(PCM) It’s not where you start – it’s where you finish.
Just ask actress and musician Lynn Flickinger, who first placed her hands on a piano at the tender age of three or four, fell in love with music and the theater arts, and took a slight detour to make time to raise and nurture her three children.
While growing up in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, her mother Peggy’s influence as a musician and church organist in Dublin, PA. led Flickinger’s interest in learning the violin in the second grade and viola in fifth grade.
In fact, Peggy, now 80, still plays the piano and organ; and Flickinger, now 54, is back on her musical theater path and plays all three instruments. She also learned the accordion for her role in the touring company of “Once,” showing at the Academy of Music from Jan. 15-17.
On Broadway, “Once” won eight Tony Awards in 2012, including Best Musical, and also earned the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
The show features a book by award-winning Irish playwright and screenwriter Enda Walsh, direction by acclaimed Scottish director John Tiffany, and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. The musical is based on the Academy Award-winning film.
Flickinger, who understudies the part of Baruska, is on a break from teaching at the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts in Bethlehem. Among her theater credits are: The Carnegie Hall premiere of Fannie Lou (Mrs. Richards); Carousel (Nettie); Into the Woods (Witch); a solo career in Vienna, Salzburg and Munich. She also plays the role of Mrs. Gabor in the upcoming film adaptation of Spring Awakening.
Q: Please tell me what is so appealing about the musical Once?
LYNN FLICKINGER: It is different from the standard musicals. It is set in an Irish pub and all of the characters play instruments on stage – the actors are also musicians. Once tells the story of a street musician from Ireland who is stuck. He is afraid to move on in his life; which resonates with everyone.
Q: Then what happens?
LF: He meets a Czechoslovakian girl who is captivated by his music and she decides to encourage him and help him. They introduce each other to the other’s world and they make and record music. In the end, they get to move on.
Q: In addition to having an affinity for music, how did you fall in love with musical theater?
LF: I have always loved the idea of telling stories through music.
LF: I feel that stories are timeless. Stories are the beautiful thing about musical theater. It is about being able to enable someone and transport them to another time or place. Whether they are happy or sad, if they can get caught up in the story I feel like I have done my job.
Q: What does this remind you of?
LF: It is like when you are reading and get caught up in the story and want to know about the characters. Music is the bonus – it helps connect us emotionally to what’s going on in the story. If someone says I cried or laughed I feel like it is a job well done.
Q: You have deep Pennsylvania root?
LF: Yes. I was born in Doylestown and raised in Tinicum. I live in Bethlehem and teach at Leigh High Valley Charter School for the Arts. I recently was married for the second time to a wonderful supportive man, Daniel Jodre. He is not in the business; he is operation’s manger for a company, and wonderfully supportive of me and my career.
Q: Tell me about being part of the tour for Once.
LF: I started the audition process in September [2015.] There were five auditions and I was cast in November. The actors are actual musicians which is why the audition process is so long. We started rehearsal at the end of November. The tour just began and we will perform in 38 cities over six months.
Q: Are you worried about being on the road?
LF: I’m not concerned. It’s a wonderful, talented cast so that makes it easier. I am a little worried about missing my husband and my family. We talk on the phone all the time and they are coming to see it. My roommate is from Utah and she talks to her family every night using Facetime.
Q: What are the challenges of the role?
LF: I had to learn to play the accordion, which I’m pretty good at now. At first I thought I’d never learn this; but now I can play it. You need really good musicianship skills, and I am able to pass that on to my students while I can experience it first-hand.
Q: This is your first tour at age 54, is there a lesson there?
LF: Sure. I did a lot of music, but I didn’t start the major auditioning until I was in my ‘40s. I raised my family first. Then I did TV and film work, and the premiere of a new musical called Fannie Lou at Carnegie Hall — the story of Fannie Lou Hamer and the fight for voting rights
Q: What advice has helped you during the rough patches?
LF: I believe in the saying from Norman Vincent Peele – ‘It’s always too early to quit.’ Even in this business, I don’t think you can ever say you’ve done all you can. Life is still happening. Take Barbara Cook who won her first Tony Award at age 80. I’m always striving to learn new things with my singing. I believe there is a place for all of us and all of our dreams.
Q: You were a single mom for a while.
LF: Yes. I have three children – 18, 29 and 30. My oldest is a girl and I have two boys and now a 10-year-old grandson, Logan. I raised my youngest child by myself.
Q: What is it like to have your family behind you?
LF: Wonderful. All of them are coming to see me. They are very proud of me. It means the world to me that my kids are kids of me. They also see how far I have come. As older women, we are examples to young women; not to give up. My daughter is now completing her degree as a paralegal, and dealing with being a bit older than the other students.
Q: She must have learned from you that it is never too late.
LF: Yes. You can still do whatever you want to do as a woman of any age. I always want to be encouraging to younger women and my peers that you are never done being creative and being who you are.
Q: Lastly, why should people come to see Once as it tours around the nation?
LF: It is a unique music theater experience. The music is Irish folk songs. There is also Czechoslovakian music. It is also the story of pursuing your dreams. There is a line my character Baruska says that I can definitely relate to, ‘Those who live in fear die miserably in their graves.’ It is a story about not giving up. There you go. That’s why it resonates with me.
Photo credit: “Original Australian Company” – Photos by Jeff Busby