Today, we share an exclusive interview with Demaree Catherine Hill, the current Nessarose on the “Wicked” 1st National Tour. Born in Indianapolis, she actually grew up between the two coasts, living at different points in NYC, Nashville, and Los Angeles, which she now calls home. On her start in musical theatre, she says “My mom and siblings say that before I could speak, I hummed myself to sleep and could repeat melodies very early. I started talking really early. I had the “Annie” soundtrack memorized by fourteen months old. By two and a half years old, my obsession was “Cats”.” Check out her interview below!
What is your favorite city you have visited on tour and why? Favorite restaurant?
That’s a tough one. I have always had a soft spot for Washington D.C. I spent two Christmases there and loved it, plus I got to take two cast tours of the White House which was a highlight. Favorite Restaurant- It’s been nineteen years but I still remember an amazing Italian place across the street from the stage door of the Palace Theater in downtown Columbus, OH. I forget the name.
What habits have you taken up to pass time while touring or backstage?
I’ve been cooking a lot. I have been trying to decide on whether to try to learn Spanish or French or make jewelry or crochet backstage. Or if I’m really ambitious… Write a screenplay. We shall see.
What was the first professional show you performed in? What did you learn from the experience?
I was in Les Miz when I was eight, playing Young Cosette/Young Eponine. [Editor’s note: This was as a replacement in the Broadway production, as Demaree Danner.]
Tell us about your “Wicked” audition process – we know everyone’s is unique. What song did you use at your initial audition?
In the past four years I have attended three open calls, two in Los Angeles and one in NYC. Then, I had two appointment auditions through my agent, but not for Nessarose. Then, I did a workshop class that associate director Lisa Lisa Leguillou was guest teaching in NYC. It was the same format as an audition. I got up and sang a few sixteen bar songs from my book and a month later my agent called and said Lisa and Telsey casting had asked me to put myself on tape for Nessarose.
I started with a somewhat belty ballad and then a pop ballad and then an up-tempo. I’d rather not say titles because I am still using them. 🙂
How did you react when you found out you’d gotten the job? Who did you call first?
Interesting Story on finding out I got the job. My brother-in-law Brad Hill was in the Trauma Unit after a near fatal motorcycle accident and all of his family and friends and I were waiting to find out the outcome of the first surgery and waiting and praying to see if he was going to make it. I got a missed call and then a voicemail. It was my agent asking me to call back, but that not to stress since he knew I was in the hospital. I called him back and the phone call dropped three times. Finally he called me back and my manager was on the phone too and they gave me the news. It was the weirdest moment of my life, I think, because I was so sad and worried about my brother in law and yet one of my biggest dreams had just come true. I walked back into the hospital and walked over to my husband and grabbed my husband’s hand. I felt like passing out and I whispered in disbelief… I got “Wicked”!! He said, “what?” I said, “I am the new Nessa in the First National Tour of Wicked,” and he burst into tears and then I started crying and I think we had the rest of the family worried it was bad news. Then we shared the news and everyone started crying. Then I called my family on a conference call! Brad, my brother-in law, had helped me prepare for previous auditions and all I could think was, “Brad you have to make it so I can tell you the good news!” When Brad was recovering from surgery and still doped up on pain meds, I walked in to see him and he barely opened his eyes and smiled and mumbled “Wicked”. Brad is recovering as well as can be expected and I am hoping he will be well enough in the future to come see me in the show.
What – for you – was the hardest part of learning the role of Nessarose?
The wheelchair hands down. Simultaneously acting and singing while maneuvering a large wheelchair. I have no wheelchair experience whatsoever! When you are walking you can just walk to your numbers on the number line, but in a wheelchair you have to wheel perfectly to the right spot because most of the time, it’s really quick blocking and you can’t really readjust in the middle of a scene. Also, remembering not to move my legs or feet at all ever! I remember in a rehearsal I was tapping my feet to the music without even noticing at first, but I caught myself and it hasn’t been an issue since.
What do you remember about your first performance?
My first performance, I remember my feeling like I couldn’t breathe all that well in the opening number. I was really excited and nervous and had to tell myself to breathe normally! I mostly remember how happy I felt when it was over and I survived my first show without running into anyone with my wheelchair and without missing any lines or entrances.
How do you feel your performance changes with different performers in other principal roles?
My first week, Justin Brill (Boq) was on vacation so I had two different Boqs. It does change a bit. Everyone makes slightly different choices with their character and you have to react to that. It’s fun to have different people in the roles; it keeps you on your toes! In the last two weeks, I have performed with two Glindas and Carla Stickler, the Elphaba standby. I really enjoy seeing each person’s take on the character.
What are some dream roles for you?
Eponine/Fantine- Les Miz – When I was 4 years old my brother was the Original Gavrouche in “Les Misérables”. I remember sitting in the corner of the rehearsal studio and hearing Francis Ruffelle sing
“On my Own” for the first time and at that moment I knew I had to play that role someday! I spent years dressing trench coats and hats singing “On My Own”. I really hope that dream can still come true!
Belle in “Beauty and the Beast”, Narrator in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Maria in “The Sound of Music”.
What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
My best advice is to get into class if you are not majoring in musical theater, whether you are in high-school or post college, get into class. I think being in class/studio weekly helps you grow tremendously!
My favorite musical theater classes:
Robin Morse http://www.robinmorsestudio.com/
In Los Angeles:
Carole D’Andrea http://caroledandrea.com/
Dan Callaway https://mylavoiceteacher.musicteachershelper.com/
Also, a great resource for tracks at a good price is auditiontrax.com if he doesn’t have it already, he can make it in a jiffy!
You must have a great relationship with your audition book! It should be current, and DO NOT put anything in there that you are iffy about. Get together with an accompanist and make strong audition cuts. Have the accompanist or voice teacher let you record them playing the song and ditch the cast album and practice to the track making it your own, you will be better prepared for the real audition that way. Don’t give up! I was literally going to quit right before I got the news. When I mean quit, I mean I was talking to my husband about starting a family because it didn’t seem like it was working out. The rejection and the competition and all of the money and effort can be so exhausting! If you can be happy doing anything else with your life, then do that! If you feel though that you were born to do this above all else… “Keep on keepin’ on!” Take inventory of your strengths, keep those in sight and work on your weaknesses! I feel very blessed that God has allowed me to have the career that I have had and I am so unbelievably thankful to be performing in musical theater again! Lastly don’t forget, that even a dream job is still a job and takes lots of work even after you book it!