Local girl makes very, very good
Lexy Fridell’s talent, hard work combine with opportunity and environment for success
Though she be little, she is fierce! – Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Experiencing Lexy Fridell for the first time is an exercise in contrasts. She has big eyes, a big smile, and a big, squeaky voice, packed in a small, angular frame. A star of Transcendence Theatre’s summer productions at Jack London State Historic Park, Fridell is also a Sonoma Valley kid, whose very first onstage appearance was as Bambi Phingerdoo at Dunbar School’s first production of A Bad Day at Gopher’s Breath, written by her dad, Squire Fridell.
Lexy sings, dances, acts, writes shows and wows audiences with a persona that is at once child-like and adult seductive, simple and sophisticated. In person, she is contemplative, a student of her environment and the people around her, quick to praise others and very down to earth when it comes to looking at her own life.
“She was a very shy child that had to feel safe before she would improvise, sing, act, dance. We never encouraged her to be an actor or singer or dancer,” her actor-father Squire Fridell said, although he wrote the Dunbar melodrama for her debut.
Squire’s success as Ronald McDonald and later as the 30-year lead in Toyota commercials made him wary of the creative life for his only child. “You’re always looking for the brass ring.”
Nevertheless, Lexy grew up with creative arts. Her mother Suzie toured for 10 years with the Alwin Nikolais Dance Theater, a modern dance ensemble in the Martha Graham style. The family dinner table was a constant source of entertainment, songs and recitals.
Lexy was born in Sunset Beach, Los Angeles, but the Fridells moved to Glen Ellen when she was five, where the family planted vines and raised their only daughter.
“I was a very quiet kid,” Lexy recalled. “I started doing little performances for my parents and their friends. I liked being laughed at and I began taking singing lessons in Santa Rosa with Tina Lloyd Meals when I was 10.”
Meals, who is still teaching voice at TLM Studios on College Avenue, recalls her student vividly.
“She was my very first voice student,” Meals said. “What impressed me the most was her consistency and the fact that she worked very, very hard,” Meals said. “Performing is not for the faint of heart. To be successful, you have to have something that makes you stand out. Lexy always had that: her features, the whole package so to speak. She has something that is unique and has always had it. She lights up the room.”
Growing up in Sonoma also included working with Alex Urvan’s Children’s Theatre Network, a precursor to the current Broadway Bound program. She attended Sonoma Charter School, Altimira Middle School for sixth grade, San Dominico Catholic girls school in Marin, and spent her senior year of high school in LA’s Idyllwild.
“They do incredible things with kids in the arts,” Lexy said. “I had an amazing drama teacher at San Dominico, but summer camp at Idyllwild was incredible.” That led to a weekend in Chicago in her senior year auditioning for 18 colleges.
“It was crazy and I think I was sick, too, but it was a great experience,” Lexy remembered.
Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh was her choice for college. C-M has a small but outstanding, nationally recognized school of theater, with alumnae like Ted Danson, Steven Bochco, Megan Hilty and many more people easily recognized from TV and movies.
“You are together with the actors in acting classes, but you also get the musical theater classes as well, so you are not separated from the actors.” The dense immersion was seminal in forming the professional actress who moved to New York, eventually joining the off-Broadway cast of Avenue Q, The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway, and others, establishing a solid career and presence in the world of theater.
At 33, Lexy has not had overnight success, but has experienced a steady stream of accomplishment forged through hard work and focus.
“I think for any artist, the minute you get wherever you go, New York or LA, you have to keep learning,” Lexy said. “I still take classes to this day. Whenever I have time, I have a teacher I love in New York and a teacher I love in LA.” She spends time with groups, acting scenes, learning music and songs, and can also spend an hour or two in front of a mirror, working her incredibly elastic face into characters that will delight kids and grownups when she brings them to future roles.
“Everyone has their own specific, unique path in the business of acting or any type of art,” she said. “So what is your special sauce you can bring to the table? Focus on that, hone that, develop that, and love what you do so that you are not spending your time comparing where you are or where you think you should be in your career to someone else’s. I think most people learn that the hard way.”
“You can rehearse at home, but only to a certain extent,” Lexy noted. “It’s important to keep training and learning and getting yourself out there. As you get older your ability to learn things gets more expansive. You can call and accept new skills and keep developing as a performer.”
Her own moment of recognition came a couple of years into her time in New York.
“My first year was pretty difficult,” she recalled, “but I was lucky to have found some great agents, both theater and commercial.”
But now she is very happy living on the West Coast again. She is based in Los Angeles, learning and looking and auditioning constantly, and dividing her time between the Transcendence Theatre and her shows in Sonoma. She also loves working with Dad at the family winery.
“I actually produce a sparkling wine,” she said with a twinkle. “I actually got to pour my wine at the VIP Bubble Lounge and then do a show. How great is that! It was both of my dreams coming true.” She makes Lexy’s Toast from North Coast pinot noir and chardonnay, forming a dry, rosé sparkling wine through the methode champenoise. A very limited edition, it is ordered online.
“I want to learn to be a winemaker,” she said, noting that she and her boyfriend are taking classes in San Francisco this summer to learn more about the business.
Lexy is working on a new show, Off to the Clouds, with New York colleague Mark Gindick, that will premiere on Aug. 19 at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards. You can buy tickets at www.transcendencetheatre.org/shows/cloud.