLD at BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown, Maryland at 8 p.m. on Friday, February 1. Adult tickets range from $25-$45. Click here for more information or to buy tickets, or call the box office at 240-912-1058.