Hello, Broadway! Meet Four Broadway First-Timers

Special Features   Hello, Broadway! Meet Four Broadway First-Timers
 
Stanley Tucci, David Bryan, Sahr Ngaujah and John Logan: You might know their names and faces, but you've never seen them like this before.
Stanley Tucci
Stanley Tucci Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

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Stanley Tucci is not new to Broadway. His acting debut is essentially forgotten — a bit part in the short-lived 1982 revival of The Queen and the Rebels — but his first starring role, while a long time coming, went much better: Tucci earned a Tony nomination for the 2002 production of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.

"I was asked to do another play after that, but with three little kids it was too hard," Tucci recalls.

Still, Tucci is a rookie as a stage director — he's directed movies, but the current revival of Lend Me a Tenor is his first time directing a play anywhere, not just Broadway.

"I'd wanted to direct for a long time," he says. When his producers sent him several plays to choose from, Tucci was struck by this 1989 hit (which he never saw). Directing also allows him more time at home, which is vitally important to him because his wife Kate died from cancer last spring. While he subsequently had a banner year in movies — playing husband to Meryl Streep's Julia Child in "Julie & Julia" and earning an Oscar nomination as the villain in "The Lovely Bones" — directing this farce, he says, "is the first time in a long time I've looked forward to going to work."

Tucci's production has been nominated for the 2010 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. *

David Bryan
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

No matter how loud the ovations are for Memphis, it won't match the love Broadway novice David Bryan gets at his day job. Of course, not many composers have a steady gig — actually a night job — like his: Bryan is the keyboardist for the rock group Bon Jovi. "I tell the rest of the band I'm classing up the joint now," says Bryan, currently on tour.

Bryan, 48, stumbled into the world of musicals accidentally. In 1990, when the band took a break from touring, he got a publishing deal writing songs for other musicians to cover. Eventually his publisher suggested he write a musical.

Although he was initially brought in to just write music for Memphis, he developed a strong relationship with book writer Joe DiPietro, and they ended up with a "full-on writing partnership." The show, first produced in Massachusetts seven years ago, took a long and winding road to New York. Finally reaching Broadway in its fifth go-round "is like seeing your kid graduate from Harvard," he says. "It was an unbelievable honor. There's a picture of me kissing the sidewalk in front of the Shubert."

(Since the writing of this article, Bryan was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Score of a Musical.)

Bryan remains a rock-n-roller, but he and DiPietro are already working hard on their next show, with eight songs and 40 pages done. "I'm loving this new world," Bryan says.

Sahr Ngaujah
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Sahr Ngaujah, making his Broadway debut as the star of Fela!, for which he has been Tony-nominated, was like many of the students at his performing arts high school in Atlanta. "I was really interested in being on Broadway then," he recalls. But the dream soon shifted for this immigrant from Sierra Leone. Ngaujah's attention soon turned to avant-garde theatre. He moved to Holland to pursue opportunities there. "The idea of going to Broadway diminished," he says. When he returned to America he realized that what he wanted most was to return to the Netherlands, where he could not only act but also direct pieces using interactive technology. "Broadway was completely uninteresting to me — it was the last thing I wanted to associate myself with," he says.

After several years of mostly directing, he started acting again, which led to an audition for a project with Bill T. Jones. Ngaujah didn't get the part, but Jones later asked him to come and read for Fela! "I said, 'Get out, I love Fela and his music,'" Ngaujah says. The show also integrates different styles and media in the same way many of Ngaujah's experimental works do. He felt the show click immediately. "By the time we were up Off-Broadway, I was pretty convinced we had a chance to revolutionize what we call the Great White Way," he says. "It has been very encouraging to see Broadway accept our presence and to have thousands of people consider a new way of what a Broadway experience can be."

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John Logan
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Take a quick glimpse at John Logan's career and you'd think he had it all — writing films for superstar directors Martin Scorsese, and Ridley Scott, he earned Best Screenplay Oscar nominations for "Gladiator" and "The Aviator". But something was missing: something Logan had hoped for since his days at Millburn High School in New Jersey when he'd come into New York for half-priced tickets, something he'd dreamt of while working as a playwright in Chicago, on the journey from tiny theatres to the Goodman to Off-Broadway. "Broadway has always been the goal," Logan says. "Not a goal, the goal."

Mission accomplished. After years of cinematic success, Logan returned to the stage with Red, a smash in London and, now, Broadway. "For years it was like seeing Oz from a distance while on the yellow brick road," he says. (Logan has earned a 2010 Tony nomination for Best Play.)

It was the movies that got him here: working on Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd" sent him to London, where he saw the Rothko paintings that inspired Red. It also helped to have Stephen Sondheim "nudging me to write a play."

Making movies also influenced his writing style, Logan says — through negative reinforcement. "Red isn't just a play, it's an anti-movie. Movies are all about visual metaphors. In the theatre I could write a play that is caressed and stimulated by language."

If Logan has his way, his rookie experience won't be his last. "It's like a miracle," he says of Red. "It made me remember how much I love being in the theatre."

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