One of the featured headliners for the 7th annual Autism Benefit Concert on Monday, April 22 will be Heather Botts. Botts is best known for being an understudy for several Broadway shows including “My Fair Lady,” “Doctor Zhivago,” and LCT’s “The King and I.” I interviewed Botts to discover the challenges and joys an understudy role can bring and how this autism awareness event is relevant in her life.
Botts mentioned a couple of different factors of a live performance that differ from Broadway. “You don’t get to rehearse with any of the elements before you go on and perform for a live audience. You have to practice on your own and know the show inside and out. In some cases, you have no depth perception because you are basically watching from the sidelines to kind of figure out and know your blocking and where you stand. Once you get in the sandbox, it can feel very different like an out of body experience,” she said.
Botts also mentioned the woes of hair, costume, and the thrill of a live experience. “It will be the first time you are wearing the wigs, the first time you are singing with the live orchestra, the first time you put the costumes on, it is so many foreign elements that you are experiencing for the first time which is why you have to know the script inside and out,” she said.
Out of all the challenges, Botts still remains enthusiastic with every role she gets. As she is headlining alongside other well-known Broadway stars, Rebecca Luker and Sierra Boggess, I asked Botts what it meant to her to be able to do so and she stated, “It is an incredible honor, I am humbled.” Botts recalled the first time she heard the recording of “Secret Garden” with Luker, calling her voice, “one of the purest sopranos voices” she’s ever heard. She described seeing Boggess for the first time on the big screen for “Phantom of the Opera”, calling her “ridiculously amazing.”
Botts hopes to inspire the audience to give back to this great cause stating she is, “happy to be part of this legacy.” While Botts herself is not affected with autism in her immediate family, she stated, “I have friends that have kids that have autism, I know some adults that are autistic, and it is just such an important cause and I’m so excited that Montclair State University has this concert to raise awareness and funds.”