For Christiane Noll, music is a family thing. The musical theater actor, who has been seen on Broadway in Jekyll and Hyde, It Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues, Ragtime and Chaplin, and who has released five solo CDs, grew up in a home of music and is continuing the generational trend. She is married to Broadway actor Jamie LaVerdiere and their four-year-old daughter is already singing and dancing in their home.
Noll shared a great deal of her family’s history in her solo act Gifts at 54 Below, which was recorded for an album. Throughout the performance, Noll narrates her life story beginning, which, having been raised by an orchestra conductor and a soprano, fueled her initial resistance to entering the field of professional singing.
“I was very lucky,” Noll said of her childhood. “And unaware, really. My parents would throw me in the backseat of the car to where they’d have a performance. Sometimes we’d play a spelling game, but more often than not, it was ‘Sing an A. Give me a major third. Now do a whole note scale…’ I was doing full-on music theory when I was seven.”
This resulted in Noll experiencing some shock when entering music theory classes in school and realized that her fellow students were not as well-versed as her in the subject. “I’d show up for my very first professional job while I was still in college and be horrified that people don’t know how to read music,” she said. “It sort of took a while to tame my inner righteousness from the experience I had and realize not everybody was exposed to that.”
Noll shares stories from her childhood and her entry into the professional world – and the horrors of auditioning – through the songs selected for Gifts, which she said all come from personal experiences. “They’ve been music that I’ve sung or heard or been with me from the beginning,” she said, “and when I think of different milestones, I think of these particular songs.”
Noll said the idea for Gifts came from wanting to write a tribute to her family and how her life has changed.
“It was really personal,” she said of the process of writing and touring the country with the show, which began as a two-act performance. “When I would arrive in a new town and do a little pre-talk, I would say, ‘You’re going to know more about me than you really want to!’”
Some of the ways in which Noll’s life has changed include her marriage, which took place in 2006, and the birth of their daughter, in 2009. Adapting to being a mother, while continuing to work onstage, has been a challenge for her.
“It’s really difficult, especially being a working mother in this business in particular,” she said. “Actors by definition are very self-obsessed. We are our own product. The notion of taking a very selfish person and putting them in charge of some other life – it’s just a recipe for disaster on so many levels.”
Noll said she loves the effect her daughter has on people and is now surprised when people address her instead of her daughter, saying, “You really have to wait until you come to a place where you’re just sick of yourself and are ready to be the invisible parent. Now, whenever I walk into a room, people go to my daughter. Even if it’s just in an elevator, people go crazy.”
Being both a mother and a performer has caused Noll’s priorities to shift in regards to the kinds of work she pursues. She said she was surprised when she resented work taking time away from time spent with her family.
“You’d think I’d be resenting having to make choices in order to be with my family, and I don’t. It’s the opposite,” she said. “You resent the job taking you away from the child more than anything else, which is a little bit silly.
“That’s what no one can prepare you for,” she added. “When you choose a career that you choose because you love it so much, that it’s a passion of yours, to ever surmise that you might remotely want to put it aside for something else – you can’t possibly imagine that when you’re 18 years old. To find that being the case now is a little bizarre.”
Noll commented on the recent media coverage of working mothers and the pursuit of “having it all,” saying, “It depends on what your ‘it’ and your ‘all’ is. Everyone has to discover that for themselves.”
She considers blanket statements to be unfortunate, saying, “it puts all of us at a disadvantage as to be a good parent and to be in our chosen fields…I’m really fortunate that I’m married to an actors who understands what I’m doing. We tag team all the time.”
Noll’s husband is currently performing in Motown, which is across the street from the Marquis Theater, where an upcoming revival of Jekyll and Hyde, starring Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox, will open for a limited run on April 30. Noll, who played the role of Emma Carew, fiance to Dr. Jekyll, in the original production, said it is unusual to walk by the theater frequently. This production differs from the original Broadway show, and Noll said, “It’s going to be very interesting to see how it’s different. It’s gotten a lot of regional play. I’m thrilled that they’re getting the opportunity to bring it in.”
Noll willreprise her performance of Gifts at 54 Below on April 4 at 7 PM. She said of the enthusiastic response to the show, “I’m just tickled that people really respond to it. They get it. I’m trying to really honor what inspired me growing up, and how I can hope to inspire my child. It’s a little scary, but I was really excited.”