Introduce Yourself(ie): 10 Questions with Meet Me in St. Louis Star Emily Walton
Emily Walton stars as Esther Smith in The Muny production of Meet Me in St. Louis, the final show in the acclaimed St. Louis theatre company’s centennial season. Emily appeared on Broadway in Peter and the Starcatcher and August: Osage County and starred off-Broadway in Saved, Cactus Flower and The Shaggs. Now she is thrilling Muny audiences through August 12 with her renditions of “The Trolley Song”, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, and “The Boy Next Door”.
Get to know Emily a bit better below as she talks about taking on this beloved character, her debut album, and her Christmas wish.
1. What was your first introduction to Meet Me in St. Louis?
I have a confession to make. I'd never seen the movie until after I got cast in the show. Blasphemous, I know. My mom grew up watching the film, so I'd heard her talk about it for years, and I'd seen clips of the more famous scenes and songs, but that's about it. It's such a classic, and I'm so happy to have a relationship to it now!
2. What is your favorite scene from the iconic film?
I think my favorite scene is the "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" scene. I love that song, and the scene is just very moving.
3. How did you work to make Esther your own beyond the shadow of Judy Garland’s iconic performance?
It's always tricky striking the right balance with a role like this. You want to be able to pay homage to the iconic performance that is so beloved by many, while also making it your own and being true to yourself as a person and a performer. My attempt at doing that has really just been to "tell the truth" of the story and of Esther. All these very real, relatable things happen to her. And I personally relate to the character a lot. Especially her flair for drama and her awkwardness around a crush!
4. What is the best part about a summer at The Muny?
Oh, boy. Hard to say. There are so many bests here. What I've experienced, from both the audience and onstage perspective, is that The Muny encourages (and almost requires) you to tap into your most unabashed, pure, passionate love of musical theatre as an art form. It's thrilling! The amount of effort and energy and love that so many people are pouring into these productions is incredible. There's no room for ego. You just have to trust yourself and the people around you to put on a show, and to have fun doing it. I feel like I'm constantly emotional here, because I'm being reunited with my own love for what I do. That's pretty special. AND there's a movie theatre in the hotel we're staying at! I mean, come on.
5. If we were to listen to one song off your debut album, Little Longings, to get us hooked, which do you recommend?
Ooh, yay! I'm so excited about this album. I think if I had to recommend one song, it would actually be the titular song, "Little Longings". Or Track 8, if you're a weirdo. I hope the song makes you feel a little happy and a little sad. And then I hope you listen to the whole album, because that would be really cool for me.
6. Which of your NYC credits changed you most as a performer?
I've been really lucky to have had some incredible work experiences, both in and out of NYC, that I feel have changed me for the better. But I think the most recent NYC show that changed me greatly was a play I did at The Mint called Women Without Men. It was exciting because I was playing the lead role in an old Irish play about a group of female schoolteachers in the 1930s, written by a woman named Hazel Ellis, directed by a woman named Jenn Thompson, and with a cast of 12 amazing women. The experience changed me as an actor because I was lovingly pushed by Jenn to go deeper, to move beyond old onstage habits, and to own my power and maturity. And I was constantly being buoyed by the incredible women surrounding me. I feel like my growth during that entire process, as an actor and a person, was vast. I went into it meek and unsure, and emerged from it VICTORIOUS! And still unsure. But aren't we all?!
7. Whose voice did you grow up idolizing and singing along with?
I actually grew up listening to a lot of -- wait for it -- MUSICAL THEATRE! So that's mostly what I spent my youth singing along with. But I'm just gonna name some female singers whose voices have been a huge inspiration to me over the years, and who I love singing along with to this day. I'm talkin' Sara Bareilles, Liz Callaway, Joan Baez, Kelli O'Hara, Eva Cassidy, and Joni Mitchell, to name a few.
8. What is it like to perform “The Trolley Song” in a full moving trolley onstage?
Well, the correct answer would be: SPECTACULAR! The true answer is: CHALLENGING! I mean, it's obviously the coolest thing in the world that there is a literal full trolley on a stage, rotating around, while I'm singing a famous song that everyone loves. It's actually indescribable. And the crowd loses its dang mind. But it also involves a lot of me running up and down the trolley and trying to time it so that my face is to the audience when it needs to be, and also wearing a corset and sweating profusely in 95-degree heat. It's CHALLENGING! But it's a good kind of challenging.
9. If you could interview any songwriter about their process, who would you choose?
Ooh, good one. There are SO many songwriters I'd want to interview, because everyone's writing process is unique. I mean, the obvious answer would be Stephen Sondheim. Because. Duh. But he wrote "Finishing the Hat" and "Look, I Made a Hat," so that's ALMOST like an interview. I think I'd want to talk to Billy Joel. His music has played a HUGE part in my life over the years, and he's so prolific it's insane. Yeah. Billy. I love him. Hi, Billy.
10. You get to sing the classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on the Muny Stage. What’s one thing on your Christmas list for this year?
For Trump to be impeached. And also maybe a new laptop because mine is about to bite the dust. And also for everyone to be happy.
Don’t miss Emily Walton as Esther Smith in ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ at The Muny through August 12.