Nick Adams nearly didn’t play Felicia in Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, the role that has made him a fan favorite on Broadway. Casting directors originally planned to make Adams an understudy for the role of the young, mischievous drag queen. But then Facebook lent a hand.
Fans of Adams created a Facebook group, lobbying for his casting in the role, a la the social media campaign to get Betty White to host Saturday Night Live last year. “The producers actually noticed that people were pushing for me and they paid attention to it,” Adams said. “It’s amazing that the people who have been supportive are able to come celebrate this triumph with me.” It seems the celebration has turned into a never-ending party. Adams has over five thousand followers on Twitter and Priscilla enjoys repeat ticket buyers who have seen the show dozens of times since it opened in March.
Since making his Broadway debut in Chicago in 2006, Adams, 27, has hit the Great White Way running. His second role as Larry in the revival of A Chorus Line in 2008 got him massive attention, although unintended. Michael Riedel of The New York Post reported that TV star Mario Lopez felt upstaged by Adams’ muscular physique, so producers put him in a less revealing costume and moved him to the back of the dance line. The story was harped on in the gossip columns and tabloids for weeks, but soon all Broadway enthusiasts knew Adams’ name. (Adams and Lopez have since laughed off the incident and are reportedly friends.) A brief stint in the ensemble of the critically acclaimed La Cage aux Folles last spring followed, and then Priscilla’s stiletto heels were ready to be filled.
Video: Nick Adams on his emotional connection to Priscilla and award season nerves
Margaret Colin might currently be on hiatus from playing Blair Waldorf’s mother, Eleanor, on Gossip Girl, but not from portraying a sharp-tongued commander of an estate. As Lady Croom in the current Broadway revival of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, Colin sheds the Prada wardrobe for a corset as a member of the show’s 19th-century group of ensemble characters. Colin is a native New Yorker who has been a consistent presence on stage and screen since she made her TV debut in 1979 in the soap opera The Edge of Night. In addition to the bossy Eleanor Waldorf, her major work has included Independence Day, The Devil’s Own, and Three Men and a Baby. Colin sat down with Stage Rush to talk about making sense of Arcadia, gasping for breath in her costume, and how Gossip Girl is influencing her performance.
Tom Stoppard was present during your rehearsals for Arcadia. What is he like?
He’s tall, dresses really well, and he’s much more European than he is British. He’s a genius that likes to show off, so what better place for him to be in but the theater? He’s a gentleman. He has a generosity in spirit, and the way he treats women is delicious. We spoke for two days for five hours at a time, and normally with a room full of actors, you’d want to kill yourself, because we want to talk.
While becoming involved in this project, did you find any of it intimidating?
I did not have the sense of being intimidated when we started, but once we got on our feet and rolling, I was very grounded for doing the work. Once more elements were added and we had to do it up to speed, make the connections and try to find the life of the play apart from individual exchanges, then yeah. Lady Croom is kind of outside of that world. She’s really just concerned with her garden and trying to keep control of her world. I just had to jump in and swim as fast as I could. I was not intimidated by that. I was just eager to do the work and find it. The first time I saw this play, I adored Billy [Crudup]. I had a girlfriend, Haviland Morris who played Chloe, and I came to support her. I didn’t have a clue what the play was about. I remembered the turtle, the waltzing at the end, and somebody saying something about underwear—drawers! That’s all I remembered. After reading it, the idea that it was so dense and funny turned me on. It was something I could commit to for all these months and stay intrigued. Read more
For some people, spring means a time of cleaning, rain boots, and preparation for warm weather. For Stephen Kunken, spring means a role in a hot-button, new Broadway play. In April 2007, Kunken had a supporting role in Frost/Nixon, and last April, he starred in Enron, for which his performance earned him a Tony nomination. A year after that rollercoaster run in Enron (the day Kunken received his Tony nomination was the same day the show posted its closing notice), he is starring alongside Kathleen Turner in the new drama High, opening April 19.
As Father Michael Delpapp, Kunken assigns Turner, an ex-alcoholic nun, to council a troubled teenager, played by newcomer Evan Jonigkeit, suffering from intense drug addiction and abuse. The three characters hurdle down a volatile road of secret connections, painful memories, and religious doubt. While Kunken’s character is more reserved than in his Tony-nominated Andy Fastow role from Enron, Father Michael equally pushes the plot with his secrets and questionable actions.
“A play like this is challenging, because when all the other horses are running, I have to do my job, and this guy’s job is to keep it together for as long as possible,” Kunken said. “His part of the story comes out and you see that he’s in free fall in his own way.”
Kunken noted that he had to “catch up” with Turner and Jonigkeit, who had been involved with earlier incarnations of High in Hartford, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. The role of Father Michael had previously been played by [title of show] director Michael Berresse. “I didn’t want to rush my understanding of the play,” Kunken said. “Sometimes, plays are examined like an automobile. ‘Do you the lights work? Check.’ But with this show, we opened the hood and looked at the whole thing. Now we get from points A to B in a much better way.” Read more
Heidi Blickenstaff had planned to be a Mormon this Broadway season. For the past two and a half years, she had been playing Mother Price—Andrew Rannells’ character’s mother—in production workshops of The Book of Mormon. Yet the role that had started out with two songs gradually diminished as the show evolved. A torn calf muscle that sidelined Blickenstaff during the final workshop didn’t help. Soon after, Blickenstaff received a phone call from one of the show’s producers saying that the role was being made even smaller—Blickenstaff amicably decided to bow out. However, another maternal role was unexpectedly around the corner.
“I’m sure that had I been in my early twenties, I would have been devastated,” Blickenstaff said. “It worked out the way it was supposed to. I’ve learned to let go of that stuff. There’s a plan, there’s a road; just walk on it.” That road led to a last minute audition for the replacement cast in The Addams Family for the role of Alice Beineke—the mother of Wednesday’s love interest.
“Oddly, it was not on my radar at all,” Blickenstaff said. “I hadn’t seen the show. My agent said [the casting directors] had seen a lot of people for Alice Beineke and they couldn’t seem to find what they wanted. I knew Carolee Carmello had done the role, and we’re very different vocal types. I thought, ‘This probably isn’t going to go my way, but I’ll go in, say hi, and do my best.’” Fifteen seconds into the audition, Blickenstaff knew it was going well. Director Jerry Zaks walked her out and 20 minutes later, she received a phone call with the offer. “I had no plans to do this, but I was so thrilled for the job,” Blickenstaff said. “You know, times is tough right now [sic]. I couldn’t be more grateful to be here. It was the most wonderful surprise. I’m having a really good time. It’s a really fun role.”
In the show, Alice Beineke, a tightly wound conservative, visits the Addams mansion with her husband from Ohio to meet the family of the daughter with whom their son has fallen in love. Although appalled at what she sees upon her arrival, over the course of her stay, Alice loosens up—although the Addams’ make that decision for her. At the end of Act I, Alice sings a showcasing, belty number called “Waiting.” “It’s all over the place—it’s got everything from opera, to smoky jazz, to really standard musical theater. It’s super schizophrenic.” Read more
Blues and broken bones: Douglas Hodge says Café Carlyle show is “quintessential New York experience”
Douglas Hodge has just finished his first Café Carlyle concert and all he wants is a beer. “Stella, a Pilsner—it doesn’t matter,” he says. After burning through 17 songs in an hour, a guy deserves a cold one. If the number of songs isn’t enough to impress, consider that Hodge accompanied himself on piano and guitar—all with a broken wrist, which he acquired while playing with his 11-year-old son. “It’s hard,” Hodge said of the injury. “It’ll hurt in about 10 minutes time.” After departing La Cage aux Folles in February, for which he won a Tony Award, Hodge is making his cabaret debut at Café Carlyle, appearing through March 26. Following his opening-night performance on Tuesday, Hodge sat down with Stage Rush to talk about his music style, his most memorable live concerts, and missing La Cage.
What do you think about the musician side of Douglas Hodge, Rushers? Will you catch him in his Café Carlyle engagement? Do you miss him in La Cage? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and remember to tune into Stage Rush TV this week for more of our interview with Hodge.
Comedians have been making their way to Broadway recently, with Robin Williams in Bengal Tiger At The Baghdad Zoo and Dane Cook in Fat Pig this season. Even Saturday Night Live alumni like Will Ferrell and Chris Rock have made their debuts—Rock in this season’s The Motherf**ker With The Hat. Soon, another SNL name could be seen on a Broadway marquee, but as the play’s subject rather than as a cast member—the late Chris Farley.
A reading of the new play The Fatman Cometh: The Life and Death of Chris Farley held an industry reading on February 28 at The Players Theatre. The play, which is a work in progress, depicts conversations between Farley and his manager in his dressing room at SNL during his final months as a cast member.
The play, which ran approximately for an hour, needs to be fleshed out, but there is potential to find an audience among nostalgic comedy fans and fervent Farley followers. The play is funny, which is a necessary factor, given Farley’s outrageous humor. Alan Pagano’s portrayal of Farley is a physically accurate performance without being a full-out imitation. The script is peppered with real accounts of Farley’s pranks and public buffoonery (such as sticking his naked behind out of a car window), references to SNL stars Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade and John Belushi, and Farley’s cult films. The character of Farley’s fictional manager Kip Kaplan gets lots of punch lines, as he brushes his client off with stereotypical Hollywood cynicism. Read more
Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Angels In America, can’t seem to get enough of director Michael Greif. Or is it vice versa? The two paired for the revival of Angels, still playing at the Signature Theatre, and are now in rehearsals for the New York debut of Kushner’s latest play—are you ready for it?—The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. Beginning performances March 22 at the Public Theater, the play is a family drama using the themes of labor unions, relationships, and death.
Kushner, Greif, and cast members Steven Pasquale, Michael Esper, and Linda Emond sat down with Stage Rush to talk about long titles, supposed crank phone calls from Kushner, and the challenges of his work.
(Using an iPhone or iPad? Watch on YouTube)
Are you a fan of Kushner’s, Rushers? Will you be seeing Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide? Did you enjoy Pasquale’s story of the surprise phone call from Kushner? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! And if you can’t get enough of these guys, Greif, Pasquale, and Esper will be appearing in Friday’s episode of Stage Rush TV!
Hunter Ryan Herdlicka is preparing for the closing of A Little Night Music—for real this time. Last June, the cast of the acclaimed production was given a second life when Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch signed on to replace departing stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury—just two weeks before the show was set to close. For Herdlicka, who is making his Broadway debut at 24 as the morose Henrick, the extension was a fairytale ending to a story that already had one.
“We thought we were done,” Herdlicka said. “I was on my phone and I clicked onto BroadwayWorld.com and I saw that headline that we were going to stay open with Bernadette and Elaine. It was a shock.”
With Night Music, Herdlicka experienced an aspiring young actors dream. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University in 2009, Herdlicka was cast in the role of Henrick in the revival of A Little Night Music before he even moved to New York. He was, in fact, the first person cast in the show. “It wasn’t until that summer that I started hearing names like Uma Thurman, these celebrities that were going to come and be in the show,” Herdlicka said. “I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa! They’re not just bringing over the people from the London [Menier Chocolate Factory] production?’ It didn’t hit me till a few months into the run that it was such a huge deal.”
Herdlicka’s audition process took just nine days. During his final callback, he sang for the show’s composer Stephen Sondheim. “I had met him in the elevator on the way up,” Herdlicka said. “I shook his hand, he knew my name. That kind of helped me relax a bit. In the audition room, [director Trevor Nunn] was introducing me to everyone, which makes you feel so comfortable, I wish everyone would do that when you go to an audition. Trevor says, ‘Stephen, this is Hunter.’ And he says, ‘Oh, we go way back!’”
The Scottsboro Boys may be in its final week on Broadway due to disappointing ticket sales, but theatergoers packed the Lyceum Theatre for Thursday night’s performance. Following a sold-out show, in which composer John Kander and director Susan Stroman were in attendance, producer Catherine Shreiber introduced a panel of historians that lead a post-performance discussion of the historical importance of the Scottsboro episode.
CBS News’ chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford took the stage, visibly moved by the performance, and announced that she was throwing out her prepared introduction. “I had prepared a little speech about how this [talkback] would illuminate the issues of law and injustice, because that’s what I cover, but I’m throwing all that out,” Crawford said. “This was a play frayed with humor, but I didn’t really laugh. For me growing up in the south, Bull Connor turning fire houses on peaceful protesters [feels like] just the other day. Sunday school girls getting killed in a bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church [feels like] just the other day.” Crawford went on to comment how the nature of the Scottsboro incident shares parallels to today’s headlines. Read more