Judith and John Youngblood.

Reviewed by Brian Walker

Entire contents are copyright © 2013 Brian Walker. All rights reserved.

Judith and John Youngblood are married with two sons and are seasoned veterans of the Louisville stage – most notably with Kentucky Opera, starring in over thirty operas between them for the company. Starting next week they’re performing together in Iroquois Amphitheater’s production of The Pirates of Penzance.

Brian Walker:  You guys will mark my first couple for 17 questions!

Judith:  We’re tickled to be asked!

BW:  I was thinking it would be fun to let you both answer separately, and we’ll see if there are any on which you guys are in unison. Number 1:  What’s the biggest difference in rehearsing for a musical as opposed to rehearsing for an opera?

Judith:  Speaking! The timing of dialogue is challenging for me since I am primarily a singer.

John:  Having lines that no one else has. Since I’m usually a member of the opera chorus, I’m not usually singing solo lines.

BW:  Number 2:  If you had to name one, what would be a favorite memory from your time with Kentucky Opera?

Judith:  I’ve been with them for the better part of 20 years, so that’s a lot of memories to sift through. I loved being in La Boheme with both of our sons in 2006 and with our younger son in Turandotin 2007. But I think John’s is one of my favorites too:

John:  When Judith and I were in I Pagliacci, we were simply given the stage direction of being the last to exit. We made a bit out of it like we were sneaking off, and we stole a kiss just as we exited.

BW:  That is adorable!  Number 3:  If you could star in any Broadway musical, what would it be and why?

Judith:  Something by Sondheim, please. I’m not picky. His work is incredible.

John:  I used to be a dancer, and I never got to do West Side Story. I’ve always wanted to play Riff.

BW:  Number 4:  You’re both starring in Iroquois Amphitheater’s upcoming production of The Pirates of Penzance. What roles are you playing, and what’s been the most exciting part of preparing for the roles?

Judith:  I’m Ruth, the “piratical maid of all work.” Getting to tinker with the role and try things with Greg Maupin, our director, with whom I often share the stage, is a real delight.

John:  I’m Major General Stanley. Trying to get all the lyrics right for the Major General’s song so that I can do it faster than anyone else on stage or in the orchestra. To me, it’s a race.

BW:  Number 5:  I have to ask: Who’s your favorite pirate…historical or fictional?

Judith:  Kevin Kline as the Pirate King. It was in a TV production of Pirates of Penzance with Linda Ronstadt as Mabel. I think I fell a little bit in love.

John:  Calico Jack Rackham. I created the role in a children’s musical called Patrick and the Pirates with the Marriott Lincolnshire in Chicago.

BW:  Number 6:  Have you done other shows at Iroquois Amphitheater?

Judith:  None.

John:  I was the lead dancer in Kiss Me, Kate in 1976 and 36 years later appeared as Captain Corcoran in HMS Pinafore last year.

BW:  Number 7 will be for John, then, because I’ve always wondered:  What’s it like performing there under the stars?

John:  It’s wonderful to be under the stars, but you have to make sure you are louder than the motorcycles!

BW:  Number 8:  When you’re both not performing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Judith:  Free time?

John:  I like to watch classic movies and read. I’m currently reading Double Cross: the True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre.

BW:  Number 9:  What advice would you give to someone looking to work locally as a performer?

Judith:  Keep your ear to the ground for opportunities, and when you get one, come prepared and be pleasant to work with. You want to get a good reputation.

John:  Get to know as many local theatre people as possible. Make friends. And see as many shows as you can.

BW:  Number 10:  Any upcoming productions in the 13-14 season you’re looking forward to being in the audience for?

Judith:  I want to make time to see Swan Lake or La Sylphide at Louisville Ballet. They do beautiful work.

John:  Anything by Le Petomaine or Savage Rose theatre companies.

BW:  Number 11:  What’s your favorite local restaurant?

Judith and John:  Porcini!

BW:  Complete agreement on that one!  Number 12:  What’s the best thing about doing a show with your spouse?

Judith:  Playing off one another with absolute ease and trust. We can experiment and really fill our moments on stage together.

John:  When we are cast as a couple, the directors we work with know they can trust us to make our own characters and our own business.

BW:  Number 13:  What’s the most challenging thing about doing a show with your spouse?

Judith:  Juggling parenthood and performance. It’ll be easier now with our elder son starting college. But so many times we have had to miss our sons’ performances because of our own. Or we have to figure out which one of us does taxi duty, even if it means being late to rehearsal.

John:  If we have a tiff at home, it’s hard not to carry that onto stage. But we manage.

BW:  Number 14:  What’s your favorite opera of all time?

Judith:  Right now? Turandot. Wow!

John:  “Carmendot” – Carmen and Turandot…but not at the same time!

BW:  Number 15:  What’s at the top of your bucket list?

Judith:  An all-expense-paid vacation. Can somebody take care of that?

John:  Going to Machu Picchu, Peru.

BW:  Number 16:  What’s next for you both theatrically after Pirates

Judith:  We start into rehearsals for La Boheme the week after we close Pirates.

BW:  And finally, Number 17, and one of my favorite questions to ask people:  Who is someone who inspires you and why?

Judith:  Our boys, Ori and Jack. They are both truly fine young men, equally talented and uniquely gifted. They blow me away with their capabilities and accomplishments. I really have to go some to stay ahead of them.

John:  My wife inspires me. She is so well liked and charming. That’s a side of myself that’s sometimes hard to find.

The Pirates of Penzance

August 8 – 17, 2013, at 8 p.m.
Iroquois Amphitheater
1080 Amphitheater Road
Louisville, KY 40214
Tickets:  $15.00