NEW YORK (AP) — Kelli Barrett wanted to be an actress at a young age. How young? "From birth," she says. "It was always what I wanted."
The Virginia-raised Barrett, who has been on Broadway in "Wicked," ''The Royal Family" and "Baby It's You!" this month takes her biggest acting step — playing Lara in the new musical of "Doctor Zhivago" directed by Des McAnuff. Barrett takes over the role of Lara made famous by Julie Christie in the 1965 film version.
Barrett has been preparing for the achingly romantic tale while celebrating her own — she was married in October to Jarrod Spector, starring in "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical."
The Associated Press recently asked Barrett about winning the part of Lara and the sly way she broke the news to her husband.
AP: How did you land such a plum part?
Barrett: I heard about the audition. I thought, 'Des McAnuff doing 'Doctor Zhivago'? That would be terrific. I would love to go in for that.' Literally, I was calling my agent while I was getting a call from my agent. It was like the fates came down. Then I had five rounds of callbacks.
AP: You were also getting married, right?
Barrett: Yes, this was all within 2 1/2 months of the wedding. Literally, a week before my wedding day was my final callback. I once left a tasting to go to a callback. There were so many balls in the air. And I was doing 'Wicked' at night. It was crazy.
AP: What did you do when you learned you'd won the part?
Barrett: I got the call alone in my apartment. Des called me. It was such a quiet thing. They always say it's a quiet thing, these big moments in your life. It was just me alone. I don't think the TV was on. It was just utter silence after the phone conversation. I just got to be alone with it for a little while.
AP: Did you call your husband?
Barrett: I didn't. He was at a show or doing a concert. He came home and I was making dinner. I bring him a glass of wine. He takes a sip and he goes, 'This is fabulous!' He looks over and he sees that it's our special occasion bottle. We said if I booked 'Zhivago,' we would open it. He goes, 'You got it! You got it!'
AP: How did you two meet?
Barrett: We met doing workshops for five years of 'Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story,' which ended up going off-Broadway last year. We didn't do it because we were in other things, but we became best friends and, over the course of time, fell in love.
AP: What's it like with you as the star of 'Doctor Zhivago' and he with his own Tony-winning musical?
Barrett: It's like a dream. When we see each other. We're ships in the night a little bit right now because our schedules are so crazy. We have those moments together when we finally get to be home — eating or on the couch or whatever — and we just look at each other and take a moment. We're spiritual people, and we just express our gratitude to God all the time for this time. We know it won't always be this way.
AP: Have you relied on the film or novel more to prepare your Lara?
Barrett: The Lara from the novel is really where I get my information and inspiration from. I'll never be Julie Christie, nor does anybody want to see my Julie Christie impersonation. The Lara from the novel I absolutely am in love with. She's so strong. She's so direct.
AP: How does this role rank in your career?
Barrett: I think of everything I've done, this is the biggest fish of all, just in terms of the size of the role and the epic nature of the play itself.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits