In the iconic scene when Dolly Levi returns to the Harmonia Gardens in HELLO DOLLY, the casts sing ‘Well, hello, Dolly, It’s so nice to have you back where you belong!” When the show comes to Broadway San Diego playing Tuesday January 15th – 20th the audience may want to sing along and instead say “Hello, Jessica” as we welcome native Jessica Sheridan back to the San Diego stage in this production.
Jessica is a San Diego girl who is living her dream performing on the Broadway stage and around the nation with this tour. Playing the comedic Ernestina, and also understudying the title role for Betty Buckley, Jessica is always ready to perform. Working in our chat between arriving back to the tour after a cross country trip in her car and before an afternoon rehearsal, we got to chat about the show, what it’s like being on tour, San Diego, and how important San Diego Junior Theatre was to her theatrical education.
In the words of Dolly, the infamous matchmaker herself “I meddle“. So when Dolly decides she wants to settle down with “half millionaire” Horace Vandergelder, she meddles a bit and sets him up with a goodtime gal with a high budget name of Ernestina Money. Dolly then instructs Ernestina to make it a date he would never forget so, which is where the hilarity of Ernestina really gets to shine. So what is it like playing such an over the top comedic character?
It’s a lot of fun! You tap into your inner bimbo, crazy girl because I don’t think you can label her with one label. She is very over the top and she’s a good time gal; all she wants is a good time.
All of her lines are disjointed – so they’re like little vignettes or vaudevillian. You have three lines and then it goes to the next scene, and then you have a few lines and go back and forth in Harmonia Gardens and keep the rhythm going. More than anything it’s tapping into not being inhibited at all.
As an understudy for the title role, Jessica also has to be ready to go on as Dolly at a moment’s notice, what is it like taking that on?
It is nerve racking, anxiety producing, but it is one of the most fulfilling little marathons you will do in a night. I’ve had the great fortune to go one as Dolly on the road.
It’s magical because people are coming to see a star which is something I had never done before. But in this day and age, you have to expect that the person you are casting will go on as their understudy. They have to make sure that they can actually do the role.
After performing in New York for the last few years going on the road with this amazing tour seemed like an offer she couldn’t pass up.
I had the great fortune of being in the original company of HELLO DOLLY, and I told them I would go out on the road. It is a whole different ball of wax. It’s hard to keep a long running show fresh, you’re on the same stage, with the same people, going back and forth to work every day, it is the same commute, it’s the same everything. But when you are on the road you get a different city, a different theater, a different dresser, you get all of the elements of a long running show which can sometimes get tedious, and they all become new. The problem is you’re not home. When I’m home I want to be on the road and when I’m on the road I want to be home
Besides Ernestina and Dolly, Jessica has performed in Broadway shows from SISTER ACT, to MARY POPPINS, and LES MISERABLES. She credits her training her in San Diego with dance training at the Cushing Dance Studio and San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, and theatre training at Junior Theatre for giving her the foundation to succeed.
I started out at the Cushing Dance studio. We would do dance competitions, but I always sang. So I would sing a little ditty and then tap dance. When I saw theatre I was like “I can do all of it at the same time!”
I was doing Reno Sweeny in ANTHYHING GOES at age 17 at Junior Theatre and was playing Smitty in HOW TO SUCCEEED at 14- so I had the great advantage of doing lead roles as a child. Not just in high school performances, but Junior Theatre was an amazing thing for me.
I think I started when I was 11 or 12 and went until I turned 18. My last show I turned 18 that summer. That was my training! I did go to college but I only went two years to college. I had done almost 50 shows before I had ever moved to New York. The best part about Junior Theatre is that in one show I may have played the lead, but in the next show in order to be in a show you want to be in you have to crew as some sort. So I had done every job backstage as well.
Welcome home Jessica, it’s so nice to have you back! When you see her and the fantastically talented cast of HELLO DOLLY, maybe cheer a little louder for Ernestina, after all we have to root for the home team!
HELLO DOLLY is playing at Broadway San Diego through January 20th. For ticket and show time information go to www.broawaysd.com
You can also follow Jessica on tour on her Instagram @jessicasheridannyc or on Facebook!