If you have a favorite professional theater in Sacramento, chances are good you’ve seen Melinda Parrett onstage.
Just what type of actress you think she is, though, might be tempered by which theater you saw her working in.
If you saw her at New Helvetia, you might think think she’s a lithe, soulful singing actor of new musicals such as “[title of show]” and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Next to Normal.” If you’ve seen her at Sacramento Theatre Company, you might think she’s a Shakespeare specialist who’s appeared in “Julius Caesar” and “Twelfth Night.” At B Street Theatre you’ve seen a multifaceted comedienne, dramatic and romantic lead (who can sing), and at Capital Stage she’s been the quintessential postmodern woman as Ruth in Harold Pinter’s “Homecoming.”
As much as she’s played in Sacramento, Parrett is a vagabond theater artist who works around the country. She spent the past summer and fall with the Utah Shakespeare Festival. She’s back in Sacramento this week to perform in the STC production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.”
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Performing in Sacramento works out just fine for Parrett, who was born and raised here, graduating from Del Campo High School. Her parents still live in Carmichael.
“Having the desire to entertain people and make people laugh and just be in front of people has been there since I was a little girl,” Parrett said. Seeing Dave MacDonald’s legendary “Best of Broadway” revue with her parents when she was young was an early tipping point.
“They did a scene from ‘Cats,’ and there was this woman singing and dancing as a cat, and I was like: ‘That’s awesome; she’s dressed up like a cat, and she’s dancing around.’ That’s who I was growing up.”
Most actors are freelancers, going from job to job; some stay more in one place, taking whatever they can get there. Others, like Parrett, follow the jobs they’re offered.
“I’m able to do work, and it really doesn’t matter where it is because it’s work, and I like working, and I like getting better, and I like learning new things and meeting new people,” she said.
Parrett graduated from Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts’ actor training program in 2000 and has been working ever since.
“I haven’t lived anywhere since I was in college, and it can take a toll,” Parrett said.
She keeps her possessions in storage and doesn’t have a lot of stuff.
Parrett has found something of a home at B Street Theatre, where she did seven shows in four years from 2011-14. Still, she has also worked at the Utah Shakespeare Festival six out of the past seven years. Throw in STC, the Santa Cruz Shakespeare Festival, Denver Center and Geva Theatre, and you have a fairly busy actor.
The challenge of a show such as “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” will always be a seduction.
“I had lots of friends who’ve done it,” Parrett said. “I’ve always thought, ‘I could never do that.’ ”
The 1996 off-Broadway megahit is a series of short musical scenes based on the themes of love and relationships. The book and lyrics are by Joe DiPietro and the music is by Jimmy Roberts. It is the second-longest running off-Broadway musical. Though the scenes aren’t connected, there is an arc to the story that follows the life of a relationship beginning with the first date. The show is usually done with four actors – two women and two men in the various roles.
“It’s so much singing. It’s so far out of my realm of what I thought of myself as an actor,” Parrett said. “I really do think the comedy I’ve been able to do at B Street prepared me for a show like this, where I am having to play over 10 characters, and it ranges from being very broad, farcical humor to very grounded, deep, real stuff.”
Of the mobile lifestyle, Parrett said, “I think it’s coming to an end.”
After finishing this show, she will sit down in Los Angeles at some point to look for film and television work.
“I’m really lucky to be able to do what I really love to do, but there can a point where you have to set down roots somewhere so that you can come back to your own space,” Parrett said.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change
What: A production of the Joe DiPietro-Jimmy Roberts musical revue with Melinda Parrett, Jake Mahler, David Crane and Jennifer Morrison. Jerry Lee directs.
Where: Sacramento Theatre Company, Pollock Stage, 1419 H St., Sacramento
When: Wednesday, Jan. 4, through Sunday, Feb. 12