Acclaimed Broadway actor Alison Fraser, PCS ’10, an adjunct professor of musical theater in the Fordham theatre program, has been nominated for this year’s Lucille Lortel Award for outstanding lead actress in a musical.
She is nominated for her roles as Nancy Reagan and Betty Ford in the Public Theater’s 2015 production of First Daughter Suite, a fantastical account about young women who have lived in the White House and their First Lady mothers.
The awards ceremony takes place on May 1 in New York city.
To prepare for the role of Nancy Reagan, Fraser said she read daughter Patty Davis’ book, The Way I See It,(Putnam, 1992) as well as Nancy Reagan’s My Turn (Radom House, 1989). Fraser said she walked away with the impression that Davis was indeed abused by her mother.
“I play a lot of negative characters and, in acting, you have to regard yourself as the hero of your own story,” said Fraser. “Nancy [Reagan] absolutely thought she was doing the right thing.”
Fraser said she admires Betty Ford. Ford was the character that landed her the part, as book writer/composer/lyricist Michael John LaChiusa and director Kirsten Sanderson thought of Fraser for the role from the start. Fraser said she admired the way Ford went public with her breast cancer and, later, her alcoholism.
She noted that Ford danced for the Martha Graham Company for a two-year period; while she didn’t make the cut, she did take dance seriously.
The play’s own choreography mixed Graham’s choreography with hip-1970s moves. Fraser, who is not known for her dancing, got positive praise for her routine in The New York Times. The review described her as “a twinkle-toed Betty Ford, who can’t stop dancing to save her life.”
“She was an accidental first lady,” said Fraser. “She wasn’t groomed for that role, but she was outspoken and gave it her all.”
Fraser is in now rehearsals for the Signature Theatre’s production of Edward Albee’s The Sandbox.
“The [Daughter] is closed, so this nomination was a nice surprise,” she said adding that she is competing against her fellow cast member, Mary Testa, who was also nominated. “We were in such a fantastical wonderland—an all-woman cast being directed by a woman.”