PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Jesus Christ Superstar's Bruce Dow

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Jesus Christ Superstar's Bruce Dow
 
Bruce Dow, currently stopping the show as King Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Bruce Dow
Bruce Dow

Dow's New York credits include Jane Eyre, The Music Man, Anything Goes and Grenadine.

He has worked 12 seasons at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in such productions as The Tempest, Cabaret, The Comedy of Errors, …Forum, Guys and Dolls, An Ideal Husband, Into the Woods, Man of La Mancha and The Merchant of Venice.

Full given name:

Bruce Edwin Dow It always amazes me how people can screw up the spelling and pronunciation of "Dow." They do. And it's just "cow" with a "d".

Where you were born/where you were raised:

Born in Seattle, WA, to an American father and a Canadian mother. Raised en-route on the I-5 and provincial highway 99 between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Zodiac Sign: Aries. Generally, I am very cheery and easy going for an Aries. Though, I can have my stupidly stubborn moments!

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I prefer the Chinese system of horoscopes. I am a "Rabbit running into the woods." It's a much better description of my personality.

What your parents did/do for a living:

My mother was a teacher. English grade 7 and 8. Hard work, but she loved it. She wanted to be in radio or advertising, but back then (late 40's early 50's) her father limited her choices to teacher/secretary/nurse. She loved teaching - but then had to give it up when she got married to my dad. Ah! The glories of a patriarchal society! After Dad left the picture, she went back to school for linguistics and sold real estate for a while.

My father was, in turns: an endodontic specialist (root canals and stuff); a marine biologist; a professional photographer; a specialist in molecular and cellular research; and involved in dental forensics. Bit of a socio-pathic over-achiever, my dad. He's an Aries, too.

Siblings:

Dad has been married three times. (Over-acheiver in a number of departments!) My sister and I are from "round two." I have two "halfs" from "round one" and two "steps" from "round three."

My sister Barbara, with whom I was raised, works in nursing and hospital management. (something like that!) She is gorgeous and totally kick-ass, and has two beautiful children who now are almost grown up now - my tall, handsome nephew Ryder and my beautiful niece, Leigh.

Special skills: Aside from things theatre and music (I've written a couple of musicals that have been professionally produced - I love to compose and "noodle"), I knit and I love trying to learn languages. Am working on a new sweater, and both Cantonese and Mandarin. Growing up on the west coast, all my friends from high school are either Chinese or Jewish. Made for good eating.
Something you're REALLY bad at: I am terrible at anything involving eye-hand coordination. I was tested as a kid and am technically ambidextrous. For most people this would mean they should be able to use both hands with equal ability. In my case, it means I can't use either hand much at all.
First Broadway show you ever saw:

Play: Indiscretions - an adaptation/translation of a Cocteau piece - with Eileen Atkins, Roger Rees, Kathleen Turner, Jude Law and Cynthia Nixon. TOTAL SCORE!!! It was wonderful. Musical: How to Succeed, Des's production with Matthew Broderick, Megan Mullally and Victoria Clark, and an all 'round amazing company. ANOTHER TOTAL SCORE!!! So great.

If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be?

I can't pick just one. I am a total theatre history geek. Plays: The Glass Menagerie with Laurette Taylor; The Rose Tattoo with Maureen Stapleton; David Belasco's original drama of Madame Butterfly, which inspired the Puccini opera.

Musicals: Kurt Weill and Elmer Rice's Street Scene. It's my favourite score. A mad blending of opera, Broadway and jazz.

Current show you have been recommending to friends: Porgy and Bess and Gore Vidal's The Best Man
Favorite showtunes of all time:

"Lonely House" from Street Scene
"As If We Never Said Goodbye" from Sunset Boulevard
"Rose's Turn" from Gypsy ... that's today's list. It's always changing. That's the beauty of a showtune - you can always find a perfect song to fit any mood at any given time.

Some favorite musicals:

Jesus Christ Superstar! I know, I know. But, it's true. It's one of the few scores from my youth that, for me, has stood up to the test of time. A lot of my formerly favourite scores, just don't excite me as much any more. Other faves include Light in the Piazza, Pacific Overtures, Adding Machine, Cabaret

Stage or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with:

I worked last year with one of my all time icons, Christopher Plummer. We did The Tempest at Stratford, which was subsequently filmed. It was the honour of a lifetime. He's the best of the best... and he cracks me up! Others I'd love to have had the chance to work with include: Bea Arthur, Judy Garland, Kim Stanley, Wendy Hiller, Peter O'Toole, James Cagney, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Lemmon... for starters.

The one performance – attended - that you will never forget:

John Doyle's production of Company, with Raúl Esparza and Barbara Walsh. It was great theatre. As it should be, music was an integral part of the drama in this staging. Even the orchestrations spoke to character relationships. Loved everyone in it and every moment of it. Mr. Esparza was beyond, beyond, beyond.

Music that makes you cry, any genre: Ralph Vaughn Williams' "Variations on a Theme by Thomas Thallis" and the opening choruses of John Adam's "The Death of Klinghoffer." Both are stunning. Blow your mind-kinda-music.
You personal acting idols:

Peter Donaldson. A brilliant Canadian stage and film actor who left us all-too-soon, last year. Judy Garland - so underrated as an actor, and the finest singing actor ever to have lived.

John Gielgud - the man could speak our language like no one else.


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Maggie Smith - has "the guts of a burglar," as my mom used to say. "Do it or don't bother!" acting at its best. Ernest Borgnine - Marty has to be one of the greatest performances of all time. So clean. I'm really getting off on specificity these days.

MAC or PC? MAC, though I am a little "iEverything"-ed out.
Most played song on your iPod:

Of all time is: " A Long Walk", Jill Scott. That woman is pure sunshine and sexiness. For most of the JCS run it has been Eminem/Rihanna's "Love The Way You Lie". (Not what you expected!?!)

Most-visited websites: menwhoknit.com, ravelry.com, ibdb.com, imdb.com, playbill.com I love looking stuff up. Can't get enough of facts, trivia and such.
Last book you read: "Bridge of San Luis Rey" by Thornton Wilder. It's my fave. I go back to it from time to time. Never gets old.
Must-see TV show(s): "Nurse Jackie," "American Horror Story," "The River," "Days of Our Lives" (when I can), the real old ABC daytime series of "Dark Shadows" (am not thrilled with how campy the new film looks) and "Fashion Police"
Last good movie you saw: "The Help" - Bryce Dallas Howard is a freak of brilliance.
Some films you consider classics: "Raise the Red Lantern," Neil Simon's "Murder by Death" and "The Wizard of Oz," of course.
Performer you would drop everything to go see:

Patti LuPone - I was in her presence very briefly - a benefit for LCT. I saw her "Matters of the Heart" concert and saw Patti and Mandy in Toronto. She's the real deal. The closest thing we have to what Garland used to do. Am kicking myself for missing her Gypsy.

Pop culture guilty pleasure: Katy Perry
Favorite cities: Istanbul, Paris, San Diego/La Jolla.
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: Thank goodness you put in "LP". "The Secret Life of Harpers Bizarre." (Ha! Find that one!)
First stage kiss

I went to a private boys' school for a while... yup, this is gonna get weird... In grade 4 I was "Morgana, the Slave Girl" in something called Oily Baba and the Forty Foreigners. Can't remember my hero's name... but... oh, dear...

(I'm joking. I did have to kiss him. But, I was "born this way.")

Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: When my mother explained to me that Adam West wasn't really Batman... but, then I still have huge self-doubts and apply to go back to university every 6-10 months or so. I do.
How you got your Equity card:

I lied that I was an Equity Apprentice and got an audition for a production of Jitters, a Canadian play by David French. I was still in University, but the schedule worked. We performed in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada. (Google Maps will help.)

Wow... That was almost 27 years ago.

Favorite pre-/post- show meal:

Singapore noodles. You can get them anywhere and they are always good and calming to the tummy. I can eat any Asian or South Asian food any time of day or night. It's great food to sing on. Yeah, yeah, I'm a big guy, but I can never eat much before a show... That's why the light, rice noodle kinda thing is a good choice. Right now, the company is eating a lot at Cha Pa's - a great little Vietnamese place on 52nd. And at the brilliant Cosmic Diner, 52 and 8th.

Favorite liquid refreshment:

I don't drink a lot, but I do like a non-alcohol beer. One can get tired of sodas and soda water. On the rare occasion when I "need a drink," I jump to the hard stuff - it's something with bourbon or gin - a Martini or a Manhattan. And a big bottle of sparkling water so I don't guzzle it. Doesn't take much to affect my "vertical hold."

Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: In youth one over-warms up. As you get older you tend to under-warm up. I'm trying to find my balance. I do a light/moderate vocal and light/moderate physical warm up. People tend to assume that, because I'm a full-figured-fella, I don't work out. But if you are gonna carry weight on stage, you've got to be in shape underneath it. "I've got a washboard stomach - I just threw in a load of towels!" (*cymbal crash!)
Worst job you ever had:

I've been lucky. I'm not afraid of work - so even the "joe-jobs" I've enjoyed and been proud to do. But I have been spoiled. I've been able to make a respectable living on stage for most of my adult life. I will say I am shocked the way people treat those who work in the "service industry." Box office, Front of House, Ushers, Bartenders... I've done all those jobs and people can be downright nasty for absolutely no reason. They just take on a "tone".

It's been interesting to watch people who know me as an actor treat me differently than they did when they didn't know I was their bartender!

When did you first see JCS?

I was 10 when my mother took my sister and me to see the movie of JCS. We had all seen Norman Jewison's film of Fiddler on the Roof two years before. Mom thought, "Oh another musical by that nice Mr. Jewison!" - we had no idea what we were getting into! I will never forget my mother's face after it was over - It was all rock and Jesus!!! But, my sister and I loved it. Mom grew to love it - she heard it often enough after that.

If you could trade roles with anyone in the show for a week, who would it be?

Jason Sermonia is one of the amazing singer/dancers in our company. (I should list them all - 'cause I'd kill to trade roles with any of them.) The things this kid/young man can do with his body just blow my mind. He defies gravity. To be able to do that for one day - let alone a whole week - would be like touching the face of God.

How did you research for this performance?

Des (McAnuff) always starts his rehearsal period with what he calls "a masters degree" in the play. We spent four days with our dramaturge, Chad Sylvain, talking about the sources for Tim Rice's libretto and the historiography of the various books of the bible Mr. Rice says he used as basis for the libretto. "Herod" of JCS is, in fact, Herod Antipas - one of the sons of Herod the Great. Antipas' life was a nightmare. Papa, the Great, killed most of Antipas' brothers out of jealousy, but he somehow survived. Antipas would have been the "King of the Jews" had the Romans not divided the country after the death of his father.

Five Andrew Lloyd Webber characters you'd most like to play (realistically or otherwise):

1. I'd love to be able to sing the Requiem. Any part of it. It's stunning. Truly stunning. 2. For fun, I'd love to play Andre/Firmin in Phantom. They've got a great obstacle to play and a kick-ass song.

3. George in Aspects of Love, again, it's a fascinating and twisted story to tell.

4. Norma Desmond. Not gonna lie. Who wouldn't?


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5. Jeeves, BY JEEVES. Again, great material.

Favorite screen/commercial roles: I've done some series TV in Canada/UK - mostly the now syndicated "Murdoch Mysteries." And I did a couple of episodes of the "Rick Mercer Report" - he's kinda Canada's Jon Stewart.
Leading man role you've been dying to play: Eventually I'd like to play Gloucester in Lear, or "Lear" himself. I'd love a kick at Sweeney - either Reno or Todd! Ha! Or Albin.
Leading lady role you wish you could play: Mama Rose. Who wouldn't want to play her!?! Like, Norma! Or Amanda Wingfield. Heck, I'd be good!
Something about you that surprises people: People tend to think that actors "are what they play." I am very comfortable at the stage door. I love people, and generally seem to be quite gregarious. But, in real life, I'm quiet, shy and bookish. I need a lot of alone-time. (I can also be kinda grumpy!)
Career you would want if not a performer:

I have a BFA in Acting and an MFA in Directing, minor in Theatre History. Using those, I'd love to teach acting/music theatre at the college/university level. Outside the arts - I'd go back to school to become a nurse. It's a tough profession, but I'm so proud of my sister. I think I could do it. I couldn't have years ago... but now, I think I could.

Three things you can't live without:

I've been doing a lot of purging of "stuff" lately. "Things" are very unimportant to me. I maybe have kept one tchotchke from each parent or grandparent and some special things from dear friends. The rest is gone and I'm not acquiring more. - I need my computer, because I love to write and my handwriting is a nightmare.
- I need music.
- Third thing? Pancakes!

"I'll never understand why…"

People are so selfish. I wish we could realize that we are, none of us, really that special or that interesting. But, somewhere along the line, we've become so "me"-centric. I believe life is like a seat in the theatre. Sure, we paid for our seat and we can do whatever we want in it - but it comes with the responsibility that whatever we do in that seat must not disturb the experience of the person next to us.

Words of advice for aspiring performers:

Focus on the work. Aspire to be a working actor. Get training. Acting is about telling stories. Not necessarily our own.

Theatre happens in the air between the actors and the audience. If it's just happening in the actor - that's where it should stay.

If you want to be famous, don't become an actor. Fame is a strange by-product of the business. Much like what goes into hot dogs.

Don't come to New York until you have some professional experience under your belt. Every time I've been on Broadway it has been quite by accident and completely unexpected. I've just been working, doing what I love to do, and I've landed here.

Keep staying out of New York as an option so your light doesn't get lost amongst all the bushels.

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