Carrie Manolakos has always known that she wanted to be involved in the arts. In one sense, it made life simpler. She did not go through an internal struggle in terms of “What will I do with my life?” On the other hand, artistic life comes with its trials. Carrie grew up in upstate New York and got her start in school plays as well as participating in the church choir. She has never considered herself shy and her mom (a huge supporter), says “Carrie could sing before she talked.” Then, there is that “voice,” which is just phenomenal and takes you to another place.
Carrie attended NYU School of Arts, and before graduating, she took Broadway by storm, starring in “Mamma Mia!” as the lead Sophie before assuming the role of Elphaba on the second national tour of “Wicked.” She took a year-and-a-half leave of absence from school to keep up with her performing schedule. Carrie did get her degree but knew these experiences would be defining moments. She found it exhilarating and got a quick taste of the “Broadway life” as well as traveling on tour. Being a part of both productions were fantastic. She also lent her voice to Lizzie for the Original Cast Recording of the rock opera based on Lizzie Borden. Most recently, she was seen in the Los Angeles Production of ‘Love Live’ as Natalie. She can be heard on the soundtracks of “The Greatest Showman” and the “Incredibles 2,” to name a few.
When Carrie Manolakos sings, it’s impossible not to feel it. She takes the audience on an emotional journey. Carrie has devoted her whole life to music, acting and writing, and has managed to be equally compelling authentically sharing herself, her voice and her music as she is acting in roles both new and known.
Currently, Manolakos plays Joyce in Rockwell’s “Stanger Things,” as part of the UMPO series created and written by Kate Pazakis. Pazakis is also the very talented Artistic Director of Rockwell Table & Stage. The musical is fantastic, sharp, relevant and filled with talent. Gemma truly loved the show, and we encourage everyone to see it. Carrie is insightful, kind, and intuitive. While I was expecting a larger than life personality, Manolakos is an extremely caring person with the calmest demeanor. Before the show started, Carrie was kind enough to chat with us.
Do you feel that you relate to the audience on an intimate level while performing in regards to embodying a role and also singing as Carrie?
I do feel it’s most definitely an intimate setting. There are different versions of me onstage. For example, an acting role versus me singing is not the same. I feel that the most powerful and vulnerable version of me onstage is when I’m performing a cover song. I recently performed Cia’s song “Chandelier,” which is a very emotional song. When I’m onstage, it’s my safe spot. I trust that is where I need to be. It becomes something, and something is compelling about playing with the bigness and smallness of who you are within your voice.
While performing onstage, how would you describe that particular “version of voice”?
Well, when taking on a role, I look to bring the audience in more, I’m also relating to the other actors I’m on stage with, embodying who the character is, and yet, still bring parts of my character’s authenticity to the role. Therefore, the goal is both versions of my voice to be authentic, but in different ways.
Do you find that you are attracted to dramatic characters? I noticed that you mentioned that you are comfortable with the “darkness and light” of life.
I do feel I enjoy playing dramatic roles. I’ve been through a lot, so performing helps. I think that a real shift came when I was genuinely able to embrace where I was versus where I wanted to be. I even surprise myself. I’m not afraid to be vulnerable, and Manolakos said, “I’m not afraid of the biggest version of me.” I’m also more comfortable embracing the messiness of life — it takes time and patience, but I’m getting there.
I know you are a New Yorker at heart. How are you enjoying LA?
Of course, I will always love NY. I’m a real New Yorker but I’ve traveled to L.A. quite a bit for work, and I am starting to love L.A.! The sunlight can be very healing, and I also feel that I now have some space to create and continue to discover various aspects of myself. Being involved with the Rockwell Theatre is a wonderful experience.
Tell me a bit about the cover song you did for “Creep” from Radiohead. Extremely powerful and raw!
Than you! I appreciate that. I, as well, felt that it was very raw performance and went to a place that I had never been before (performance wise). It was magically caught on camera. I put it on Facebook and honestly thought nothing of it. Ironically, it exploded. Overall, I felt it was an honest and straightforward interpretation.
As an artist and a person, what is one core value that is crucial to you?
Honesty! I try to bring authenticity to my performances. As a human being, I value honesty immensely. I feel like I’m led by it and it’s at the core of my vision. I’m not saying it’s easy. It takes patience and intention. If you think about it, honesty is all that matters.
If you were not performing, what do you feel you would be doing?
I think about that a lot. I’m confident that I’ve carved a path for myself and I know that I have something of value to offer. I’m a big believer in people being the best they can be. Again, I’ve been through a lot and I know what it takes to get to the other side. I’m also a big believer in the healing power of arts. So, I do think about speaking, teaching, and mentoring. “I’m fascinated by the human experience in all of its shades — Both my own experience and the experience of others, including how to make the most of my time here,” said Manolakos.
We genuinely enjoyed speaking with Carrie Manolakos. Catch her in “Stranger Things” and you will discover an unforgettable performance.
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