BarbraNews.com talks to... Lauren Frost!
 

Lauren Frost, who played Mini-Barbra in Barbra's farewell concerts, took time out from a busy schedule to talk to BarbraNews.com about what it was like working with Barbra, and how their friendship continues today...

 

Interview by Craig Hall (BarbraNews.com)

YOU'RE PROBABLY KNOWN MOST TO BARBRA-FANS, FOR APPEARING WITH BARBRA "LIVE" IN CONCERT. HOW DID THIS COME ABOUT?
-- I first auditioned for Barbra's tour in August of 1999. It was my first time in the California auditioning scene, after having performed a lot in Chicago theater. I was told the audition was for a "secret pilot project," and I didn't even know that Barbra was involved for a very long time. At the audition I had to sing a song of my choice, and also a song that I was asked to learn the day before. The casting director, Gregg Smith, filmed me singing and followed me around with the camera for quite some time that day. I was told I was the very first girl they auditioned for the role, but then I had to leave to go back to Chicago two days later, and the casting director was committed to auditioning a lot more girls from L.A. and New York before any decisions could be made. While I was back in Chicago from August till October, I had a number of callback auditions for script-reading and talking with a Brooklyn-Jewish accent that I sent back to L.A. on videotape. We started to get word that Barbra was involved somehow, but I still had no clue what the project was or if Barbra was directing, producing, or acting in it. In October , they flew me back to L.A. for my final callback audition to sing with Marvin Hamlisch, the musical director for the project. After I sang for Marvin, I went back to my hotel room to wait for a call from the casting director. I knew that phone call would either tell me that I would be going back to Chicago, or that I would be going to meet Barbra that day. To my amazement, and sheer excitement, I was told I was going to meet Barbra!

TELL US ABOUT THE FIRST TIME YOU MET BARBRA!
-- The first time I met Barbra was that day in October, after this final callback with Marvin. I was driven to her house with my mom, the casting director, and his assistant. I was warmly greeted by Kenny Ortega, the stage director for the show, and escorted
with Marvin and with Barbra's manager, Marty Erlichman, to a room that was set up for me to sing. As I was warming up with Marvin, I could sense that Barbra was in the next room. She entered calmly, holding a cup of tea, and welcomed me. She said, "Hi, I'm Barbra!" As she shook my hand, I thought with excitement....."I Know!!!!"
We spent the next few two hours together as I sang for her, and then we sang together. I honestly couldn't believe this was all happening...I was talking and singing with Barbra Streisand!! She said, jokingly, "Marvin, she's too good! We've got to make her sound not so good. I wasn't that good when I was that age!" She was so supportive of me right from the start, and made me feel welcome from that day on. The rest of our first meeting Barbra and Kenny told me all about the Millennium concert show, how it would be staged, and what I would be doing. When it was time to go that day, Barbra said, "Okay Lauren, see you at rehearsals!" I think I floated back to the car in a state of shock, and then let out the happiest scream of my life! The challenge was wanting to burst with excitement but not being able to tell anyone (not even my family or friends) what I would be doing for the next few months. The details of the performances were to be kept secret until New Years Eve because they didn't want the autobiographical concept or intricate details of the concert leaked out before it occurred for all Barbra fans to see.
Rehearsals
started in November, right after Thanksgiving. For about 5 weeks, I worked with Marvin, Kenny, Randee Heller and Alec Ledd (the other actors), all the best orchestra musicians and, of course, Barbra. It was such a thrill to hear Barbra sing throughout rehearsals. It was a private concert every night! At the end of December we did a private performance for about 350 of Barbra's closest personal and celebrity friends and family. Then it was on to Las Vegas for more rehearsals and the opening shows.

AT FIRST, BARBRA WAS ONLY GOING TO DO TWO SHOWS (DEC 31 AND JAN 1) - SHE THEN DECIDED TO DO A LIMITED TOUR AROUND THE WORLD - WERE YOU ONLY EXPECTING TO DO TWO SHOWS?
-- Yes, initially I was told there would be a 2000 Millennium New Year's Eve and New Year's Day Show.

WHEN DID YOU HEAR THAT BARBRA WAS GOING TO GO TO AUSTRALIA, AND DO MORE U.S. SHOWS?
-- I think it was during rehearsals for the Las Vegas shows (or right after them) that Barbra's manager asked my mom if I might be available to go to Australia sometime in March if Barbra were to do a show there. We contemplated the matter (for about a micro-milli second!!!) and, of course, said "Yes!" While we were in Australia we heard ripplings of
Barbra considering doing shows in Los Angeles and New York. I was thrilled to hear that Barbra would be doing a limited tour around the world! I had never been out of the country before, and the added shows in Australia, Los Angeles, and New York gave me the opportunity to live out my dream of performing with her for a few more unbelievable nights!

YOU REALLY DID PROJECT CONFIDENCE WHEN YOU WERE ON STAGE - WERE YOU NERVOUS?
-- To be honest, I really wasn't nervous onstage. I felt really prepared, and so comfortable that I didn't have time for nerves. Marvin, Kenny, Bill Ross, Richard Jay Alexander, Jay Landers, and Barbra always looked out for me, and made sure I was well taken care of and secure in all I had to do. Barbra gave me a big hug and a thumbs-up before I went onstage, so I felt pretty confident! The excitement and reaction of the crowds to Barbra and the show was unbelievable and, quite frankly, gave me the biggest rush I have ever experienced in my life. I was never nervous...just thrilled!!

BARBRA IS KNOWN FOR HER STAGE FRIGHT - BUT WHEN SHE APPEARED FROM BEHIND THAT CLOAK, SHE LOOKED AMAZING! AND NOT VERY NERVOUS AT ALL. WAS THIS THE CASE?
-- Of course I can't speak for Barbra, but I must say that backstage she was just as excited as the rest of us. While talking, preparing, and waiting backstage, she didn't look at all like a person with stage fright. She was warm, calm, confident, and prepared to deliver her absolute best, as always!

WHAT HAPPENED BACKSTAGE? DID YOU SEE MUCH OF BARBRA?
-- We all had so much fun backstage, and hung out socially after rehearsing or performing. Working together and travelling, the musicians, cast, and crew all became like family. Barbra was very busy but she always made time for me and my parents. I would visit her dressing room, or she would visit mine. We exchanged many beautiful gifts, which I will treasure forever. The private after-parties were particularly fun to share with Barbra, and they led to many late-night memory-filled conversations and time spent with her.

DID YOU TRAVEL WITH BARBRA TO AUSTRALIA? WHEN DID REHEARSALS START? WHAT DID THIS INVOLVE?
-- Barbra flew on a private jet to Australia, while all the cast, musicians, and crew flew on chartered flights. (The stage, lighting, and other equipment were shipped by boat). It was first class traveling all the way, and we stayed in beautiful hotels in both Sydney and Melbourne. We spent three weeks in Australia, rehearsing for the four shows, but also had some free time to explore both Sydney and Melbourne. I loved Australia, and I hope to get back there again someday.
One of my fondest memories of the Australia shows is of the die-hard Barbra fans who sat in an open stadium, during the pouring rain to see and hear Barbra perform. Even after one show was cancelled, rescheduled, and then still rained upon, the fans were there for Barbra! And Barbra was as flexible, comfortable, and glamorous as ever in her Australian hat and jacket instead of her beautiful white gown...all for her loving fans! I even got to be part of the fun when I came out on stage as an Australian-garbed "Mini-Me" too!

BESIDES YOUR MEMORIES OF AUSTRALIA, WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER MOST ABOUT THE LAS VEGAS, LOS ANGELES, AND NEW YORK SHOWS WITH BARBRA?
-- The Las Vegas New Years Eve show was especially exciting for me because it was my very first time to perform with Barbra before thousands of people! I really had no idea what to expect from the crowd, but after the first "studio scene," after singing "Something's Coming" with Barbra, and particularly after the Yentl split-screen "Papa watch me fly" duet with Barbra, the roar of the crowd was phenomenal and permanently planted in my mind! Also, sharing the Midnight New Year's Eve celebration of lights, music, and confetti onstage with Barbra will forever make it the BEST New Year of my life as long as I live! The New Year's Day show was personally very special to me because it was the very first time that members of my family came to and saw me perform with Barbra! At last, my family and friends found out what my "secret project" was!
The Los Angeles shows at the Staples Center were particularly fun because of all the famous celebrities I got to meet and mingle with at the after-parties Barbra held. The New York shows at Madison Square Garden were particularly exciting because we could really feel the energy of the fans who were loving Barbra being back in her home town. They were also very melancholy shows because the tour was, unfortunately, coming to an end. When I returned to L.A. after the tours I received a Young Artist Award for "Best Young Female Singer" for my work with Barbra in "Timeless."

YOU SANG AT THE AFI'S TRIBUTE TO BARBRA (AND YOU WERE AMAZING) - YOU MET IN SECRET WITH MARILYN AND ALAN BERGMAN, AND MARVIN HAMLISCH. BARBRA LOOKED STUNNED WHEN SHE SAW YOU. IT'S EVIDENT SHE LOVES YOUR PRESENCE. HOW LONG DID YOU REHEARSE FOR THIS?
-- The AFI Tribute to Barbra was a blast. I met and rehearsed with the Bergmans and Marvin, and the director Gary Smith, about four times before the show, all while keeping it a secret from Barbra. She had actually invited my parents and I to be here guests at the event but, in order to protect the surprise, I told Barbra that we would be out of town for a family reunion. Even up to the day of the event, Barbra told her assistant she couldn't understand why we couldn't come! Little did Barbra know that I was tucked away, literally hiding, in one of the Beverly Hilton Hotel rooms while she arrived. My little white lie paid off, because she was shocked (and delightfully surprised!) to see me on stage. After I sang she said "Honey, I thought you were in Chicago!" It was an honor for me to sing "On The Way To Becoming Me," the original song written about Barbra for the event, and to portray her as a young girl again, as she was being honored for this lifetime achievement award.

DO YOU STILL KEEP IN CONTACT WITH BARBRA?
-- My friendship with Barbra is the most wonderful thing that came out of this entire experience. I realize greatly that my experience with any superstar could have been a distant, non-personal, unwelcoming, or intimidating one. None of this was true in my experience working with Barbra. From the moment I met her, till now, Barbra has always been warm and welcoming to me. She's been very motherly to me, and so much fun to hang out with. We've kept in close contact with each other since the tours with visits, calls, and notes. (And yes, I have seen her beautiful rose gardens, and I know for a fact that she loves Vanilla Bean ice cream!) I have been blessed to know Barbra as a wonderful person, mentor, and friend, and I love and respect her very much!

SO WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU? ARE YOU STILL WORKING ON THE ALBUM?
-- I am in constant search for good songs to record. I don't want to just put out a CD for the sake of getting it done. I am optimistic that people are ready to hear a young artist sing songs like songs that Barbra has recorded over the years - songs that stand the test of time. I am also in pre-production for a leading role in an independent film. Feel free to check my website, at www.laurenfrost.com , for updates on these and future projects, or to just say Hi.

EVEN STEVENS, IS THAT FINISHED?
-- After three Emmy-Nominated seasons on the Disney Channel, "Even Stevens" is officially wrapped. You can still catch me in my role as 'Ruby," though, as it continues to air daily on the Disney Channel. I was honored with a Young Artist Award for "Best Supporting Actress in a TV Comedy Series" for my role as "Ruby." (By the way, you might notice that "Ruby" has a Brooklyn-Jewish accent, something that came in handy after learning the dialect as "Young Barbra.")

ANYTHING ELSE?
-- I'd just like to thank Craig, and all the Barbra fans, for all the support they have given me. All the emails sent to me daily since the tours, with words of encouragement and interest in my career, really mean a whole lot to me. As a young girl from the Midwest, I never knew that someday I would actually be performing with Barbra, and be welcomed and acknowledged by all her many fans around the world. I want to thank all of you for all your continued support. "You'll Never Know" just how grateful I am !

Thank You Lauren! Fans couldn't have wished for a better Mini-Barbra!

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