Erica Spyres has been turning heads in Boston theaters for nearly a decade: as one of the goofy singing puppeteers in the Lyric Stage’s “Avenue Q”; a hearing woman heartbreakingly adept at sign language in SpeakEasy’s “Tribes”; and a violin-playing singing-actress in New Rep’s “Marry Me a Little,” among many other roles she has made uniquely her own. She spent a year with the national touring company of “Once,” a musical in which all of the performers also play instruments, and last summer, she sang Gershwin tunes with the Boston Pops. Next month, she starts rehearsals for her Broadway debut as a member of the ensemble in “Carousel,” the revival that boasts Jessie Mueller (“Waitress” and “Beautiful: The Carole King Story”), Joshua Henry (“The Scottsboro Boys”), and opera star Renée Fleming.
“I guess I just try to say yes to a lot of different things,” Spyres says. “It’s funny because whenever I try to talk to agents about representing me, they always want to know what category I fit in. But I have the most fun trying new things. I don’t have the attention span to be perfect at one thing.”
Boston fans can catch her one more time before she heads to Broadway when she performs “Home for the Holidays: Bluegrass and Broadway,” at Lyric Stage Dec. 22.
“It’s a musical journey of an actor’s life,” she says. “In my case, that’s a mix of folksy bluegrass, pop, country, legitimate musical theater, and a couple funny stories.” And since it’s so close to Christmas, the show will also include a few holiday-themed songs.
Spyres will sing and play her violin, and she’ll be joined by her husband, Andrew Paul Jackson, on cello, Catherine Stornetta on keyboards, Emily Stine on guitar and vocals, and Kyle Thomas Hemingway and Alycia Sacco on vocals.
The idea of an evening in which she could pick the music she liked, as well as music she knew the crowd would like, came from her brothers.
“We grew up singing and playing music as a family,” says Spyres, whose father taught music in schools and whose mother taught choir and theater. Brothers Michael (an acclaimed opera tenor) and Sean (also a tenor) both work at performing arts organizations in Springfield, Mo., near where her family grew up.
“My brother Michael likes to refer to us as the ‘Hillbilly Von Trapps.’ We sang five-part harmonies, we all played trumpet, and I started playing violin when I was 4.”
Touring with actors in “Once” who can also sing and play inspired Spyres to continue to pursue her passion for music. She’s formed a group with two other former cast members called the Tipsy Spyres.
“We do a lot of bluegrass covers of pop songs,” she says of the violin, mandolin, and guitar trio. “The band is a huge part of my life now, and has encouraged me to think about creating my own work.”
Of course, all of that will have to wait until after “Carousel.”
‘Three Sisters’ at Apollinaire
So much of the humor and pathos of Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” comes from the intricate personal relationships among the characters, especially Olga, Masha, and Irina, the siblings of the title.
“We have to deliver characters who have a lifetime of memories and a kind of secret energy and unspoken understanding between them,” says Becca A. Lewis, who plays oldest sister Olga in the Apollinaire Theatre production running Dec. 22-Jan. 14 at the Chelsea Theatre Works. “And we have to do that as these characters live moment to moment in the context of this play.”
Chekhov’s drama — here in an adaptation by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts — follows three sisters and their brother, who are stuck in a small Russian town after the death of their father. Dissatisfied with their lives but unable to extricate themselves, they long for their former home in Moscow and a time when life still held the promise of happiness and opportunity.
To amplify those relationships and bring the audience closer to the action, director Danielle Fauteux-Jacques is staging the production in three locations within the theater. Fauteux-Jacques used this staging effectively in another Chekhov play, “Uncle Vanya,” which she directed in 2011.
“There are so many moments in the play that are subtle and I think get lost when the audience is separated from the actors in a proscenium-style production,” Fauteux-Jacques says. “We’re bringing the audience up close, and in limiting the audience to just 30 people at each performance, we are practically making them part of the conversations. The hope is that you feel like another dinner guest at the table, and get a better sense of the undercurrents.”
Deniz Khateri, who plays middle sister Masha, says she feels a particular connection to the siblings’ being caught between a desire to leave and an inability to act.
“In some ways, Moscow is a nostalgic dream to them,” she says. “It’s not about the place, it’s about a period in their lives. I can relate to that since I was a child in Tehran, Iran, but have been living here for many years now. Of course, I know if I went back it wouldn’t be the same, but I don’t want to lose that dream.”
Despite their frustration and disappointment, Fauteux-Jacques says Chekhov never judges their decisions.
“What makes this play resonate 100 years after it was written is that people still grapple with choices,” she says. “Sometimes we make good choices, sometimes not, but what’s interesting is how we live with the consequences.”
Home for the Holidays: Bluegrass and Broadway
At Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon St., Dec. 22. Tickets $25-$50, 617-585-5678, www.lyricstage.com
Presented by Apollinaire Theatre, Dec. 22-Jan. 14. At Chelsea Theater Works, 189 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea. Tickets $35, 617-887-2336, www.apollinairetheatre.comTerry Byrne can be reached at email@example.com.