Astoria Resident Stars As Ginger Rogers On Stage
Astoria resident, actress, singer and dancer, Jessica Wockenfuss, is the star of Backwards In High Heels, the story of Ginger Rogers. The musical opened Friday, July 27 and continues through November 2, at the Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville, Tennessee.
The story of Rogers’ meteoric rise to fame is told in flashback, culminating in her winning the Oscar for Best Actress for the title role of Kitty Foyle in 1940.
The story also highlights Rogers’ onscreen pairing with Fred Astaire, her hard work and tenacity, and also her complex relationship with her mother.
In an interview in Broadwayworld.com by Jeffrey Ellis, Wockenfuss tells how she won all dancers’ dream role, “I was cast in the role when I went to an open call audition in New York City,” she explains. “Playing Ginger Rogers really is the culmination of everything I like to do onstage.
“As an actor and as a dancer, this role is what I love doing. And the classic songs in the show’s score fit my voice well, so I’m having a wonderful time performing these American standards.”
When asked her most memorable “show must go on” moment, she replied, “When I was 10, I was the Clara understudy in The Nutcracker. On opening night, Clara got sick about halfway through Act Two and left the stage. I remember my wig getting ripped off, my sister giving me a clip to pull my hair back, one of the moms throwing on the nightgown costume (which was three inches too long), and getting shoved on stage. It was a whirlwind, but somehow I managed to finish the show. That was an early lesson learned on how to be a prepared understudy!”
As for the origin of the musical’s title, we have Bob Thaves’ Frank and Ernest cartoon to thank for the famous line, often wrongly attributed to Rogers herself: “Sure he (Fred Astaire) was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, only backwards and in high heels.”
—Annette Hanze Alberts