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Andrew Polec on winning the 23rd Annual Lotte Lenya Competition

 Andrew Polec isn’t content with just being one of the amazing leads in HAIR currently playing at The Old Globe through October 3rd. He also is this year’s winner of The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music’s 23rd Annual Lotte Lenya Competition. Polec talks about the competition, how he composed his pieces, and what he loves about performing HAIR.


Andrew Polec, can currently be seen as Berger in HAIR at The Old Globe, but this actor and singer also found time between performances to jet off to New York to win the 23rd Annual Lotte Lenya Competition. This competition was created in 1998 and is a leader in bringing the “next generation of performers” to the stages of the world. It requires the performer to be stellar both dramatically as well as musically, and contestants can do pieces ranging from Opera to Broadway but must have a focus on the works of Kurt Weill.

Polec says that this contest was always something that he had watched and admired since being introduced to them 10 years ago, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that he was able to have the opportunity to participate.

“What’s so wonderful about this competition is that you are also honoring Kurt Weill one of the people who revolutionized musical theatre in the 1900s and passed away from a heart attack in 1950. His music has really changed the sound of musical theatre.”

The competition required a fifteen-minute continuous performance of four contrasting pieces, and at least one piece had to be by Weill. The winning combination for Polec turned out to be “She Loves Me” from She Loves Me by Bock/Harnick; “Bilbao Song” from Happy End by Weill/Brecht (Feingold translation), “Confession Aria” from Dead Man Walking by Jake Heggie, and “How Glory Goes” from Floyd Collins by Adam Guettel. The combination and performance turned these four songs into a one-act drama that blew the judges away.

” I found a piece of music “The Bilbao Song of his from the musical HAPPY END and absolutely fell in love with it. It was in German, and unfortunately, I cannot speak German so I was grateful that there was an English translation that was approved for the competition.”

Andrew also says that the overarching theme to the set was one that he thought was very timely, battling loneliness and the redemptive power of love.

“These four characters are essentially are alone in different ways and yet they all realize at some point that love is what can heal them. Whether it’s God’s love, or Flloyd questioning whats coming next, or Bill Bao and the character’s fear of “My youth is behind me will I ever find love again”, or George Noval who’s such a pill and completely freaking out that the penpal is the person I hated at work, but maybe I have feelings for her.

Love fills lonely and we’ve all been so lonely in this pandemic that it felt like a fitting theme and fitting arc to connect these four pieces.”

Before any contestant could become one of the final 15 competitors were all performing in person, the initial process submitting a video, where they were culled from a pool of 500 entrants from all over the world.

“The judges watched videos and choose contestants who were then given notes and ways to improve our performances and we had to find a theatre space, which was challenging during the pandemic, and rerecord the performance and send that one in.

Thankfully enough I was able to find a theatre space at the Luxe County playhouse which is an hour and a half from NY city. I went into that theatre and ran through it once and it was really tough because there’s no one in the audience. It’s just me and the camera.”

The solo journey meant that the feeling of performing inform of the judges on competition night felt that much more amazing.

” I had been doing these songs and setlist to nobody for so long that all of a sudden when I ran onto the stage and just stopped and looked out at everyone. The caliber of performers was all so incredible and the characters they developed were such a sublime spectacle to behold. When I got on the stage and saw the invited audience I just was filled with such elation and such pride to know that I had been working on this material for 10 months and here was the moment to come out of the pandemic and share this story with a group of people.”

Besides celebrating his amazing win, Andrew says that the entire process felt like a celebration.

“The competition this year was surely a celebration because a lot of people who competed this year are usually ae people who wouldn’t be able to compete because they’d be working.

It really is a celebratory experience of the arts and brings people together from so many different backgrounds whether it’s musical theatre, opera, or and watching them run.”

Andrew Polec as Berger in HAIR Photo by Jim Cox.
Andrew Polec as Berger in HAIR Photo by Jim Cox.

He says that positive energy from the talented cast, and performing in front of a live audience again can be felt with this cast of HAIR at The Old Globe as well.

“We’re having the electrifying performance of the world that they were scared world eventually happens, however, it’s not too late to say that we can inspire people to inspire positive change for the future and connect human to human and say “we can make a better tomorrow” and think that’s what we’re doing on stage every night and I’m really grateful for that.”

If you want to follow Andrew’s adventures on stage you can find him on Instagram @andrewpolec

HAIR runs at The Old Globe through October 3rd, so catch this cast and the 23rd Annual Lotte Lenya Competition winner Andrew Polec before they’re gone!

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