By Barbara & Scott Siegel
This Season’s Breakout Star Discovery…
Not every season boasts a breakout star, but when it happens, there is never any doubt about it. Watching Christy Altomare, who plays the title character in the big budget Broadway musical, Anastasia, you can almost see the aura of stardom around her from the first moment she appears on stage. That aura is actually a stunning luminosity; she has a talent that simply shines.
We recently wrote a column about homegrown stars and Christy Altomare is a strong example of a young actress who has risen to the leading role of a Broadway show without first having to become a TV or movie star. She has done so on the unequivocal value of her perfection for the part. Nonetheless, given Broadway’s economics, Anastasia’s producers deserve major kudos for sticking with an unknown to headline their musical.
Nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Musical by both the Outer Critics Circle and the Drama Desk – both organizations include musicals from Off-Broadway – means that her nominations cover a far more wide-ranging competition than the Tony’s. Her lack of a Tony nomination, with three of them already pre-ordained for Bette Midler, Patti Lupone, and Christine Ebersole, should be taken not so much as a dismissal, but rather as an oversight.
Let’s look at Ms. Altomare’s previous theater career. Her only other Broadway credit was playing the daughter (one of many replacements) in Mamma Mia! Off-Broadway, she played a major supporting role in the rebooted version of Carrie. The rest of her credits are out of town, but a telling hint to her quality is that she played the female lead in the charming musical two-hander, Daddy Long Legs – a highly demanding role.
Defining musical theater star quality is a tricky business; it’s not about technique, the beauty of voice, face or body. Stardom may require some, or all, of those attributes but none of them, by themselves – or even combined – can turn a lead into a star. There is something else. And, naturally, it’s a different “something” for every star.
More often than not, however, stardom comes from a vulnerability that the audience can see and empathize with. Almost every star has a certain “liquid” quality, usually in their eyes, that melts an audience, drawing them in, making them feel what their character feels. Because in the end, its about sharing emotions and bonding with the audience. And that is what Christy Altomare does in the role of Anastasia; she brings a natural, unforced warmth that makes her eminently approachable (which is perfect for the show as characters are, indeed, drawn to her). And her eyes are, indeed, liquid – emotions seem to float in her expressive gazes. Ms. Altomare is beautiful but she doesn’t play that card; she simply is delightfully unaware that she is devastatingly attractive. (All beautiful actors – men and women – should learn this; it’s very unappealing to flaunt, pose, posture, etc.).
Ms. Altomare possesses a rich, roundly toned voice, impeccable vocal technique, and most importantly of all, when she sings, she understands and expresses what she’s singing about. She doesn’t simply have a pretty voice, she has a beautifully passionate voice. Anastasia is surely just a launching pad for this bright new Broadway star. She’s the big, breakout surprise of the year!