Christiane Noll, who first wowed New York audiences in 1997 as Emma in the original Broadway production of Frank Wildhorn’s Jekyll & Hyde, can currently be seen as Cynthia Murphy (opposite The Last Ship's Aaron Lazar as Larry Murphy) in the national tour of the Tony-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen. Noll, who was Tony-nominated for her moving performance as Mother in the 2009 revival of Ragtime, boasts one of the more versatile voices in the business: She can belt with the best of them, but her voice can also soar into the soprano stratosphere.
We recently asked the singing actor, whose Broadway credits also include Chaplin and It Ain't Nothin’ But the Blues, to pen a list of her own most memorable nights in the theatre; her responses follow.
Opening Night of Jekyll & Hyde
My Broadway debut. It is an indescribable feeling when your dreams are realized and you join the ranks of those lucky enough to be in a Broadway show. I was fortunate enough to be a part of Jekyll & Hyde on and off for four years, but no performance was as magical as opening night at the Plymouth Theatre. It will always be the Plymouth to me! Everything was perfect. Bob Cuccioli, Linda Eder, everyone was just that much more stellar. The audience—the Jekkies played their part perfectly! My whole family was there to witness it through tears of pride and joy!
Broadway Revival of Ragtime
There are a number of memories that come to mind where Ragtime is concerned. I believe one night the baby’s head fell off and bounced on the floor! But that has to be eclipsed by the overwhelming experience of singing “Back to Before” at Radio City Music Hall for the Tony Awards broadcast. The show was supposed to run for four weeks at the Kennedy Center, but we got extended. We never expected to transfer to Broadway, let alone be honored with so many nominations—each moment was a gift that we all savored. Thank you, Michael Kaiser, for making my Tony dreams come true! A YouTube clip I will always cherish, and having Daniel Radcliffe tell me I was brilliant as I made my exit was pretty awesome, too!
Replacing in It Ain't Nothin’ But the Blues
The first time I ever replaced anyone on Broadway was in the phenomenal, historical musical journey that was It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues at the Ambassador Theatre, helmed by the incredible Randal Myler. Exciting and intimidating all at the same time, much of the harmonies were improvised. Wheeee! Taking over for Carter Calvert in this show, which had been so organically created, was thrilling. I got to sing an oozy version of “Fever” with an upright bass. This was late 1999 and cell phones were a new toy then and would go off more frequently than you’d imagine. I would always have a bit of fun when that would happen during that very sultry number. I also got to learn how to play the spoons! Where else would that happen on Broadway?
Closing Night of Chaplin on Broadway
I spent [closing night] in the wings watching the brilliance of both my Charlies: Rob McClure and Zachary Unger. Rob McClure is one of the most brilliantly generous, kind, and game actors anywhere! I remember our director Warren Carlyle marveling at how Rob always said yes. Want to walk a tight rope? Yes. Want to roller skate? Yes! Yes and…! He was the first to arrive and the last to leave. He led that company beautifully, and I am so proud that Broadway gets to enjoy him and his gifts again and again. And as for Zach, to this day, I have never seen a more emotionally honest actor than Zach Unger. As young Charlie Chaplin, he broke all our hearts on a regular basis. Someone asked him how he cried the way he did in the scene where I left him, and he plainly answered, “I just imagine my mother leaving me!” Right! I have taken that advice to heart for Dear Evan Hansen. Thanks, Zach—it works!
National Tour of Miss Saigon
The night in Miss Saigon at the massive Auditorium Theater in Chicago sometime in 1993 when the helicopter wouldn’t leave and we had to do the hotel room scene with no set was gleeful chaos. Pandemonium struck when they couldn’t get the helicopter or the helipad off the stage in time to get that big hotel room set in place. So I found two crew guys who grabbed the wicker couch and chair and put them in the center of the stage. A big empty stage the size of Rhode Island. It felt like the front of the stage, where the lights were, was 50 yards away. Hazel Anne Raymundo was on as Kim for the first time, and wide-eyed, found herself miming knocking on the door and stamping her foot. Every person who entered that scene had the same shocked, lost, amused look. Live theatre! Here we go!
Thanksgiving weekend November 29–December 1, 1996, when Fran and Barry Weissler thought why have one fantastically fun production of Grease running in New York City when you can have two fantastically fun productions of Grease running in NYC at the same time. Rather than giving us [on the tour] a layoff, they decided to have their Broadway run at the Eugene O’Neill and then have ours over at City Center. We sold out! It was nice to be home for Thanksgiving that year!
Singing to Julie Andrews
In 2010, I got to sing Cinderella to Julie Andrews’ Fairy Godmother in her Gifts of Music evening at the O2 Arena in London. I pinched myself with glee every performance! What a lovely and inspiring Lady. She is a Dame after all. If that wasn’t exciting enough, after soundcheck, Ted Chapin found me and presented me with my Tony nomination pin. I had missed the nominees luncheon as I was on the plane, and he flew it over to give to me!
Carnegie Hall Debut
My first appearance at Carnegie Hall was with Skitch Henderson for his final concert there with the New York Pops. He had me open the concert dressed in a smock, reminiscent of Carol Burnett’s cleaning lady. I think I even had a cleaning cloth and polished his brass podium. He had me come out of the house, up onto the stage, in the dark except for a spot, look out at the full house and sing “There’s No Business Like Show Business” a cappella! Then we started the show. Thrilling!
National Tour of City of Angels
The first big contract I ever had was the first national tour of City of Angels. The first time I ever went on as Mallory/Avril was in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1992. I was doing “Lost and Found” in the bed sheet and found myself flashing Greg Brady, the incredibly kind and gracious Barry Williams. My 85-year-old southern grandmother was in the audience, and my parents assured her that I was wearing a body stocking! Um. As Barry can attest, I was not.
City Center Encores!
I’m not sure which memory at City Center Encores! stands out more, getting entrance applause in The New Moon, Encores!’ first operetta (backstage F. Murray Abraham brought his Oscar and let us take turns holding it!) or during 1776 singing “Sit Down, John” while wearing muddy wellies, ripped jeans, a plaid flannel shirt, and a down vest! My kind of wardrobe! How nice to be able to live at those extremes!