Tony winner Lena Hall (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Olivier winner Lesli Margherita (Matilda The Musical) and new-kid-on-the-block Micah Stock (It's Only a Play) settle into the downstairs lounge area at the Justin Timberlake-founded BBQ joint Southern Hospitality; it's the perfect spot for a Broadway trio of chic and sassy theatre folk. The ladies, friends from Broadway's "after-school" concert circuit, get to know Stock.
"I knew of Micah because every time I pass my theatre, I see, 'Introducing Micah Stock,' and I'm like, 'Where is he? Introduce him!'" said Margherita, breaking the ice. "Now you've been introduced!"
I jump right in: When were each of you bit by 'the bug'? "I took my first steps on a stage," explained Hall, the daughter of a choreographer and a prima ballerina. "I kind of never got bit by the bug — it was just my way of life."
Both Stock and Margherita also started out at the ballet barre. "I enjoy dance, but it's a little too rigid for me," said Stock. "I was too much of a ham. I always wanted to put 'bits' in very rigid dance pieces, so I transitioned to theatre from that. There wasn't ever a choice to keep going. It was the only thing that kept me firing on all cylinders." As for Margherita, "When I was about seven or eight, I saw Annie in San Francisco," she recalled, "and I remember that one of the girls totally messed up, and I was like, 'Um, I can do that and not mess up.'"
Go Big, or Go Home
Now, all grown up, Hall co-stars with Broadway bigwigs like Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew Rannells and, most recently, Michael C. Hall, as Hedwig's husband and band member Yitzhak; Margherita is "Loud" (and proud) as Matilda's mother, Mrs. Wormwood; and Stock makes a splash (in the starriest company on Broadway, headlined by Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick) as coat-check boy Gus. Their characters are larger than life.
"You're supposed to paint outside the lines, and the director is the editor," Stock said of the creation process. "I got a note once — the director was going through a note session [and] goes, 'Micah, I just have written: 'No.' So whatever that means to you." [The ladies laugh, as though they've been there before.]
Margherita said to the group, "I always know it's coming — when they're like, 'So! Love what you're doing…20 percent less!' It never not comes."
Keeping It Real
Their featured roles supply some of the best moments on Broadway; but, what happens when the script leaves them dialogue-less?
"Just because the spotlight is not on me, people are still watching," said Hall, whose Yitzhak is often quietly sulking in the corner. "It's about just taking in what's going on and understanding the relationship between the two people — just listening."
Margherita added, "If what you're doing is advancing the story, then it's going to fit anyway… You have to stay real. No matter how big your character is, even if it is cartoony, you have to stay a real cartoon."
Back to Hall: "If you do your job, and you're not trying to take the spotlight, the spotlight comes to you."
Finding Your Light
But when did they realize that the spotlight, in fact, was shining on them? Quite simply, the audience told them so. "I felt this huge shift in the audience," Hall confided. "After the first preview, one of our producers said, 'We're going to get you nominated for a Tony Award,' and I was like, 'What?' That was not even on my mind because on paper, I have four lines of dialogue and a song."
In It's Only a Play, "I found out very early on that there was a situation in which [Nathan Lane and I] can get a triple laugh," said Stock. "He would say [his line], there would be a reaction, I would have a reaction, and then there could be silence — and that's when the third laugh would come, so I got real happy about this: this 'triple.'
"Well, the next night we come on, and I hold for the triple, and it's just silence… It was probably — no exaggeration — a solid ten seconds… With previews under our belt, you know when you can do it and when you can't, but that was [when] my heart just…fell to the floor."
Haters Gonna Hate
With strong choices comes strong opinion. "Somebody's always going to hate what you do," explained Margherita, whose mammoth personality has been panned in the past, via social media, message boards and tabloids.
Stock learned the hard way — he visited the online Broadway boards. "Our show is set at an opening night party about reviews, and they talk specifically about 'All That Chat.' I went early on in the process — we hadn't even started previews, and there was already sh*t talking."
Back to Margherita: "At least we're making an impression!"
Taking the Wig (and Yourself) Out of the Box
"Certainly other people will try to put you into a box," said Stock, "but it's not your job to do that."
Margherita added, "I'll be honest that you worry people will be like, 'Oh, she can only play these larger-than-life things,' but at least great people in the business will realize that you're an actor."
As for what's next, all look to put their "stamp" on the next canonical theatrical role — no matter the billing order — and, at this rate, that's just what they'll do.
(This feature will appear in the December issue of Playbill magazine. Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)
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