PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Jason Danieley

PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Jason Danieley Jason Danieley should be looking forward to his last weeks of work, should be packing up to go back to wife, 2000 Tony Award-nominee Marin Mazzie and anticipating a summer off to concentrate on singing the new composers he loves (he's had a hand in several new work debuts, including Adam Guettel's Off-Broadway production of Floyd Collins). Not this summer, however. While he'll still be singing new music he loves, Danieley will spend these hot months until September readying himself for his first role on Broadway since he starred in Livent's ill-fated Candide. As the gentle, suicidal Malcolm Macgregor in David Yazbek and Terrence McNally's The Full Monty, now in an extended pre Broadway run at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, Danieley is preparing to bare his soul -- and bare all -- every night at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.

Jason Danieley should be looking forward to his last weeks of work, should be packing up to go back to wife, 2000 Tony Award-nominee Marin Mazzie and anticipating a summer off to concentrate on singing the new composers he loves (he's had a hand in several new work debuts, including Adam Guettel's Off-Broadway production of Floyd Collins). Not this summer, however. While he'll still be singing new music he loves, Danieley will spend these hot months until September readying himself for his first role on Broadway since he starred in Livent's ill-fated Candide. As the gentle, suicidal Malcolm Macgregor in David Yazbek and Terrence McNally's The Full Monty, now in an extended pre Broadway run at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, Danieley is preparing to bare his soul -- and bare all -- every night at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.

Playbill On-Line: How did you end up doing The Full Monty? Did you have an inexplicable urge to strip?
Jason Danieley: My wife had worked with Terrence on Ragtime, so we have a relationship. He mentioned he was working on this. When they were casting for the workshop, I went in, having no real idea other than the movie and that it was funny. I read the original script that Terrence mocked up -- there were no songs then. But I knew if Terrence was involved, it was going to be a good quality piece -- and with [Old Globe artistic director and Full Monty director] Jack O'Brien involved, that it would be even greater. A new composer is always thrilling. I've worked with a lot of new composers over the years. Yazbek, as I refer to him -- David -- actually worked in a band with Adam Guettel, so there was sort of a recommendation there. But from the first workshop, it was evident that this was a piece worth putting a year's work into.

PBOL: Tell me about one of your big numbers and the best show tune title for 2000, "Big Ass Rock."
JD: In it, Patrick [Wilson, who plays Jerry Lukowski, the Robert Carlyle role] is starting to get John [Ellison Conlee, who plays Dave, the overweight best friend] into this stripping thing to make money. So they're trying to get into shape, running through the park -- exactly like the movie -- and they stumble on this car with my character, Malcolm, sitting in it, trying to commit suicide. They pull him out and say -- paraphrasing, not drawing on the brilliant lyrics -- "You idiot, what are you doing?" Malcolm is a bit simplistic. He's led a very sheltered life; he's lived with only his mother and knows little about anything but working in the factory. These guys come along with their sarcastic humor and win him over by singing this song that we'll help you kill yourself. A true friend would help you do anything, especially kill yourself. "Let's find a big ass rock or a cinderblock or something and I'll drop it on your face." They go through this whole process of ways to help me kill myself. Then there's sort of a revelation for Malcolm that he's finally found friends.

PBOL: I have to ask about IT. You, know, the full monty. You guys get completely naked in this show. Is this your first time undressing for an audience?
JD: It's not my first nude scene. One of my first big jobs was going to Europe for 10 months with Hair and there's that lovely nude scene in that show. [With Full Monty] we didn't actually know until we got to San Diego what the ending was going to be like. It was hush, hush; they didn't want to give it away to us. I think it's very tastefully done. We're lit from behind and we can see the entire audience, every person in the house. It's so great! Everyone has a different take on that moment. Some people are hiding behind their fingers, peeking through their hands. Some of the older audiences are the most enthusiastic about that moment, grasping each other, holding their breath, their eyes wide. And some people, their eyes are darting around, trying to see everything they can!

PBOL: You know, I almost forgot to ask the "naked question." I can't believe it. I guess you get asked about the nude scene a lot.
JD: I know that it's going to be one of the big draws of the show, but everytime it comes up I really talk about it only because I guess it's the pay-off. I mean, we're not changing musical theatre, but there are serious and important issues in the show. But [nudity] is the great pay-off. PBOL: With the getting naked thing, there must have been some embarrassing moments. Can you remember anything that's happened to you or one of your cast members?
JD: There are embarrassing moments that happen all the time in The Full Monty! Particularly in those last few moments when we're taking off our G strings. I don't want to give too much away, but we have to take something away and replace it with something else and sometimes....the timing's bad, the lights aren't ready yet... The other day, I threw my G string up in the air and it landed on Patrick's face, which was probably more embarrassing for him, but I was embarrassed that I had to come offstage and face him.

PBOL: Is there any person in the theatre you particularly admire, someone you would consider your favorite person working in the business today?
JD: Honestly, there's this actress called Marin Mazzie. [Laughs] Marin and I met each other in Trojan Women: A Love Story five years ago Off Broadway. I didn't know Marin before that except for Passion, which I'd seen twice and loved. I loved her work in it. I have tremendous respect for her. She's so hard-working. I've seen the process she goes through. You don't always get to see how each person comes up with what they come up with. But I see Marin's research, all the love she pours out and the great respect she has for her castmates, everyone from the guys on the fly rail to, you know, Brian. I have great respect for that, not only loving her as my wife, but also as a professional. Also, I have tremendous respect and admiration for my peers working in the trenches on new material, making these new voices heard: Brian d'Arcy James, Theresa McCarthy, who I did Floyd Collins and Dream True with, the Martin Morans and the Henry Strams -- those people who have been around for a long time, cultivating friendships and great working relationships with the new artists. Those people I have tremendous respect for.

PBOL: Back to Marin. It must have been difficult working on Tony Awards night this year, huh?
JD: It was excruciating! Oh, my God! We had a show and, of course, we're three hours behind New York. I didn't know when the category was going to be up, so I had my cell phone backstage -- not on me -- just right backstage. Someone had it, waiting to hear.

PBOL: Is there any role you are dying to play -- maybe one that's already been written?
JD: I'd love to play -- funny, because it's just coming up -- Curly in Oklahoma!, one of the great, great roles. Aside from that, I love doing new shows and the prospect of not knowing what's out there. Malcolm, from this show, is a great character actor part, which I don't typically get to do. Usually I'm expected to fall in love, sing the love song...which is great, but the definitions are changing and I love that. I'd work with any of the guys coming up: Adam Guettel, Ricky Gordon, Jason Robert Brown. Of course, I don't mean to exclude the composers who are established who are constantly reinventing themselves -- John Kander and Fred Ebb, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Steve Sondheim -- those people who are still making musical theatre fresh and new and exciting. They're all included in the great surprise of doing a new role.

--By Christine Ehren