Janis Fontaine

Alix Paige: The spitfire of ‘La Mancha’
By Janis Fontaine - Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

“I’m the artist of the family,” Alix Paige Hyman says.

Born 27 years ago today into a family of lawyers, Hyman, who performs under the name Alix Paige, is a singer who can belt out Broadway tunes and capture the emotional turmoil of a tragic heroine.

Paige plays Don Quixote’s beloved Aldonza in “Man of La Mancha” at Palm Beach Dramaworks in West Palm Beach through July 21.

Paige’s own story is more fairy tale than tragedy.

A 2004 graduate of the Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens, she lives in a fifth floor walk-up in New York City, but remains close to her parents, Sherry and Michael Hyman of West Palm Beach, who still live in the house she grew up in.

In New York, Paige has been filling her resume with accomplishments: She starred in “My Fair Lady,” opposite Broadway veteran Terrance Mann, and in the Connecticut Repertory Theatre production of “Guys and Dolls” and as the understudy for Sally Bowles in a national tour of “Cabaret.”

Paige earned a degree in musical theater from the University of Miami, where, “I got a lot of personal attention, a lot of time on stage,” Paige said during her break from rehearsals. Of course, Paige said, it matters how talented you are, but who you know helps, too. Faculty members and other contacts can give a boost to a young performer when the right part comes along.

But sometimes it’s the director who gets lucky.

“Aldonza is a brutally difficult role to cast,” director Clive Cholerton said. He says more than 50 women auditioned before Paige came in. It’s a coveted role: Aldonza is a prostitute who is elevated to a lady by Don Quixote’s madness. She faces, and accepts, beatings, rape and abuse as a matter of course. Quixote calls her “Dulcinea,” meaning overly sweet, and admires her strength and beauty. He treats her kindly, something she’s not prepared for.

“Very few women can sing the part,” Cholerton said. “It takes a ton of internal strength, and it’s an extremely physical role. Alix was a gift that dropped into our lap, just dumb luck.”

Cholerton also praised Paige for her professionalism: “A lot of actors say they’ve done their homework, but she actually does it. And having her in rehearsal, I see how fearless she is. She can reach down and pull out that emotion.”

Paige said to play the role she drew on the experiences of her grandparents, the late Ed and Helen Lefkowitz, who were Holocaust survivors. She spent a lot of time with them – they lived on Singer Island when she was growing up – listening to their stories of hardship and loss.

“I used the part of me that hurt for them,” Paige said, to express Aldonza’s suffering.

“Part of the reason I’m drawn to her is because she’s suffered so much,” Paige said. “It’s about self-worth, about valuing yourself. Aldonza has been so abused, but Don Quixote sees her a precious jewel.”

At one point Aldonza sings:
Of all the cruel bastards
Who’ve badgered and battered me,
You are the cruelest of all!
Can’t you see what your gentle
Insanities do to me?
Rob me of anger and give me despair! Blows and abuse
I can take and give back again,
Tenderness I cannot bear!
So please torture me now
With your “Sweet Dulcineas” no more!
I am no one! I’m nothing!
I’m only Aldonza the whore!

That lush passion is the same thing that draws her to torch songs, Paige says. “Heartbreak, sadness, loneliness. Why I am drawn to these dark songs?” she laughs.

Paige is also drawn to the camaraderie of the cast, one of the best parts of being an actor. “You’re telling a story together, and the show is only as good as its weakest part. When you’re in a show, it’s so intimate. You’re committed. You become very close with your castmates, especially on tour when the accommodations are bad. You’re like soldiers in a war together. Friends for life.”

Now, Hyman is preparing to make another commitment: She’s engaged to be married next May. Her fiancé, Dodd Loomis, is an award-winning director and producer, which means “he understands the industry,” Paige said. “He’s such a positive person. He sees the brightness in the world.”

And in her.

“He calls me his delicate flower,” she says, blushing. He even designed a flower-shaped engagement ring using diamonds and sapphires that are his family’s heirlooms.

But Paige isn’t ready to settle down yet.

“I love singing in front of a Big Band. I love to sing jazz and cabaret. I love being in the studio, recording. I’d like to do a concert with a 30-piece orchestra.

“And I still dream of Broadway.”

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Alix Paige’s five tips for young actors:

Take risks.
Shoot for the stars.
Do your homework.
Try to make interesting choices.
Realize there will be days when you will want to say “I quit.”

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