Matt Bogart, whose Broadway credits include Aida, The Civil War, Smokey Joe's Café, and Miss Saigon, can currently be seen in the long-running, Tony-winning Best Musical Jersey Boys. Bogart also headed the cast of Jonathan Brielle’s Himself and Nora, which chronicled the romance between writer James Joyce and Nora Barnacle. Ghostlight Records recently released the original Off-Broadway cast recording, which was taped live at the Minetta Lane Theatre featuring Bogart and Whitney Bashor. Here, the singing actor reflects on the performances that most affected him as part of the audience.
Marie Christine with Audra McDonald as Marie Christine
Audra McDonald brought all of herself to this fated iconic characterization at Lincoln Center, but antecedently I was enthralled by what remains to be my favorite theatre experience, seeing this show in workshop at the Westbeth Center. It was mid-July, doors wide open, everyone sweating, and Audra gave us the visceral experience of the vice that gripped her Medea in Louisiana.
The Crucible with Liam Neeson as John Proctor
Nothing better than my favorite American playwright executed by the raw power of Liam Neeson. The largeness of the man, his stern and authoritative voice filling the Virginia Theatre, clearly evoking John Proctor’s quandary. Heart-wrenching moments of great sensitivity and great protest such as when Laura Linney's Goody Proctor tells her only lie to save his life, and then...the stage explodes. This in mind, I tread the same boards at the August Wilson in Jersey Boys (formerly the Virginia Theatre) where Neeson performed this drama.
A View from the Bridge with Anthony LaPaglia as Eddie
Anthony LaPaglia was a tornado of a man in the role of Eddie and, as if this play and its direction weren't intense enough, I happened to see a performance where Mr. LaPaglia took his wife, Allison Janney, by the shoulders and shook her so hard that her forehead hit his nose, splitting it open and possibly breaking it to the point where he was bleeding so much he needed to sit and stop the bleeding with a rag. However, he didn’t miss a beat or a line, aside from taking time to swallow his own blood.
Like me, the entire Broadway community was blown away by her energy, honesty, and her voice. I saw LaChanze’s performance three times and have since worked with and become friends with many of those who were involved with the production, including LaChanze, whom I was honored to have featured on my solo record, Simple Song.
At Liberty with Elaine Stritch
One of our great Dames of Broadway gave us her unimaginable personal accounts of her travels through show business. Her performance was a force of dark humor, honesty, ridiculousness, ugliness, and beauty. Sad to have lost this great storyteller and personality.
From the moment he began, you knew Stephen Spinella was living a true performance of humanity, acquiescence, beauty, stamina, and joy.
I love to laugh in the theatre, and Mr. Lane did what he does best here. Hilarious from the get go, I was with him every step of the way, surprised by his off-the-cuff improvisation and loving his exasperated rantings as the slave, Pseudolus. I attended the show in support of my friend Jessica Boevers, who played Philia, and I would be foolish if I didn’t mention she was also one of my favorite things, considering she is now my wife.
Passion with Jere Shea as Giorgio
I saw the show at a time when audiences would laugh at Fosca’s obsession for Giorgio but through Mr. Shea’s characterization, I completely empathized with his arc of frustration, empathy and complete resignation. I felt Giorgio's pain and eventual ecstasy because Fosca’s determination to bend his will to hers and, yes, what is love without a hint of this brand of passion? Mr. Shea was nominated for Best Actor in a Musical, originating a Sondheim musical, no less, every actor’s dream. Coincidentally, that same season, rumors were that Mr. Shea was also offered to play Joe in Damn Yankees, the same role Jarrod Emick garnered a Tony for Supporting Actor.
Boeing-Boeing with Mark Rylance as Robert
I was in a bit of trouble for calling in sick to my show in order to see my wife, Jessica Bogart, play opposite the brilliant Mark Rylance. I didn’t mind the slap on the hand because I have great reverence for the comedic and improvisational skills this man sustains throughout his storytelling. His vocal and physical embodiment alone make for an actor's masterclass, and watching to see what he’ll do next is endless joy.
The Wild Party with Toni Collette as Queenie
For me, Ms. Collette served as the perfect alluring host to wrangle the cats she invited to her party of the century, and the bravest toreador to her male counterpart, Burrs (Mandy Patinkin). She exuded a necessary hardness and eventual vulnerability, making me wish for her escape and well being. A beautiful performance.