Birmingham theater audiences have enjoyed many performances from Regina Harbour, in shows such as “Bright Star,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Once,” “Memphis” and others on several different area stages. The Mississippi-born Harbour, who studied theater at the University of Montevallo and the University of Alabama, also has performed in numerous productions at theaters around the country. Coming off a production of “On Golden Pond” in New Hampshire, she’s about to open an already sold-out run as Fraulein Schneider in “Cabaret” at the Studio Theatre in The Villages, Florida.
Harbour got an early start in theater thanks to her parents, who studied theater at the University of Mississippi and went on to become theater teachers. “It is cheaper to put your kids on stage than hire babysitters, so I was on stage since I could walk,” Harbour says.
Here’s more from Regina Harbour:
What’s your first memory of being on stage?
My father was a college theater professor at Panola Junior College in Carthage, Texas. I was a monkey man in “The Skin of Our Teeth.” I wore a monkey mask and was dressed up in a little black-and-white striped suit. I remember riding on someone’s shoulders in the carnival scenes. I was 3 or 4.
What’s your favorite role you’ve played or show you’ve been in?
Mother Abbess in “The Sound of Music.”
Do you have a favorite show?
Do you have a favorite song from a show?
“Try to Remember.”
Tell me something people might be surprised to know about you.
I am a distant cousin of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (also known as Mark Twain).
Tell me about “Cabaret.” Have you played the role of Fraulein Schneider before?
I have never played it before, though I have been in the show twice before and been the understudy for that role, playing ensemble roles. And it is in the round. I haven’t done a musical in the round since “The Threepenny Opera” in 1999.
What’s the last book you read?
I reread “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.” I had skimmed it when it first came out, as I had a borrowed copy and had to finish it in a hurry.
What podcasts do you listen to?
Not many. I do listen to Rachel Maddow’s podcasts. I wasn’t happy when she cut down her TV shows to only once a week.
What’s the last TV series you binged?
I am a “Blue Bloods” addict.
Who is your favorite composer?
Richard Rodgers. Yes, I love Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown, but I am a Rodgers and Hammerstein fan. I wonder what kind of songs they would write if they had lived in these times.
Who is your favorite playwright?
Arthur Miller. Or Peter Shaffer. I have never been in any of Miller’s plays, but I did direct a production of his play “The American Clock.” I got to be in “Equus” when I was in college, directed by Greta Lambert.
What’s a performance (on stage or screen) that sticks out to you as an audience member?
I saw a show in London in the 1980s that is rarely done in America, “Yonadab” by Peter Shaffer. It was at the National. It is a play, but it was underscored throughout. I didn’t know it at the time, but a young Patrick Stewart played King David. The music and the performances just made it feel immersive.
What is a role you hope you will or wish you could have played?
I wish I could have played Mama Rose in “Gypsy.”
Any great advice you’ve been given by a director or anyone else about being on stage?
Do less – there is strength in stillness.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
I warm up vocally in my car. I don’t like warmups in front of people. It feels like a competition.
Tell me about a time something went wrong on stage.
I did a show called “Bright Hope” in college, and in one scene they were supposed to play a prerecorded tape of Chief Eufaula’s farewell speech regarding the Trail of Tears. Well, instead of that they played the opening square dance number for Act 2, and then, unable to find the correct tape, the stage manager started reading it in a humorous manner. This was a serious moment in the show, and it was really hard not to break up. Luckily, I got to pretend cry, laugh in my show husband’s chest.
You seem to slide effortlessly from straight plays to musicals. Do you have a preference?
Not really, but I do prefer book musicals, especially the dramatic ones to musical comedies (though I still like them as well). I guess because it seems to me music should begin when speech is not sufficient to express an idea or emotion, so you have to sing it.
What kind of music do you listen to when you’re not performing?
Sad to admit probably oldies rock, of my youth.
What’s next for you?
After “Cabaret,” nothing set up. We shall see!