Late last September, it would probably have been difficult to find a Broadway actor who was more engulfed in the music of John Kander and Fred Ebb than James T. Lane. The Philadelphia native was concluding his commitment to the Kander and Ebb classic Chicago and rehearsing for the famous duo’s final show, The Scottsboro Boys. Last April, Lane kicked off Stage Rush’s Ensemble Watch series while he was part of Chicago’s company. He now plays the key, dual role of Ozie (one of the Scottsboro Boys) and Ruby, a white woman (yes, white woman) who falsely accuses the nine black men of raping her and her friend. Lane sat down with Stage Rush to discuss his Scottsboro transition, his new spotlight, and ladies hats.
The last time we spoke, it was April and you were in Chicago. How did The Scottsboro Boys come about?
I had done a reading of The Scottsboro Boys in June 2009. But before then, I auditioned at the end of 2008 for a reading of the show and I didn’t get it. I had a horrible audition, actually. I accidentally made cuts in the song, so obviously the accompanist and I didn’t gel. So when it came around again, I was like, “I’m doing the whole song!” I sang “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” and then they asked me a funny question: “Do you think you could sing it as a girl?” I said, “Do you mean in my falsetto?” and they said, “No, as a female.” So I did it 1920s, flapper style, very cutesy with shoulders and knees. I didn’t know what they were getting at! I got the reading.
You weren’t involved in the production at the Vineyard Theatre last February. How did the Broadway opportunity come your way?
When they announced that Scottsboro was going to go to the Vineyard, I had obligations with Chicago and some concert work that I had already agreed to. So the Vineyard happened and then they announced it was going to Broadway and I felt, ugh, like I really missed my opportunity. My chance came around again midway through the tryouts in Minneapolis at the Guthrie Theater over the summer. September 20 was when I started rehearsals, and our first preview was October 7. So much had changed since that reading I did.
What is the process of switching shows like?
I did double duty on Chicago and Scottsboro Boys for about a week and a half from September 20 to sometime in October. I was doing rehearsals for Scottsboro during the day and performing Chicago at night. Luckily, both shows have the same producers. I had to put my four-weeks notice in, but they knew what I was doing and were lenient.
Video: James T. Lane talks spotting Kristin Chenoweth at Scottsboro‘s opening night
In Part 2 of Ensemble Watch with The Lion King’s Ray Mercer and Jean Michelle Grier, Mercer talks about his giraffe, Gus, and how he manages on those stilts (14 feet high!). Grier reveals her favorite moment of performing in the show, and why she feels the ensemble is always in the spotlight.
Were you surprised that Ray doesn’t have to rehearse stilt walking, Rushers? Do you think the ensemble of The Lion King might be the most visible and featured on Broadway? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow Stage Rush on Facebook and Twitter for on-the-go updates!
For 13 years, the on-stage spectacle of The Lion King has been flooring audience members, even bringing tears to the eyes of adults, and selling out performances (even to this day). From an ensemble that is as important as the show’s leads (if not more), Jean Michelle Grier and Ray Mercer discuss life in this uber-technical show in the latest Ensemble Watch. Both ensemble actors with featured roles (Grier plays Simba’s mother Sarabi; Mercer plays a giraffe), they have both been with the show for over five years. Here they discuss the euphoria of being cast in the mega hit, backstage life at the Minskoff, and fitness.
When was the last time you saw The Lion King, Rushers? Were you moved by its visuals? Do you find it interesting that this ensemble is arguably the prime aspect of this show? Leave your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to look for Part 2 next week.
In this second part of Ensemble Watch, Jeremy Woodard and Andre Ward of the Rock of Ages ensemble give details on how they stay rocker-fit for the show, the pressure’s of on-stage physique, and what rehearsals are like during a long run of a production.
Were you surprised that Andre and Jeremy don’t have to work harder to stay in shape for the show? What did you think about their views on pressure to stay fit for Rock of Ages? Are you surprised about all the rehearsal that’s still required of them?
Andre Ward and Jeremy Woodard—the guy rockers in the ensemble of Rock of Ages—talk about backstage life at the Brooks Atkinson, knee-bleeding audition tales, and bonding through cable TV in the latest edition of Ensemble Watch.
Have you caught Andre and Jeremy in Rock of Ages, Rushers? Or seen Jeremy go on as Stacee Jaxx? Were you surprised that neither of these guys thought they were cut out for the 80s rock show? And what’s up with them having to pay for cable in their dressing room? Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments, and don’t forget to check back early next week for part 2 of Ensemble Watch: Rock of Ages!