Meet Kristine Reese. If you’re a big fan of Broadway like we are at RowHome Magazine, chances are you may have seen her perform before. Her credits include Wicked, Pippin, Mamma Mia!, Les Miserables, Annie, Grease, Footloose…just to name a few. Next up, she’ll be playing the role of Mary Barrie in the national tour of Finding Neverland, which makes a stop here in Philadelphia at the Kimmel Center’s Academy of Music (Nov. 21st- 26th). Reese was kind enough to take a few minutes from portraying the wife of Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie, to tell us a bit more about herself and the show. Did we mention she’s from Philly?
BH: You were born in Philadelphia, what part?
KR: I was born at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Philadelphia, which is also where my mom was working as a nurse at the time. Both my siblings were born there as well!
BH: What have been some of your favorite theatre roles and/or experiences so far?
KR: Playing Catherine (on the first national tour of Pippin) is my favorite to date, as I think she is the closest to who I am. I brought a lot of myself out there on that stage every night for a year and while it was often intense and scary, it was always rewarding, fulfilling and fun.
I would also say the first time I went on for Sylvia (the mother in Finding Neverland, whom I understudy) was one of the most magical experiences of my career — to play opposite of my real-life husband (Billy Tighe, who plays J.M. Barrie) was so personally gratifying — I don’t know if any other professional experience will ever be quite that spectacular.
BH: Why did you audition for the role of Mary Barrie, what made you want to portray this character?
KR: Honestly, my husband was already in the show and I really wanted to be a part of the company, and when the spot opened up I pursued it. That said, I do feel Mary is very well-suited to my skill set. It requires strong acting, singing and specific character work — all of which I feel I excel at. Specifically, the vocal demands of the role – a high pop mix – are perfect for my voice type and range. I know that isn’t a very romantic answer, but I looked at it very practically. I wouldn’t have ever thought of myself as a Mary, as I usually play characters with more warmth, but I’ve been managed to bring some of my style of comedy and personality to the role. I have a lot of fun with it. It’s fun to be a bit more villainous.
BH: So, as you mentioned, you’re married to your onstage husband in real life too! How are you- as a couple- similar to Mary and JM Barrie?
KR: Not very much at all! Mary and James don’t have a very good marriage, especially at the time the story of Finding Neverland takes place. They’ve lost the love and respect for each other and they don’t see the world in the same way. I would say my husband and I are the opposite of that.
BH: You both toured in Wicked, did the two of you meet on the road?
KR: We actually met at school! We both attended the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music, which was our most recent stop prior to Philly! We’ve been together 14 years, which is pretty crazy to say out loud.
BH: Your parents still live here. What neighborhood do they live in and what Philly spots do you enjoy visiting when you come to see them? What will you be doing during your downtime here?
KR: My parents live in Chadds Ford, PA. My dad grew up in that area as a kid so they re-located there after my brothers and I were finished with school (Kristine and her siblings were raised in Minneapolis). They also have a home in Ocean City.
Most of the time when I visit I am here to see family. We spend most of our time down the shore, so we don’t always make our way into the city, but when I do I tend to hang in Center City area or see a game at the LINC. I do try to make time to go to Vetri!
BH: Philadelphia is filled with family friendly activities. What can you say about Finding Neverland to encourage families to come out and see it while it’s in town?
KR: Our show is really one for all people of all ages. It’s not a kid’s show- though it’s certainly a show you can bring your kids to- but, it’s really about the themes of Peter Pan that are such a part of our everyday lives. Imagination, inspiration, relationships, family, life, death. While it does have some heavy moments, it leaves a lasting positive message that I think is VERY much needed in our current world. My hope is that you leave the theatre feeling moved and inspired.
BH: The story of Peter Pan encourages make-believe and to find your kid at heart. What makes you still a kid at heart sometimes?
KR: When I spend time with my niece and nephew – ages 4 and 6 – I always feel like a kid again, especially when I hear the sound of their genuine belly laughs. It shouldn’t take spending time with them to make me feel this way, but I suppose that’s the lesson, right?