Melinda Parrett returns to the Festival this year as Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes and Ariel in The Tempest. We spoke with her recently about being back here and the role of Reno.

When did you first appear at the Festival?

2013 Anything Goes, Parrett as Reno Sweeney, Hancock as Billy Crocker

2013 Anything Goes, Parrett as Reno Sweeney, Hancock as Billy Crocker

In 2007 in Lend me a Tenor, the Musical. I had never auditioned for Utah Shakes before. I was supposed to be at PCPA, but Lise Mills (Personnel Manager) called me before they started the season. “You come recommended by Jeremy Mann (Musical Director) and Brad Carroll (Composer) who are doing Tenor and we lost this actor playing these 2 roles and we’re going to take a gamble...would you be interested in coming out?” I thought I would be stupid not come and be with my friends and be at this place that people rave about.

Tell us about playing Reno Sweeney.

Even though there’s this initial surface of what she has to be, there’s lots going on underneath. There’s this brassy, sexy, evangelist, turned nightclub singer who’s also a broad. She’s one of the guys but also feels love and wants to be happy. You can’t really get too dramaturgical with Anything Goes. I understudied the role at PCPA. It’s been one of my dream roles.

There’s lots of dancing - tell us about preparing for this role.

It’s hard. I grew up singing and dancing. I’ve been in dance companies and that was my foundation. Coming to Utah Shakes in 2007 was the first time I was thrust into straight theatre and now that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 6 or 7 years. I kind of got away from doing musical comedy. And it’s a whole different genre. Even though I have a foundation in it, getting back to it when I’m “older”, you find the challenge - it’s about stamina and getting back to your technique for both singing and dancing. You can be the best singer in the world, but when you’re up at this altitude, it’s different. It’s been days in the gym and doing it repeatedly. You have to be careful during the week. And balancing what I’m doing in the Adams (Ariel). I think it helps because my body never has down time. It’s constantly staying on my toes.

What are your thoughts about the Festival?

2013 Anything Goes, Parrett as Reno Sweeney, Galligan-Stierle as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh

2013 Anything Goes, Parrett as Reno Sweeney, Galligan-Stierle as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh

I think there’s something special about this place because sometimes you work at a company where even though you’re lucky to be doing what you’re doing, it’s just a job. But there’s something about being here with the immersive nature of the audiences and they are so involved and smart, that we learn from them. It’s this cooperative experience. That for me is unique to Utah. The opportunities that I’ve had here are - I feel like I get better as an artist, as a human being here because I’m given opportunities I never thought I could do. There’s something about people like David and Brian and Fred and Scott and everybody here - family - having faith in what you do and that is really, really cool and unique to here. This is my family here and I feel like this is my home.

You can see Melinda in Anything Goes from July 1 through August 31. Tickets are available online at www.bard.org and by calling 800-PLAYTIX. You can learn more about Anything Goes at http://www.bard.org/plays/anything2013.html

Photos by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival 2013