Annie Gaybis Actress, Singer, Dancer

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Having a chance to do LIZA DOOLITTLE in PYGMALION is something special. Its not done that often, but by George we had one fabulous production ~ one fabulous cast.   SRO...standing ovations and shouts of "Brava" for my character.... coupled with a review headline from THE COMPASS which read: "Forget 'MY FAIR LADY' -this is the original masterpiece in an unforgettable performance by a cast of superstars." For me it was quite a climb to get to that moment. I started prepping the cockney accent and the queens English two full months ahead of our first rehearsal.

GEORGE BERNARD SHAW'S work is a much grittier play in characterization, language and word play than the lovely and lively MY FAIR LADY.

  
GBS must have been some real piece of work to live with. I read up on him in case someone asked me at an interview for some vital facts: FYI he was in a marriage that was NEVER consummated and yet had affairs with many married women.... some of his philosophy which comes out thru-out the dialogue made me think he did not have the highest regard for women.
  

So, I listened to a lot of MICHAEL CAINE and TWIGGY (who by the way has her own clothing line on one of those shopping networks) as well as taking some dance classes from an English dance teacher and engaging her in conversation and remembering how my former personal trainer BENIE spoke with his cockney accent... knowing that the actor playing my "faw-ther" was actually English...I pushed down on the accelerator and spent weeks perfecting it so when I walked into rehearsal I would have some confidence in what I was about to present. In the midst of all this I came across JULIE ANDREWS' bio "HOME" and went right to the "MY FAIR LADY" section....though she was English she had no idea about how to do "cockney"...and came from England without any coaching to prepare her and they had to hire--get this--"an American Henry Higgins that taught phonetics to teach this English performer how to speak cockney" ... for the entire two years of the run she never stopped working on her "Eliza"...I saw this as "a sign" .and during the run I never ever didn't spend at least an hour and a half to two hours prepping before each show my character and going over the entire script.

 

My 'Enry 'Iggins was a wonderful actor that I was delighted to work with...ROBERT GILL....who gave all the impetus I needed to be terrified, awed, angry and grateful with his nuanced performance. We worked as a great team and I was thankful for the spark that emerged immediately with our characterizations... JACK WILBERN was my Col. Pickering... just look at that picture he looks like he just walked out of a Turner Classic Movie--he looked like DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS, Jr. come alive and coupled with ROBERT GILL who travels the country with his one man show on MARK TWAIN, there was a lot of history passing in front of me--my Higgins and Pickering, Twain and Fairbanks.

Our director, JOHN SBORDONE comes from (and this is what he calls it) "an organic way of directing."Gill and I come from: lets get the blocking down once we are on our feet and get used to the feel approach to it all. So the first week was just spent reading and discussing character and then all of a sudden "bam"...we were on the move big time.....and with all that prep and character discussion it all flowed so naturally. The reviewer said, "And where theatre and movie audiences remember the soft Julie Andrews' or Audrey Hepburn's vulnerable naive and lovely Eliza, we have Annie Gaybis giving another of her incredibly vivid performances. Her Eliza is explosive, driven, prideful, tough-as-nails, absolutely riveting. Their wordplay-Higgins vs. Eliza- blows, howls and screeches with hurricane force. As Eliza might have said 'Bloody Brilliant.'"

Of course, their were a couple of "oh, no's"...one of the male and when I tell you the story you know it would have to be a male gives a note from the doctor to the director...he was going to get a vasectomy...yes, boys and girls a vasectomy....four days before we were to open...doctor told him "you only need twenty-four hours to rest up"....his role had NO UNDERSTUDY....and what if the "snip" "snaps"...and you know what might be a turn around for one person might ..um...affect another person in a different manner....I actually thought I was going to pass out...He saw my face ...and I murmured something to him like ....can't this be done "after" the show...what if something goes wrong....well, he called his wife said he was not coming back home for it on that Monday...and truth be known ...I think he was relieved...well, no matter how relieved he was it was nothing compared to how the entire cast felt....phew!

 

Oh, and here is a good one...second night into the show...I do a quick change into a japanese kimona ... their is no speaker where my dressing room was....so I rush to the actress NANCY HOWELL portraying Mrs. Pierce and say to her "how long before I enter with you"...she said we are coming right up to it...and I thought wow this is really going fast tonight and she leads me out....yes, she leads me out alright ...she leads me into a scene I am not suppose to be in....the look on my faw-ther played by a true English actor PAUL HUNT was priceless...I thought my heart had dropped into my stomach and before anyone thought about what to do or push ahead ...and I mean "way ahead" I turned on my heels and exited stage left....ah well, that's live theater.....and we continued right along....and had a good laugh about it for the rest of the run...but trust me no one was laughing at the moment....

To utter such incredible dialogue and working with such an exceptional cast...including CARRIE VAN TOL, DANI TALO and BRETT CUNNINGHAM as the consummate Freddy....having a director that gave suggestions that brought it all into perspective...I finished with a smile on my face...happy to have achieved this once in a lifetime experience....a wonderful way to end 2012....wonderful!!....no, no, no, BLOODY BRILLIANT!!

   


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