Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, which stars Valerie Vigoda ’87 and is now playing at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, has an unusual premise: Kat, a blue-haired video game composer and single mother, has been when for 36 hours when Ernest Shackleton, a polar explorer famous for keeping his entire crew of 27 men alive for nine months after their ship Endurance sank in Antarctica, travels across time to reach her. Vigoda, who sings and plays her Viper electric violin as Kat, also co-wrote the music and lyrics for the show with her husband and partner Brendan Millburn.
“I’m passionate about all the work that I do and that I have collaborated on for the past many years,” she said. “But for me, this might be the one I’m most passionate about.”
Part of the reason is the nature of the story. Ever since she saw a museum exhibit about Shackleton’s harrowing adventures in Antarctica, Vigoda has been “sort of obsessed” with the explorer, she said. For her, the musical is “a combination of this inspiring story and the resonance of this modern character.”
Unlike Kat, Vigoda did not have blue hair or tattoos before she slipped into her role. She now embraces the head turns when she walks into a space. In addition to the musical, Vigoda is working on a solo album called Just Getting Good, which was fully funded through Kickstarter in the fall.
The album “really has this through line that’s a pretty similar theme to Shackleton, which is finally getting over some of the ways in which we as younger people, especially younger women, can stand in our own way and feel unworthy or like a fraud or over-dependent,” Vigoda said. “All of these pitfalls that I certainly had for a long time, I feel like it’s only now that I’m suddenly being able to get past them and set them aside.”
At Princeton, Vigoda concentrated in sociology and was a member of the Katzenjammers, as well as ROTC. All of these have contributed to where she is now, she said.
Ernest Shackleton Loves Me will continue its run at the George Street Playhouse through May 17; it will also be going to Boston in the fall and New York in February 2016. Vigoda will perform in the role of Kat until May 14. After that, an understudy will take over for the final shows — Vigoda has a wedding of a fellow Katzenjammer to attend in Italy.