Nancy Magarill is an actress, singer and songwriter. But if she had to choose just one of those to concentrate on, which would it be?
“I don’t have to choose,” insisted Nancy. “I can do all of it.”
She certainly has proven that. Among Nancy’s artistic achievements is writing and performing in her self-titled cabaret act; winning an ASCAP award for one of her songs; fluency in a number of vocal styles ranging from blues to classical; and – perhaps of her most enjoyable endeavors – creating “irreverent” rewrites of Sondheim tunes.
“He’s so amazing,” said Nancy, who has always been able to create a variety of voices as a performer.
“I don’t remember the spark, but I do remember [singing] in the classroom. I would sing Carpenter songs with friends,” she said. “I opened my mouth to sing, and my voice came out. I said, ‘I love this.’”
Somewhere along the way she saw a show featuring Mitzi Gaynor, and that helped seal the deal for her career choice.
Nancy honed her craft at the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University in St. Louis. There, she gained skills that help her delve into characters and construct them, nuance by nuance, for a performance. Such tools come in handy when portraying Mrs. Richards in “Scenes and Songs from Fannie Lou,” a character that is, Nancy notes, “the complete opposite of myself.”
“Nancy is so diligent about getting into and understanding her character,” said composer/lyricist Felicia Hunter. “It's really a joy working with her and watching her discover her character's various traits, then apply those discoveries.”
As Mrs. Richards, Nancy tries to convince her niece, who is white, to stop advocating for African American voting rights.
“She really believes what she’s doing is the right thing, telling Pam to come home,” said Nancy, who sees a parallel themes between the musical, which set in the early 1960’s, and today’s political activities.
“I think what’s coming out in this election, if anything, is what white privilege really is,” she observes, noting that some groups of people routinely face structural impediments, as well as direct prejudice, that others don’t. “Every single day. I’ve never had to worry about that.”
Art is one outlet to channel frustrations about such situations, she said.
That’s what she did with one of her songs, “Mama Kiss Your Boy Goodnight,” which is about “the cost of war,” said Nancy. “My uncle had been a veteran of World War II. He said he couldn’t talk about it.”
That song, written several years ago, won a Best Emerging Songwriter Award from ASCAP. It is a work that exemplifies the kind of societal contribution she wants to make through art.
“I love music,” said Nancy, adding, “We have to have culture. We can’t afford not to have art.”