Julie Barnes, Broadway’s Backbone – Covered by Camp Broadway
Welcome to our fourth chapter of Broadway’s Backbone on the Camp Broadway Blog! If you missed his introductory post, this ongoing segment revolves around Brad Bradley and his podcast Broadway’s Backbone. With a career transcending all genres of the entertainment industry, Brad has been a vital member of the Camp Broadway universe for several years.
According to Brad Bradley, “Backbone is a podcast dedicated to the men and woman of the ensemble: the chorus of dancers, singers, and actors that are the foundation of every Broadway musical. These often-unsung gypsies are the hardest working people on the boards and are Broadway’s backbone. Each episode interviews a Broadway vet about their life, career and dreams, but also delves into the real topics that aren’t always shared. The life of a gypsy may be full of passion, but not always filled with glamour. This podcast is in honor of the folks of the ensemble and the people who plan to be them.”
You may remember the series being followed and critiqued by Eric Gelb, an amazing member of CB’s blog team. My name is Emma Suttell, and I am elated to carry on Eric’s legacy and continue covering the series.
This week’s guest is Julie Barnes, a Broadway and West End Veteran. Credits Include: Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Spamalot, and Oklahoma! Julie describes herself as “the female Billy Elliot”, and began her dance training on a stone floor in her home. She knew from a young age that she was destined to be a dancer, and was the first actor to come to the U.S. on a work visa to be in the ensemble of a Broadway show.
Below are specific sections of the interview with my own commentary and background. If you’d like to follow along with the podcast, click this link: https://soundcloud.com/brad-bradley-17/broadways-backbone-w-brad-bradley-guestjulie-barnes-ep-6
On being satisfied with your work…
BARNES: “I am so lucky to do a show like Crazy for You, because it really is a perfect show. In my mind, there’s very few shows that you can do eight times a week and still be- not even proud of it- but you just- you know it’s good. You go out onstage and you’re like, ‘I know I’m in a really good show’, and that one was one that’s really dear to me. I would do that show again a million times over. I can still remember bits of choreography and stuff.”
My thoughts: While performing in a show that continues for several weeks or even months, it is extremely important to recognize the feats your cast has accomplished, and it is essential to appreciate the hard work that the cast put into the show. However, I wish Barnes would’ve been “proud” of her show, as she mentions she doesn’t use that word to describe her feelings about the show. I feel like the message she was trying to convey here really does express that she is proud of all the work herself and her cast has done.
On the surprise of being casted…
BARNES: “I turned up on the first day of rehearsals, I didn’t even know how I’d got there because one of the guys in the show turned around and said to me, ‘How are you here?’ and I’m like ‘I have no idea how I’m here’… Again, it was some sort of perfect storm, it was meant to be. To be honest, I never thought I’d actually sweep a Broadway stage, like literally, let alone get to perform on one. Like, It was just not something I ever thought was possible.”
BRADLEY: “And then you did it repeatedly and you keep doing it.”
BARNES: “I know it’s crazy, and I’m always grateful for every second, because I know how hard it is for people to get on Broadway who have lived here and trained here, and the fact that I came with a show was so very, very lucky.”
My Thoughts: The excerpt from the interview really puts into perspective how different everyone’s paths to Broadway can be. I admire how she used the words “perfect storm” to describe her experience, as her road to the stage was not easy. She had to acquire a work visa to be a part of the show, and although it was a difficult and time-consuming task, Barnes ended up being in the right place at the right time.
On being thrown into shows as an understudy…
BARNES: “I was actually sharing a room with ‘The Lady of the Lake’ and she went out of town for something, so I knew she was out of town, but there was also a standby so I didn’t think anything of it. I got into work for a matinee and somebody said to me, ‘Oh, do you know Lynne’s not feeling very well?’, and I was like ‘No’ and Lynne was the standby. So I go into the company office… I’m like, ‘I’m just wondering- is Lynne okay?’ and they say, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah she’s fine’, so I go to my dressing room and literally at the half hour call they come knocking and they’re like, ‘You’re on, she’s actually completely lost her voice, and you’re on’. I never in a million years thought that I’d ever do that role because I was like, there’s a standby, and the standby is there to do that, and she wasn’t in the show. She was just there to do that job, and in my mind, I just never thought that would happen.
My thoughts: I myself have been in a show where we had to throw an ensemble member on as the lead the night of the show. Barnes’ example also proves that the theatre must move quickly and efficiently to put on a successful show.