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Between her work as SpeakEasy’s Community Programs & Events Manager and as an up-and-coming director in Boston, Alex Lonati wears a lot of hats. But even over six years later, she’s still remembered for her first major role in the Boston theatre scene: host of WERS’ Standing Room Only, Boston’s premier and only musical theatre radio show.
With Standing Room Only’s Kitchen Kickline on Saturday, we thought we’d ask Alex about her four years as the host of SRO to build some excitement for this weekend!
What do you remember most about your days as the host of Standing Room Only?
One of my favorite parts about SRO was the listeners. The show has such an incredible following, and I got to know a few of the listeners quite well. Some folks would call every week to make requests or just to say hello! When I left the show (very tearfully and dramatically), I was greeted with an outpouring of support from listeners – calls, emails, even some hand delivered gifts. The love within that community is so palpable, and it often felt like I was a part of a very special family.
How did you get the gig?
I actually listened to Standing Room Only every weekend since I was probably 8 or 9 years old. I grew up about an hour outside of Boston into a theatre family, and we would tune in each Saturday, no matter what. My mom and I used to play a game where we’d race to see who could name the musical fastest. I’ve gotten quite good at identifying songs based on their opening chords!
When I was accepted to Emerson College, I dreamt of one day hosting the show, but I never in my wildest dreams imagined I’d be given the chance so quickly. I applied to WERS my first semester and my theatre knowledge and passion for the show earned me an “Alternate DJ” spot (sort of like an understudy) right off the bat. Then the permanent host graduated in December, and I officially joined the ranks!
How long did you host the show?
I hosted SRO for 3.5 years – from December 2010 to May 2014. Other than a semester abroad, I was there every weekend – rain or shine (and even one time with laryngitis)!
What did you like most about hosting the show?
I loved creating playlists – finding that perfect mix of styles, tempos, eras, and genres. It felt like a puzzle to me, as I’d be working within pretty specific time restraints, trying to get folks’ requests played, and crafting a complete and balanced show all at the same time. I think I introduced audiences to some great music, and I really enjoyed having that platform.
What was the most challenging aspect of the job?
I actually would get very nervous! Not only was it completely live (so listeners got to hear all my silly slip-ups), but I was also running all of the technical elements by myself. For the first two years, I would write myself a script for every break so that I would know exactly what to say. By the end, the nerves disappeared and I was much more comfortable on the mic. But I never lost the little flutter of excitement in the final moments before the show began!
Who were some of the celebrities that interviewed?
I was very lucky to meet some incredible Broadway stars during my time on air, including Gavin Creel, Joanna Gleason, and Liz Callaway. But I loved interviewing Boston actors even more!
Any other fun stories?
Actually, it was Standing Room Only that first introduced me to SpeakEasy! Back in 2008, before I became the host, I was listening to the show and decided to try my hand at one of the call-in contests to win tickets. As luck would have it, I scored myself a pair of tickets to see The Light in the Piazza at SpeakEasy! A stunning production, and a pretty fateful moment for me. Who would have guessed I’d go on to host Standing Room Only and then join the staff at SpeakEasy?
Do you have a favorite show tune?
Oh, that’s an impossible question! My favorites change constantly. Today, I’d say “Our Time” from Merrily We Roll Along, “The I Love You Song” from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, “Stars and the Moon” from Songs for the New World, “Journey On” from Ragtime, “Time Stops” from Big Fish, “Sailing” from A New Brain, and every song from SIX. But ask me tomorrow and I might give you an entirely new list!
Tell us a little bit about WERS Kitchen Kickline coming up this weekend.
Usually, theatre companies across Boston would be opening their seasons right about now. Since we’re all missing the excitement of live performance, WERS decided to put together a special weekend to bring live music right to the listeners. They have partnered with a couple of local theatre companies, SpeakEasy included, and will be broadcasting live performances from local artists! It’s going to be a wonderful celebration of Boston talent.
What time is the SpeakEasy slot and who will be performing?
SpeakEasy’s segment will air on Saturday, October 3rd at noon! We brought back four of our incredible alumni to reprise some of their standout performances: Daniel James Belnavis from our 2016 production of Violet, Grace Yoo from our 2018 production of Allegiance, Alessandra Valea from our 2013 production of In the Heights, and Ellie van Amerongen from our 2018 production of Fun Home. All four of these artists are incredible – just wait until you hear their performances! And while you’re there, you might even recognize a former host making a little cameo too…
Are there any other events coming up where we can catch our SpeakEasy favorites performing?
We will be presenting a huge 30th Anniversary Benefit Concert in November – full of performances from SpeakEasy favorites, past and present. Keep an eye out for that! And in the meantime, we have a ton of fantastic new programs where our audiences can get involved and stay connected – our Play Discussion Club, SpeakEasy University, September Madness voting, and more! While we miss producing live theatre very, very much, we have not gone away – there are still many conversations to be had and art to celebrate, even while we’re doing so virtually!