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The Road Home

August 16, 2017 5:00 am0 commentsViews: 17

beth-malone-856by Steve Desroches

Beth Malone first came to Provincetown a bit by chance back in 1990. She’d never heard of it. Neither had her girlfriend, now wife. They were on Cape Cod visiting a friend who worked at the Chatham Squire, the popular pub on Main Street of the white-picket fenced town that gives it its name. Said friend had to work and suggested they drive up to Provincetown for a visit, saying nothing else. Upon arrival it was as if a portal to a secret world had opened before them. Gay men and lesbians holding hands while walking down Commercial Street. Rainbow flags everywhere. The kindness, and respect, they received from everyone they met. How had they never heard of Provincetown?

“We didn’t know where it was or what it was,” says Malone. “We were like, ‘What? Where are we?’ We felt like it was some sort of utopian secret we had stumbled upon.”

A lot has happened since Malone last visited, not the least of which is her Tony Award-nominated performance in the groundbreaking musical Fun Home, based on the graphic memoir by cartoonist Alison Bechdel. The story of her road from Castle Rock, Colorado, to Broadway is as compelling as any musical or play on the Great White Way. And Provincetown will get the chance to hear the tale as Malone makes her first trip back to the Cape tip since that magical first visit almost 30 years ago as she performs Beth Malone: So Far at the Art House this Sunday night accompanied by Susan Draus on the piano.

After years of auditioning in New York, performing in Colorado, and a stint in Los Angeles, Malone made her Broadway debut in 2006 in the jukebox musical Ring of Fire based on the music of Johnny Cash. Off-Broadway, and around the country, she appeared in productions of The Marvelous Wonderettes, Annie Get Your Gun, and 9 to 5, as well as taking Beth Malone: So Far to such places as Aspen, Colorado’s Wheeler Opera House and New York City’s Davenport Theater. But when she was handed the script for Fun Home it was akin to her first trip to Provincetown. While the initial story was very different than the final version of the play, it felt so new and fresh to Malone, who played the lead of Alison as an adult in both the original off-Broadway run at the Public Theater and at the Circle in the Square Theatre on Broadway. Performing in the lead role as the lesbian protagonist provided Malone an opportunity to portray a character she never thought would come her way as even reaching Broadway seemed like a distant daydream for so long. Not only was someone like her on Broadway, but now she was playing a character that was unlike what anyone had ever seen before on a Broadway stage. It was a moment she wasn’t sure would ever come when she was a young actress back in Colorado.

“It was more of a fantasy than a goal,” says Malone. “I didn’t see a lot of people I identified with. I certainly admired people like Bernadette Peters, but I didn’t see myself in those roles. I fantasized I was going to be like them. The difference between a dream and a goal is a plan. I needed to create a plan.”

Part of that plan was to do the work, and to do it well and as often as possible, and then people would notice. And they did. Since Fun Home, which won the Tony Award for Best Musical as well as four others, Malone went on to play the title role in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, a character she portrayed in Denver just prior to going to New York to start her most celebrated performance to date. And she feels that this production about the most famous survivor of the RMS Titanic is bound for Broadway after its limited engagement this past July at the St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre (The Muny). She laughs thinking how different playing Molly Brown over Alison Bechdel is, as the current role has her in period costume, wigs, and heavy makeup jumping around from the mark to mark in this high-energy classic musical.

While she is at the moment working on playing a well-know character, her future sights are set on roles where she can create the character and fully be herself, professionally, as Broadway changes to embrace untraditional stories and more diverse casting. While she notices a bit of a shudder and a step back from that progress as producers retreat a bit in the age of Trump, she’s committed to continuing to tell the stories that for so long were shoved aside. But this week she is telling her own as she arrives in town just in time for the Carnival parade, which may remind her that indeed Provincetown is like nowhere else in the world. She’s eager to share her experiences through music and performance in a town that appreciates great theater, a left-of-center perspective, and a pioneering spirit.

“I think people in their thirties and forties are going to appreciate it a bit more because of references to Barbara Mandrell and Kristy McNichol, and their impact on me,” says Malone. “Then there are the very recognizable stories that everyone seems to relate to, even if it is very specific to me coming from a small town in Colorado. But they are universal stories. There are also a lot of things that I’m not super proud of, but they are really, really funny… and they’re true!”

Beth Malone: So Far with Susan Draus on piano is at the Art House, 214 Commercial St., on Sunday, August 20 at 7 p.m. Tickets ($40 general/$65 VIP) are available at the box office and online at ptownarthouse.com. For more information call 508.487.9222.