Interview with Liv Andrusier
Liv Andrusier, recipient of a 2023 Offie Award for Leading Performance in a musical, talks about her journey in her critically acclaimed role as Annie Londonderry in Ride and how she is shaped by her experiences to date.
I first reviewed Ride in 2022 at the Charing Cross Theatre.
What is Ride the musical about?
It is so difficult to describe Ride as it’s such a complex and multi-layered story. It is based on the true-ish story of Annie Londonderry, the first woman to have cycled around the world, which may make it sound quite dry, but it is so much more than that. It’s nuanced and funny and magical, set to amazing songs. And it only ever has two women on the stage in an ever-shifting power dynamic. We start with Annie who is at the New York World head-office, under the impression she is there to be signed on as their newest columnist, but then she finds out that it is actually an interview and she must first pitch her story. Feeling slightly out of her depth but never one to admit defeat, Annie enlists an unassuming secretary to help her re-enact her true-ish bike ride around the world. It is about identity, class, the American dream and female friendship. An absolute joy and gem of a show.
How did you first hear about this show and got involved?
I auditioned for Ride in 2019 for the Vault Festival, its first outing. I hadn’t trained yet, nor did I have an agent. I saw an ad on Facebook looking for Jewish actors for a show and applied. I was so nervous at the audition, I think I sang "On The Steps Of The Palace" from Into the Woods and I got to the finals for Martha. Seeing those auditioning for Annie, I was so in awe of their presence, I wanted so much to be like them, but I doubted as to whether I could. I was gutted that I didn’t get the role of Martha in the end as I knew even then that this is such a special show.
Fast forward to 2022, I’d been to drama school and I was more mature as a performer. I was asked to audition again but I wanted to make sure that this time I was seen for Annie so I contacted Freya and Jack, who wrote the show. I went in all guns blazing and got the role!
For those who are unfamiliar with the show, who is Martha?
Martha is a fictional character. She is a secretary working at the New York World, from a middle-class sheltered upbringing. Martha took the limited options available to women at the time, i.e., becoming a secretary. When she meets Annie, she realises that she can be much more and gradually opens up over the course of the story. We watch her transform into all the different people that Annie meets on her journey, and the power shift first with Annie in control and then with Martha taking command later on is so interesting to watch. You have to be a very versatile actor to take on this role, and Yuki (Yuki Sutton) was so amazing.
What was your overall experience of Ride, and what were the highlights?
Playing Annie was the highlight. I felt so empowered each performance. She is a feast of a role for an actor, the ultimate showman, with so many aspects that I can relate to, such as being a 5’ something Eastern European Jewish woman. There was so much for me to draw on which is rare. The team were wonderful to work with. So talented and committed to bringing it to life.
What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?
The run at Charing Cross was its first full length run, so there was a lot of discovery and finding out who these characters are. Everyone was open minded, imaginative and unrestrictive, and I knew from the start that this will be an amazing show.
Personally, the Bostonian accent was a challenge. The bicycle was also an issue. We could not find a bicycle that fit me until a few days before we opened. They really wanted an old-style Victorian bicycle, which were all too big in rehearsals. In the show, Annie mentions that she is using a man’s bicycle, because women weren’t really allowed to ride a bike then. Annie was about my height. I don’t know what bike she used, but I couldn’t even get on the enormous bikes we found at the start. I looked like I couldn’t ride a bike. Thankfully, they eventually found one that I could use, but even then, they had to break the seat and re-weld it to make it fit me.
Without disclosing too much, there are some magic tricks in the show and we had an illusionist that came in to teach us what to do, and that took me a while to learn.
Tash Harrison, our movement coordinator came up with this brilliant idea that I should dance during the monologue during the song “Everybody loves a lie”. While I can move, I am not a dancer and it took me a long time to perfect this. It is a lot easier to move to a beat when you’re singing. Instead, I had to find a rhythm from within the spoken monologue, which was one of the hardest things for me in this show.
Did your training prepare you for the role or life as an actor?
Yes and No. I did a one-year course during the pandemic and much of that was over zoom. I developed hugely from the training. My voice developed and I learnt what ‘stillness’ is. I used to be quite “flappy” and I learned how to command on stage. However, this was all in theory; it’s not until your thrown in the deep end and you actually do it that you really learn if you can. I’d say that much of what prepared me came after training.
My first job after the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) was Little Women at the Park Theatre. I was offered Swing and had to cover all four March sisters. That was my hardest job to date. There were no rehearsals and I had to learn from the side. I was given a 3 hours’ notice before going on as Jo. There was a lot of pressure, but it was also a wakeup call that I can withstand the pressure and carry a show. So, when the role of Annie came around, who literally does not leave the stage for the entire show, I wasn’t as scared.
Training is hard, but it is a bit like a bubble. The life of an actor has so many ups and downs. I don’t think training really prepares you for the constant worry over when the next opportunity might come and the rejections. I see so many of my friends who are very talented deciding that this life isn’t for them.
What advice would you give to students or those in training?
Be nice to people! Be engaged and committed, do the work, because people remember who is nice to work with. Talent can only get you so far and people like to work with people they like.
Don’t get too bogged down with trying to find your niche, or who you are as a performer when you’re in training, because you will learn so much more about what you can and want to do after training. I was terrified of belting at RAM and scared that my voice would crack if I belt, and so I stuck to the lyrical soprano pieces. I thought that would be my type of role. It wasn’t until I auditioned for Jo in Little Women, that I realised I love that kind of material and now 80% of my rep folder are belty numbers.
When you heard about your Offies nomination, how did you feel?
The nomination came at around the same time as all the reviews. I’ve never been reviewed before and so the wait was horrible as I poured my heart and soul into the show. I asked my mum to read the reviews and to only show me the nice ones. The reviews that came out were so positive and I will treasure them forever. When I found out about the nomination, I used that to motivate myself and to get into Annie’s confident character. So many members of our team were nominated and it was so nice to get that acknowledgement and recognition.
When I won, so much time had passed since we closed the show, and I had forgotten what I’d done! I was nominated alongside so many talented people in the category. I was also the youngest. So I couldn’t gauge how well I would do. I remember sitting in the middle of the row and worrying that if I did somehow win, how would I climb over all those people to get out. I really didn’t think I would win and ended up writing my speech on the car ride to the ceremony because my mum told me I would look like an idiot if I don’t have a speech prepared. Yuki, who played Martha, also won and it was so gorgeous to celebrate our wins together.
Can you disclose anything on what you are currently working on?
I am working on a very nice project with a very cool script, and will be doing this before going back to Ride in July. Unfortunately, I can’t share very much about this at the moment. I am also in the process for a number of lovely projects.
With Ride coming back to the stage, this time at the Leicester Curve, can you share anything about this?
There will be more information coming. It will be going to another place after Leicester, but I can’t say where yet. It will be bigger and better, more magical and more cycling I’ve been told!