How is it that a musical based on Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria, a beautiful and heartbreaking film about a prostitute who scrapes her way through her tough life, can translate so magnificently on the Festival Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake?
Inserting top talent such as Julie Martell into the lead role is the first smart decision in making that happen. Sweet Charity, on stage until October 31, 2015, is very much softer in its adaptation but with the lively performer synthesizing a lifetime of disappointment as Charity Hope Valentine, audiences can’t help but ache for the character’s desire to be loved.
And when it comes time for her to sing joyous musical numbers including ‘Hey Big Spender’ and ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now,” one can only wonder what kind of unique path that Julie Martell has journeyed that’s led her to a place like the Shaw Festival.
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What did you want to be growing up?
I aimed to be what I’m doing right now—a singer, actor and dance. I was focused on being a performer from an early age.
Growing up in a small town, I really didn’t know how it would happen but I knew it would.
Who were your childhood heroes?
Heroes? I don’t have any that spring to mind.
Did you play sports as a kid?
I was a competitive gymnast for many years.
It was a big part of my life growing up and really taught me a lot about discipline and focus and never giving up. Also patience and perseverance. I think it really shaped who I became as an adult.
Were your parents strict?
Looking back I guess they were strict.
I was the oldest, so I do remember not being able to get away with much compared to my younger sister.
What posters did you have on your bedroom wall growing up?
Backstreet Boys and N’Sync. They were just so cool in that those days. I also had some photos of Olympic Champions on the walls too.
What was your nickname in high school?
I didn’t have a Nickname in high school but I did have one in University.
I’m from Cape Breton Island, so friends started calling me ‘Capers.’ I loved it, it really stuck and some of my friends still call me it. It brings back some very fond memories.
What was the first concert you attended?
I think it was The Barenaked Ladies. I don’t remember much of that experience.
I grew up in a small town on the east coast, concerts weren’t really a thing.
What was the first job you ever had?
I was a singer/server at a place called the Lobster Deck, home in Cape Breton.
About 7 of us formed a band, where we would cover pop songs and Celtic/Folk Favorites. And also serve surf and turf! It was on the grounds of a hotel. We worked in that tent all summer and it was awesome.
Have you ever been fired?
Once and I still can’t believe it happened.
I was waitressing in New York City in between contracts; I had been hired at this really busy place in Hell’s Kitchen where I made a crazy amount of cash. I wasn’t there very long when people started telling management how much they liked me, how personable I was and that it must be because I’m Canadian.
I’m a people person, so even when doing a “Joe Job” I made the most out of it and had fun. They guy who ran the place, loved me—or so I thought.
How did the disappointing event play out?
It was coming up on Christmas and I was feeling rather down and homesick so I asked the manager if I could take a few days off and fly home to see my family. He said no and fired me on the spot.
It all happened so quickly and I still don’t really understand why. I suppose he was worried I would stand him up and just not show up for my shifts. I remember walking out minutes later thinking, “What the hell just happened?”
What do you remember about the first time getting drunk?
Living on the east coast this happened at a rather young age.
I remember being in my friend’s basement and her older brother got us wine coolers. There was a party going on at their place, I think their parents had gone away to Florida or something like that.
But other than that, I don’t remember a thing…I got drunk.
What is the hardest thing about being a woman?
I love being a woman. I have a successful career doing what I love. I also have a successful business working with the most positive, generous men and women on the planet. As Shakespeare said, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”
I really try to be in control of how things play out in my life… of course, Equal Pay for Equal Work would be nice. But this is a ‘20 Questions With…’ feature so don’t get me started on that.
Is having a family a priority in Julie Martell’s life?
I get that question often, people asking me parenting at some point.
Do I want kids? I flip flop at the moment but the judgement that comes along with stating, ‘I don’t think I want to be a mother.’ That can be hard.
What did you believe in at 18 that you wish that you’d believe in now?
That’s a tough one. I’m at a loss as to what that may be.
At times I am still as optimistic as I was at 18. Like maybe that I can eat anything I want and not get fat.
What is the best advice your parents ever gave you?
To never give up. It didn’t matter that I came from a small town with very little to offer, if I practiced, the work would speak for itself.
They gave me a book of quotes when I was a teenager and I have carried one in particular with me all years: “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have it.” That was great advice from my parents and a quoted Thomas Jefferson.
What have you done that you will never do again?
Get engaged and then call off the wedding. Enough said on that front. Next question please.
What is the best lie you ever told?
I’m so boring but I don’t have an answer for this.
What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
I was living and working in New York City. All by myself on the UWS and working on B’way.
I started to feel under the weather but as an actor “the show must go on” so I ignored some symptoms and just chalked it up stress and nerves, fatigue etc. After a few days of severe headaches and joint pain I visited the nearest emergency room. After sharing my symptoms I was rushed to isolation. I was diagnosed with Viral and Spinal Meningitis and blood poisoning. I almost died.
I had never been sick a day in my life. Things become very clear when you are told that if you had fallen asleep that night you would never have woken up.
You’ve been exiled to an isolated island with no other inhabitants but permitted to bring one book, one CD, and one DVD what will this list include?
For me, on this day I would bring Jack Canfield’s book The Success Principles.
The latest Sufjan Stevens CD and the DVD of Sunday in The Park With George.
If somebody made a movie about your life, whom would you want to play you?
Someone unknown. A no name, no resume, no baggage individual.
Just an open hearted girl, plucked from the middle of nowhere. Who of course, is awesomely talented yet humble and stunningly gorgeous but unassuming.
Or Julia Roberts because I’m told all the time that we look alike.