In the Spotlight: Kristi Tingle Higginbotham

Kristi Tingle Higginbotham in “A Grand Night for Singing” at the Virginia Samford Theatre. (Photo/Steven Ross)

If you’re a Birmingham theatergoer, you surely know Kristi Tingle Higginbotham, one of our most prolific and talented actresses. She fell in love with musical theater at Mountain Brook High School, thanks to music teacher Frances Manley and theater teacher Eleanor Trafton, and she honed her craft as one of the first musical theater graduates of Birmingham-Southern College. Since then, she’s delighted Birmingham audiences in many shows and concerts. She lives in Mountain Brook with her husband, David Higginbotham, and is a pilates instructor at Club Pilates.

What’s your first memory of being on stage?

One memory that truly sticks out is when I was in the chorus for the first time with Birmingham Summerfest in 1983. The show was “The Music Man,” starring Jim Nabors. I was so excited when the grand curtain opened up to reveal the entire cast, ready to sing “Iowa Stubborn.” I looked out and saw all those people in Boutwell Auditorium, and I knew then and there that the theater was going to be a deep part of my life!

What’s your favorite role you’ve played or show you’ve been in?

Picking a favorite roll or show is hard, but I would have to say playing Eva Peron in “Evita” or Mama Rose in “Gypsy” are definitely at the top of that list. Others would include “Chicago” with Jan Hunter, “Next to Normal” and “Grey Gardens.”

Who is your favorite composer?

Jerry Herman.

Do you have a favorite song?

One of my favorites is “Losing My Mind” by Stephen Sondheim.

Kristi Tingle Higginbotham.

What’s a performance (on stage or screen) that sticks out to you as an audience member?

One of my favorite performances was when I took myself to New York City on my 50th birthday to see Patti LuPone live at 54 Below. As I watched her fierceness on stage, all I could think about was how I wished I could’ve seen her in so many of her roles over the years.

What is a role you wish you will or could have played?

I’ve been so fortunate to have played so many wonderful roles in the theater in my career. As far as one that I wish I might do, there is a certain big musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber that I have not aged out of playing, yet!

Any great advice you’ve been given by a director or anyone else about being on stage?

When I was in my early 20s, a director told me I needed to get in shape and lose some weight and then I would be able to play all the roles that I wanted. I cried my eyes out, but it turns out he was right. I had that “freshman 15” on, and I needed to get healthy and stay in shape so I would have the stamina to play all the dancing roles that I wanted to do while I was young.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

My pre-show rituals include vocalizing mid-afternoon, some stretching and 20 pushups, prayer, and a large, unsweet iced tea in my dressing room.

Tell me about a time something that went wrong on stage.

The one time something went very wrong was in 1995, Summerfest’s production of “Damn Yankees.” I was performing the big number, “Shoeless Joe,” and I was to jump off the dugout, and two of the baseball players were supposed to catch me. But one night, their hands slipped from each other, and they barely broke my fall, resulting in a very painful cracked tailbone!

What do you listen to , read and watch when you’re not performing?

When I am not performing, I love to listen to jazz or the great Sinatra. I couldn’t tell you what my favorite book is because I am not a reader. The last TV series I binged was “The Crown.”

What’s next for you?

This is the first year that I do not have any show or concert on the calendar. I am entering into probably what will be my favorite role, which is grandmother! Little Elijah Higginbotham was born earlier this year.

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