- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 4, 2003

Alice Ripley isn't used to being alone.
The Broadway actress cut her performing teeth as part of such ensembles as "The Who's Tommy" and "Sunset Boulevard."
Being one of 11 children meant that solo time wasn't a luxury she could afford.
Now, she has only herself to turn to as star of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Tell Me on a Sunday," which runs through Jan. 12 at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater.
"Sunday" is the kind of one-woman tour de force most performers would gladly tackle. Miss Ripley isn't any different. It just means some adjustments.
"When I walk onto the stage at night," Miss Ripley says during a recent phone interview to promote the show, "I look around and I think, 'Where is everybody?'"
"Then, I realize I'm the only one who can create this story," she says. "At first, it's daunting. Then, another voice says, 'Just go. It's gonna be great.' The advantage of that is you find a power in you [that] you didn't think you had."
Mr. Webber's "Sunday" debuted in England in 1979. Its Broadway bow came six years later as a revamped piece dubbed, "Song and Dance." That production, featuring Bernadette Peters, tacked on a dance-filled second act. Miss Peters earned a Tony Award for her turn as the show's heroine.
This "Sunday" strips away those excesses, revealing the original production in all its economic glory a breezy 70 minutes of song.
"Sunday" follows an Englishwoman named Emma who leaves home to try her luck in New York City.
Told through song, "Sunday" finds Emma wading through a series of unfulfilling relationships before her career as a hat designer gains some steam.
"I remember when the original cast album was released," Miss Ripley says, adding that the musical's "Unexpected Song" became the number many actresses, herself included, sang at auditions.
"It's one of my favorite scores. It's emotionally cohesive. That's something that makes my job much easier," she says.
The actress's previous roles include Molly Ivors in the Tony Award-winning musical play "James Joyce's The Dead," Janet in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," plus Tony and Drama Desk nominations for her turn as Violet Hilton in "SideShow."
Just because Miss Ripley has the looks and lungs of a diva doesn't mean she likes to act the part.
She takes her cues from such people as Broadway veteran George Hearn, whom she met while working on "Sunset Boulevard."
"You can learn a lot from watching other actors work," she says. "He has his priorities in place, and I admire that."
More important, she says he could get his way in the business "without throwing a fit."
"He doesn't ever have to cause a big scene to get there," she says. "I've always tried to model myself after that."
Miss Ripley was born in San Leandro, Calif. She spent her formative years in Ohio. The performing bug bit early, and hard, but she never imagined she would be able to sustain herself with song.
Today, in addition to her stage work, she teams with husband, drummer Shannon Ford, to perform songs from her solo debut, "Everything's Fine," released last year. She also teaches master classes with Mr. Ford at several colleges nationwide.
"I tell the students if there is anything else you really want to do, you should do that first," she says. "Chances are, you'll find success in any other field. You can dedicate 50 years to being an actor and never get a job."
Her life story, she insists, doesn't accurately reflect show business. Most gigs have come pretty easily for her, she says.
Even if they hadn't, though, she would have kept chasing her acting dreams.
"I was gonna make the sacrifices it takes to be a working actor," she says.
Her next gig may be a return to Broadway as Audrey, the plucky heroine in "Little Shop of Horrors." The paperwork has yet to be settled, but the process is a far cry from how she landed her role in "Sunset Boulevard."
That required an endless audition singing six times a week for two months, she says, before she won over the show's producers.
"I remember coming out of the audition room and getting in the elevator and starting to cry," she says of one of those days. All she wanted, she recalls, was for the elevator ride to last long enough so she could let all the tears out.
"I always remember that when I think I only have to work for an hour tonight," she says of her current gig.

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