PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With How to Succeed and "Ugly Betty" Star Michael Urie

Brief Encounter   PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With How to Succeed and "Ugly Betty" Star Michael Urie
 
Michael Urie, also known as Marc St. James from the ABC sitcom "Ugly Betty," takes on his first musical — not to mention, his first Broadway credit — by stepping into the shoes of office brown-noser Bud Frump in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Michael Urie
Michael Urie

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At the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, big-name stars have been shuffling in and out of the stage door to take part in the Rob Ashford-directed revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. ("Harry Potter" and Equus star Daniel Radcliffe, "Glee" actor Darren Criss, Tony winner John Larroquette, Emmy Award winner Beau Bridges and singer-songwriter Nick Jonas have all been part of the run so far.) A recent new-hire at the World Wide Wicket Corporation is stage and screen actor Michael Urie, who was recently seen in the Off-Broadway production of The Cherry Orchard at Classic Stage Company.

Following his first performance at the Al Hirschfeld on Jan. 24, we caught a few minutes with the musical's newest Bud Frump, the role previously played by Christopher J. Hanke (Cry-Baby, In My Life, Rent). Urie, who was also seen in the Off-Broadway productions of Tony Kusher's Angels in America and Jon Marans' The Temperamentals, chats about the challenges of taking on a musical and rehearsing with Jonas, his newest comrade on and off the stage.

You're making your Broadway debut. Congrats! How does it feel?
Michael Urie: Thank you so much. It feels great, and it was an incredible night. It was so much fun.

How did your first performance go?
MU: I felt really good about it. It was the first time doing it full-out for [me and Nick Jonas]. Not that we haven't done a run-through — Nick and I did it on Friday in costume, with all the sets and everything like that — but it's the first time that we've done it with everyone else in costume. It was the first 100-percent show for us, and it was extremely thrilling — not to mention, all of the red things on the other side of the stage were filled with people watching. [Laughs.] Those things that are usually empty suddenly have bodies in them! You learn so much from an audience, especially in a comedy, and they taught me quite a bit tonight. There are a lot of things that I was very happy with, [but there are] things that need a little tweaking or changing, and that's what's amazing about doing a play. I get to do it again — twice — tomorrow.

Urie takes a a first-night bow
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

I know you've done other stage work, but is this your first musical?
MU: First musical. First time on Broadway. I did a musical in community college, but I was terrible in it. It was a pretty good show though — Gypsy. We did Gypsy in my community college.

What role did you play?
MU: They made up a farmboy for me — Omaha.

What are the challenges you face in taking on a musical?
MU: I've mostly done plays, and in plays, you sort of speak when you feel like it. In a musical, you have to speak when you speak or else it derails the rest of the show. I've never done a show that was so regimented like this. There's a lot of freedom within the scenes, and there's a lot of freedom within the interpretation, but the pace is set. The conductor sets it, and you have to go with that. I've never had that before. I just finished doing Chekhov [The Cherry Orchard]. That's like lazy acting — you speak when you feel like it. It's Chekhov! It's all about how you feel. [Laughs.] It's very different.

Did you have the chance to see Christopher J. Hanke's performance as Bud Frump?
MU: Oh, yeah. I saw Christopher a lot.

Did you talk to him? Did he offer any advice?
MU: Well, I got advice about what it's like to be on a big Broadway stage — like, how [to] get to the numbers. I don't know if you know this, but on the lip of the Broadway stage, there are all these numbers. I had never worked with anything like that before. [In rehearsal, I'm told], "Go to 8."… I'm like, "Where's 8? How do I see that?" So, Hanke was really good about helping me learn about that and about what it's like to be in an eight-shows-a-week Broadway show because I've never done anything like that before.

Continued...

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