PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Bryan Batt

PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Bryan Batt After Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Sunset Boulevard, The Scarlet Pimpernel and, now, Saturday Night Fever, actor Bryan Batt is the king of the Minskoff Theatre, his home away from home for much of the last several seasons. As Monty, the outrageous, womanizing disc jockey in SNF, Batt earned the best reviews that not-particularly-well-reviewed show received, with many critics focusing on Batt's apparent zest for his character's joyous vulgarity. And with SNF's substantial box-office cushion, Batt should be at the Minskoff for some time to come -- plenty of chances to glance at that new plaque.

After Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Sunset Boulevard, The Scarlet Pimpernel and, now, Saturday Night Fever, actor Bryan Batt is the king of the Minskoff Theatre, his home away from home for much of the last several seasons. As Monty, the outrageous, womanizing disc jockey in SNF, Batt earned the best reviews that not-particularly-well-reviewed show received, with many critics focusing on Batt's apparent zest for his character's joyous vulgarity. And with SNF's substantial box-office cushion, Batt should be at the Minskoff for some time to come -- plenty of chances to glance at that new plaque.

Playbill On-Line: So what is it with you and the Minskoff?
Bryan Batt: I don't know. I think I know where the bones are buried. It might be some sort of magnetic attraction. I've been told now I come with the building. All the technicians tell me I'm the house actor.

PBOL: So, now they're hanging a commemorative plaque?
BB: I've been told that. I don't know if it's definitely happening, but I would like it to. I had dinner with Sarah Minskoff and her husband. We went to Orso one night after the show. She's very sweet, and I jokingly said, "Are you serious?" and they said "Yeah." So, I think they're going to do it. I would love it if it were just a little plaque by the dressing room door. I think it would be hysterical. I think it is a record, the four shows in a row.

PBOL: And you're getting a caricature in Sardi's. This is really your month.
BB: Yes. They did the sitting last week and I think it's going to be hung in January. Sardi's has to see it first, from what I understand. That is just a life-long dream. You never think you're going to have your mug up on the wall at Sardi's. And for such a crazy role.

PBOL: Many of your shows -- SNF, Pimpernel -- as well as the characters you play in them, are on the campy side. Do you consider yourself a campy performer?
BB: Not at all. Not at all. I will push the envelope. I don't like the word "campy." I don't mind it, but I definitely would say "comic." In Pimpernel, there was a definite foil. He plays the serious romantic and then turns into the crazy, over-the-top character. This guy [Monty] is just crazy, he's wacky. He's been doing too many mind-altering pharmacueticals. But, no, I wouldn't consider myself campy. PBOL: You made your name in the comedy Jeffrey, but have been earning a living mainly in musicals since then. Would you like to get back to plays?
BB: Yes! Underline, Yes! Definitely. It's very bizarre. I was trained as an actor. I auditioned for a musical in college and I got cast, basically because I could sing. And then I started studying voice a little bit in college. You have to be able to do everything. If you have that ability, you should explore it. But my love is acting. You do it, of course, in musicals. Even Forbidden Broadway, you approach from an acting standpoint. But, yes, I'd love to do another play.

PBOL: Do you have a dream role?
BB: The only reply I can come up with is I'd love to do a new work that's being written for me. I would shy away from a role that been indelibly stamped with someone else's performance. I would never go after Dolly Levi. [Laughs]

PBOL: Is there anyone now working in the theatre that you're dying to work with?
BB: Oh, my gosh. I have such a list. My list is huge. I would love to work with Carol Burnett. There are so many brilliant actors out there. I'd love to work with J. Smith-Cameron or Cherry Jones.

PBOL: Lastly, what's the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you on stage?
BB: I have a weird thing with my heels breaking off my shoes. The other night my four-inch, platform heel broke off coming down the stairs before I started singing one of my numbers. And I'm downstage, way down front, trying to do a balancing act on a tiny little coffee table, singing "Disco Inferno," with one heel on and one heel off. My first night on in The Scarlet Pimpernel, the heel on my boot broke away in the hideaway scene, and all I could think -- and this is a very emotional scene -- is, two scenes from now I have a sword fight, up and down stairs, for the first time on the set, and how am I going to do it with one heel. Thank God my incredible dresser from that show had another pair of boots waiting for me. Just like in SNF, they saw my heel break off and when I got back, they had another pair of shoes waiting for me.

PBOL: They actually had another pair of four-inch, platform shoes waiting for you?
BB: Oh, I have, like, six pairs in the show. And what's wild is some of them blend in color-wise with the other outfits, so we don't have to worry about them clashing.

PBOL: And if they did clash, what does it matter? This is Monty.
BB: What does it matter! Exactly! You're so right.

--By Robert Simonson