NEW YORK (AP) — She may hit a Broadway stage, as she always does, focused and ready eight times a week, but there's a tiny part of Stephanie J. Block's heart that's missing these days.
That would be the longing to be with her daughter, Vivian, safe in her New Jersey home. Vivian is 18 months old, and mom leaving for work may be harder on Block than the little one.
"I thought it was going to be much smoother as far as the transition. I miss her desperately every day. I think about her every second of the day," she said. "It really does fuel what I'm bringing to this character."
The role Block is playing is also a mom, but that family is somewhat in crisis. Block stars as Trina in "Falsettos ," a musical about a large and eccentric New York family at the end of the 1970s. Trina's husband has left her for a man and she's trying to cope and keep their son connected.
"My family's not fractured or falling apart, but tears are always sitting here. I am so friggin' tired and it just works for what this part is," she said, laughing. "The part came to my life at just the right time."
Block, who has had roles on "Homeland" and "Orange Is the New Black," is part of a cast that includes some of Broadway's best — Christian Borle, Andrew Rannells, Tracie Thoms, Betsy Wolfe and Brandon Uranowitz. It opens Thursday at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
Choreographer Spencer Liff shared the stage with Block on the musical "9 to 5" in 2009 and said he thinks "Falsettos" is her breakout: "Not that she hasn't had moments before, but Stephanie is going to blow this town away in this performance."
Block has played everything on Broadway, from Liza Minnelli in "The Boy from Oz" to a 16th-century Irish chieftain in "The Pirate Queen" to a cross-dressing man in "The Mystery of Edwin Drood."
She showed talent early growing up in Orange County, California. "My parents knew there was some sort of talent there because I was singing any commercial I would hear on the television when I was 3 or 4," she said. "People were patting me on the back and telling me I was a little Ethel Merman, who, at 7, I had no idea who that was."
Her path to "Falsettos" actually began when she was starring in 2012 as the title character in "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." In the audience one day was James Lapine, a Tony Award-winning director and playwright.
Lapine was putting together the cast for a 2013 musical adaptation of "Little Miss Sunshine" and thought Block would be perfect for the role of the mother, though she was yet to be one in real life. He later kept her in mind for the role of the mom Trina during this revival of "Falsettos."
"I've always had this big momma bear thing about me. I do love kids," said Block. "I've got a gazillion nieces and nephews. There's a nurturer in me that James saw. Now I do have a little person and that's changed everything."
Co-star Wolfe, who also shared the stage with Block in "Edwin Drood" and now plays a friend of her ex-husband, said she's seen a change in Block since her friend's motherhood.
"I don't know if she would have had that same heart and carried that same weight that she does now. She just brings all that and more to the stage and it's kind of breathtaking to watch," said Wolfe.
Block, who met her husband, fellow stage actor and "Madam Secretary" star Sebastian Arcelus, while both were starring in "Wicked" on tour. They are celebrating their ninth anniversary this month.
As for the next generation, Block and Arcelus aren't sure if their singing and acting skills have flowered in Vivian. "I think we have either an engineer or a scientist," Block said. "She wants to see where the screws are placed and if it's made sturdily enough for her to stand on."
Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits