Across 733 performances, Louis Hobson played the dual role of the Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine in the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical Next to Normal. In addition to out-of-town iterations, Hobson was one of two actors to stay with the show through its entire Broadway run. After a stint in the brief run of The People in the Picture last spring, the former Seattle theater star is currently chasing down Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes in Bonnie & Clyde as police officer Ted Hinton (closing December 30). Hobson sat down with Stage Rush to discuss firearms, the highest highs of Next to Normal, and the satisfaction level of supporting roles on Broadway.
Ted Hinton is an interesting role in that you’re kind of the bad guy. The audience doesn’t root for you, but you’re on the side of the law; you’re doing the right thing. Sounds like a difficult mindset to get into.
Our conversation from the first rehearsal was that there is no antagonist in this show. If you need to choose an antagonist, you can say it’s society or the circumstances that everyone’s in. I wanted to push Ted as close to the middle of that line between right and wrong. I think that Clyde falls on that line as well. To me, it’s more interesting that no one in the show is all good and no one is all bad.
What’s it like playing someone who actually lived?
Ted Hinton was the last surviving member of the group that brought Bonnie and Clyde down. Ted in the show is sort of a composite of several different people. What he needed to be for this story was a little different than what he was in real life. But it’s always nice to start with something that’s real.
Is it fun to play cops and robbers on Broadway?
It’s fun having a gun. It gives you so much power. Unfortunately, I don’t get to shoot mine. Ted is one of the few guys that doesn’t get to shoot his gun. We have these big-ass guns [during the shootout scene at the end], but they don’t actually fire; they’re prop guns. Everything in that scene is firing sound effects. I don’t get to fire a blank in the show, and… that’s alright. [mock disappointed voice]
The gunshots in the show are jarring for the audience. Is it still startling for you?
We jumped when we were first [firing the blanks]. These are real bullets; they just don’t have the metal tips that fire the projectile. We were playing around with a full load of gun powder, then a half load, a quarter, an eighth—all to test different volumes. I can live with this volume now; it was so loud at the beginning. I’ve gotten used to it. Every once in a while, I get that ringing in my ears. But it’s much worse for Jeremy and Laura.
VIDEO: Louis Hobson talks about acting opposite Tony winner Alice Ripley in Next to Normal
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Donna Murphy stars as Raisel, who is more commonly referred to as Bubbie by her doting granddaughter. Raisel recounts stories to her granddaughter Jenny (an irritating Rachel Resheff) of her days as an actor in a Yiddish theater troupe in Warsaw, Poland. Despite being unable to talk about anything but the past, Raisel aggressively resists any memories her daughter Red (Nicole Parker) attempts to discuss, which is where the story’s haziness begins. Through her avoidance and weakened voice, we see that Raisel is haunted by her past—quite literally, actually, as the spirits of her dead friends visit her. Nothing like being beaten over the head with a metaphor.
Raisel is getting pretty old (judging by Murphy’s performance, I’d say about 126) and she’s losing her wits. Red finds it unacceptable for a senior citizen’s mind not to be as sharp as a tack, so she starts researching retirement homes. Raisel rails against her daughter’s suggestion with rage, as the mere idea reminds her of being put into a Nazi concentration camp. Ah, here come the memories that Raisel is trying to escape.
The story swerves in and out of Raisel’s past during Nazi-occupied Poland and the present day, which in this play is 1977. The transitions are abrupt and even stack up on each other. One moment the story is in the present with the 1970s characters, then it’s in the past with the 1940s characters, and sometimes the 1940s cast is talking in the present. No wonder Bubbie gets confused! Read more