Show-Stopper Grace McLean Talks GREAT COMET, The Necessity of Art and the Importance of Being Weird

It has been quite a season of The Broadway, there’s no denying that. And what a joy it is to see the heralds and nominations lavished upon NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812. It is a show I was dragged to against my will several years ago, was sure I’d hate, and have since re-experienced no fewer than 7 times. It’s addictive as hell, and no show feels better when mainlined directly into the carotid artery.

I won’t ramble about the greatness of the piece, as that’s been done ad nauseum by far greater sycophants than I. By now, there’s no secret about the fact that it IS the show of the year. So let’s take a Ritalin, turn out the lights, put on our Tolstoy hats and focus.

Today, we talk to one of my personal favorite performers, who has been slaying it in the role of Marya since the first immersive tent staging. Grace McLean defines the word multi-hyphenate, as you’ll learn in this interview. We all know her from her unforgettable performance as the matronly, “old-school grand dame” of the stage… but wait! There’s more.

In a statement aggressively solicited by this writer, Olivier Award-winning producer, singer, political firebrand, bon vivant, raconteur, romantic, philanthropist, bench player and snappy dresser Martin Giannini had this to say:

“Grace is a thrilling, ferocious, natural talent that has been supercharged by an expansive mind and an intellectual curiosity that are equally rare. The memories I have of her in childhood are now almost surreal, considering what she’s grown into. She’s a nexus of classicism and futurism. An artist both out of time and tailored for the moment. That she can simultaneously be an indispensable asset to a running Broadway hit and a boundary-pushing solo artist speaks both of her stamina and overflowing creative engine. To me, there is no more essential artist working today.”

McLean with writer Matthew Blank and the inevitable Martin Giannini

Thanks, Martin. Good work outta you. You are the Shane Battier of the higher arts. Actually, Shane Battier is the Shane Battier of the higher arts… but literally nobody reading this has any idea what I’m talking about.

Shane Battier

Moving on, let’s talk to Grace!

How did you first get your start performing and what are your most memorable roles and experiences from the Orange County scene? Any particular mentors?

I started taking acting classes at the age of 8 at South Coast Repertory and really loved it. It was my sort of after-school thing; my brother had sports and I had theatre games. And I had my first professional stage gig at SCR, too. When I was 11, I was in their annual production of A Christmas Carol and had so much fun getting to rehearse and perform with these local vets at this totally cool regional theatre. I hope I get to go back and work there as an adult!

Later, I went to OCHSA, the Orange County High School of the Arts, a charter arts school in my area, and learned a lot from the array of students at this school, with so many different…

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