PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Andy Karl

PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Andy Karl Andy Karl's role in the new Broadway musical 9 to 5 is unique in the universe of the show.
Andy Karl
Andy Karl

Not only does he get to sing a Dolly Parton song that is new to the world, having been specifically written for the musical, but, unlike much of the rest of the cast — which includes Allison Janney, Stephanie J. Block, Megan Hilty, and Marc Kudisch — he is creating a role that wasn't in the 1980 film "9 to 5." As Joe, Janney's love interest, he can put his full stamp on a part without worry of the influence of the popular movie. Broadway and Off-Broadway veteran Karl talked to Playbill.com about Parton, Janney and Orfeh, a frequent co-star who also happens to be his wife.

Playbill.com: You play Joe, a character who wasn't in the film.
Andy Karl: Correct. They knew they wanted to create a love interest for Violet, who is played by Allison Janney. I came along last year in their last reading. There was this part of Joe that they wanted to do something with. They couldn't pinpoint it. I did a reading. It was interesting that there was a May-December romance, and there was a nice guy in the office. The show is really about women's rights, and they wanted to make sure that they didn't just bash men.

Playbill.com: So you're the nice guy in the story.
AK: Yeah, I'm the nice guy. I'm also heavily interested in Violet. That also gives Violet's role a well-roundedness. We get a little bit more of her history when she opens up to me. She's the senior office manager and the boss' right-hand person. She's the smart go-getter.

Marc Kudisch with Andy Karl in 9 to 5
photo by Craig Schwartz

Playbill.com: Is most of your stage time with Janney?
AK: Yes. I have a few good scenes and most of them are just trying to get her out on a date! It's the old story. Boy Meets Girl, Girl Likes Boy but won't go out with boy until they open up to each other. Playbill.com: Do you guys get a song?
AK: Yeah. I have a great song that Dolly wrote. I'm going to say she wrote it for me, but she wrote it for the show. (Laughs) It's called "Let Love Grow." It's really a pretty, pretty song. I have a great time singing it. It's a simple, beautiful song about opening up your heart to love, and Dolly has a knack for those kind of songs that break your heart. Even when I'm singing them, I get a little teary-eyed. Playbill.com: Is this the first role in a new musical that you've originated on Broadway?
AK: Unless you count Kyle the UPS guy in Legally Blonde.

Playbill.com: We can count him. You were in that show with your wife, Orfeh. Acting on stage with your real-life partner can be tricky. How was that?
AK: We had a blast. That show was our fifth show together. We met on Broadway in Saturday Night Fever years ago. It's been magic ever since. We have a great time working together. And in Legally Blonde, we were love interests in the show — it was the easiest job I ever had.

Orfeh and Andy Karl
photo by Aubrey Reuben

Playbill.com: Saturday Night Fever had a rough tenure on Broadway. It was not loved by the critics. What are your memories of the show now, looking back?
AK: We had a great time, because that's where we met. I've got to tell you, I think that show deserves so much more credit than it got. The choreography was fantastic in that show. It was some of the hardest choreography I've ever done. I had a blast. It was like going to a disco every night. What could be so bad about that? I understudied the lead and went on quite a few times, doing a John Travolta impersonation. Playbill.com: You were in the original Luke in the cast of Altar Boyz. Were you surprised by the success of that show Off-Broadway?
AK: We knew we had something good. It became a sort of litmus test for young men who come to New York and want to get a job. They wanted to do Altar Boyz; that's the show they wanted to do. I'd meet them every now and again. Actually, the last Luke in Altar Boyz just joined 9 to 5. He's 21, which is literally eight years younger than when I started Altar Boyz!

Playbill.com: Here's a trivia question. Orfeh goes by one name on stage, but, legally, is her name Orfeh Karl?
AK: She didn't even take my last name! She wanted to keep it strictly Orfeh. Orfeh all the way. There is only one Orfeh. I'll let her have it.