Melody Betts in ‘The Sound of Music'(Photo: Matthew Murphy) View Comments In the final moments of The Sound of Music’s first act, Melody Betts takes center stage as Mother Abbess as she delivers the last verse of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” with a pure, commanding soprano. Before taking on the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical in the current North American tour, Betts had audiences giving mid-show standing ovations as a featured soloist in Invisible Thread off-Broadway. Below, the unforgettable performer talk to Broadway.com about bringing her own faith to the stage, feeling inspired by Audra McDonald and her secret off-stage riffing.Hi, Melody! How’s touring life treating you?It’s good! I thought it was going to be difficult, but it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I’m finding my way around. The hardest thing is probably laundry.How did the opportunity to play this role arise? They were looking for another Mother Abbess as Ashley Brown was pregnant, and my manager said, “I think you should go in.” Now, I’m thinking there’s no way. The Sound of Music is traditionally cast all white. For me to come in, I thought, was a huge adjustment for the audiences. But I decided, “What the heck?” I caught up with my friend Matt Gould [co-writer of Invisible Thread], we had some voice lessons, and then I went in.What was the audition process like? It was really great. I was the only one who looked like me in the room, which was intimidating. But by the end of it, we were all in tears. I was hoping I would have the job by the end of that. But I left, and by the time I got off the bus, I got the phone call.Did seeing Audra McDonald play the role on NBC provide any comfort or assurance? Absolutely. If I ever get the chance, I’d love to thank her. I’m a huge advocate for respect and love to the ones who have gone before me. It meant a whole lot that Audra did the role, and that she did it so beautifully; that allowed people to see that a woman of color could do this. She is one of the reasons why I could be put in this place.I know faith is an important part of your life. How does that inform your performance as the Mother Superior? It makes it a lot easier. As myself, I’m always tapping into my relationship with God, so I’ve added that to my performance. You’ll see me [on stage] actually taking a moment to ask God what to do next. I’ll look up, have an internal prayer and actually thank the Lord for the answers. I know what it’s like to come to a decision of whether or not I’m going to follow God.You also played a religious figure in Invisible Thread. In both, your character goes against what others in the church community might expect. Is that something you relate to personally? I think Christians get a bad rep because there are people in the world who claim Christ but forget that when Christ walked the earth, He hung out with everybody. Sometimes when people become Christians, they focus on the legalism of it instead of the love. There has to be a balance. The world is in need of love.That certainly rings true in both performances. One of the major differences, though, is your vocal style. In Invisible Thread, you belted up a storm. Here, it’s all classical. How do you find the balance between the two types of singing? When I hit the stage, I sing classically. When I’m singing backstage, I riff. I have to keep that part of my voice active. I started out singing in the church, and that’s where you learn that riffing. But I actually trained classically, too. Even though I don’t use that part of my voice that much, it’s in my bag of skills. I was able to go back into my bag and dust that off. And yes, there was some dust collecting!What’s your earliest memory of The Sound of Music? Like most people, Julie Andrews in the movie. It was always “My Favorite Things.” There was something about that song that always made me happy. I remember as a child singing those lyrics just out of the blue sometimes.And unlike the movie version, you’re the one who gets to sing it. Exactly! Now I know the real words; I don’t have to make them up.Representation and diversity are integral to this Broadway season, and hopefully that’s not just a trend. What does it mean for you to be a part of that this year off-Broadway and on tour? I’m so elated. I’m not going to be at the Tonys or anything like that, but I am a part of theater at this time. That alone is everything. Right now, Hollywood is not making the mark when it comes to acknowledging people of color. In theater, it’s a different feeling. I’m proud of the theater community for stepping up. That’s exactly what we need.Do you find that that resonates with audiences across the country? I realize there are a lot of little people who look like me–or some form of me–out in the audience. Even if they don’t want to be an actor, I just need them to know that whatever it is they’re looking toward, it’s possible. I grew up in the hood of Chicago. I was discouraged and was told my future wasn’t very bright. That was a lie, and now I’m living the truth. You don’t have to be left to despair and doubt. You can believe and work hard, and you can see all your dreams come true. You have the power to make that happen. That’s why I’m here.
Share Submit Related Articles StumbleUpon GVC expands Optimove CRM dynamics across global group portfolio July 4, 2019 Optimove upgrades customer journey ‘self-optimisation’ capacities August 6, 2020 Share Optimove expands real-time dynamics to help betting meet new marketing demands August 27, 2019 Pini Yakuel – OptimoveExpanding its ‘Marketing Hub’ provisions, Optimove a leading supplier of customer retention and campaign optimisation tools for mass-market enterprises, announced a raft of real-time functions customised for betting marketing teams. Detailing initiatives to SBC audiences, Optimove CEO Pini Yakuel underlines the importance of betting operators building-up their real-time capacities, as marketing leadership can no longer think statically on customer engagement, facing a board agenda of live dynamics such as player behaviour, care-of-duty and social responsibility interactions…______________ SBC: Pini thanks for this interview. As a marketing technology Optimove services a number of mass-market industries. However, why has Optimove, chosen to build specific components for betting marketing incumbents? Pini Yakuel (CEO – Optimove): We are proud to be recognized as the preferred CRM solution for the gaming industry. We have always anticipated the needs of our clients and been able to identify how our technology can answer those needs. Over the past few months, we have seen the need for realtime capabilities increase. True to our commitment to staying ahead of the curve, it was only natural that we develop realtime capabilities to support our clients’ evolving marketing requirements.SBC: In your press update, you detail that you want to help industry operators make better ‘informed decisions’ through real-time dynamics. What does this actually entail? PY: As we always say, marketing has three sides. The first is data collection and curation; the second is activation or campaigns, and the third is measurement and optimization.On the data side, we provide a combination of fast and slow data. Most data used for profile creation, segmentation and predictive modelling is historical data, and therefore these processes are non-realtime by nature. We call them “Slow Data”. Real-time engagement using live signals is what we call “Fast Data”. Fast data, such as realtime web and mobile interactions, complement customer profiles by providing the marketer with the context needed in order to make an informed decision. What Optimove is adding now is the combination of realtime, historical, and predictive data.For example – if we know that a certain player or bettor is a bonus seeker, and we see they are currently playing roulette, the marketer now has the tools to trigger a campaign which is different than the one that would be triggered for a VIP.Additionally, Operators need to gain insight into the impact of each of their campaigns, or a sequence of them, on any business KPI. In our newest release, our Streams feature was enhanced with new capabilities now enabling users to measure the joint impact of a sequence of realtime and scheduled campaigns. Streams complement Optimove’s pre-existing offering of single campaign measurement.Together, these capabilities provide valuable insight to operators empowering them to make better-informed decisions based on the intelligence they gain on their players and the effectiveness of their past and current marketing activities.SBC: At a marketing and operations level, why have real-time dynamics been so hard to achieve or execute for betting operators? PY: Traditionally, realtime dynamics have been managed from the iGaming platforms, that are separated from CRM systems. This has created an operational challenge since it required marketers to manage, connect, and measure their campaigns without seeing the full picture. Optimove’s new realtime technology enables marketers to overcome these obstacles by centralizing the required capabilities under one roof. SBC: How do you envision your new Marketing Hub provisions, tackling the complexities of the industry’s social responsibility and compliance demands across multiple markets placed on marketing teams? PY: We are extremely aware of the need marketing teams have when it comes to complying with regulation. We are committed to helping them provide a secure and safe entertainment environment for their players.These new real-time capabilities are built on top of our robust player modelling and orchestration technologies, enabling the full control over each and every player’s experience. As an example, marketers can allocate players into an ‘always exclude’ segment, isolating them from receiving promotions from the operator. This segment can contain players that have been identified by the operators’ own tools, Optimove’s proprietary predictive algorithms, or people who have exceeded their communication limits.SBC: As a tech and marketing stakeholder, can the sector’s compliance demands simply be addressed by technology developments… Are shortcomings simply down to tech limitations?PY: t’s not about technology solving compliance demands, it’s about technology empowering operators to provide safe environments to their players. I once compared AI to Ironman’s suit, for the armour and support it provides the human in it. I’d rather look at technology as exactly that—technology is an enabler, not an easy-fix solution to any issue.Looking at responsible gaming models only as a means to meet compliance regulations, misses the mark. Responsible gaming models should be created by the industry’s desire to create safe environments and top-quality experiences for players. Technology is the means to that end. It’s not the ultimate goal.SBC: Finally, focusing on real-time dynamics and intelligence, what future marketing challenges lay in the horizon for industry stakeholders… PY: In this fast-paced, ever-changing industry, it seems like the future is already here. The competition for players’ time and engagement is growing and the players themselves are evolving. Operators will be required to invest more and more in order to attract new players and earn their loyalty. This can only be overcome if operators look at their marketing through the lens of relationship building. In order to succeed in this task, industry stakeholders must face the fact that historical, predictive and realtime data cannot live in siloed spaces. To maximize the impact of realtime dynamics and intelligence, operators will need all three data types operating in unison within one interface. As challenging as this seems, the adoption of solutions such as Customer Data Platforms within the industry might be what the future entails.The combination of historical customer data with realtime interactions is paramount to improve player experiences. In the not-too-distant future players will expect operators to empower them to create their own journeys. These player-led journeys differ from marketing defined player journeys as they’re infinite and non-linear. With this in mind, technology providers will need to lift the burden off marketers by supporting self-optimizing journeys that compare between competing actions across touch-points and aim to deliver the most appropriate and effective message to each player at any moment in time. While operators need to jump the proverbial hurdle and trust the machine to orchestrate at scale.__________________Pini Yakuel – CEO – Optimove