David Alan Grier succeeds Whoopi Goldberg July 15 as Pseudolus in the Broadway revival of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Grier gave an audience of reporters and photographers a sneak peak at his interpretation of the Roman slave July 10. Playbill On-Line was there.
In blue jeans and a Forum t-shirt, Grier performed "Comedy Tonight," joined by the company, also in rehearsal clothes. Grier was then joined by Hero (Jim Stanek) to sing "Free." Grier is the third to play Pseudolus in this revival, following Goldberg and Tony-winner Nathan Lane.
Known mostly for his comic improvising on TV's "In Living Color," as well as for his work in films like Jumanji,, Tales From the Hood and Boomerang, Grier is no stranger to Broadway. He starred in the Jackie Robinson Broadway musical The First, and Off-Broadway in A Soldier's Play.
After hamming it up for the television cameras in the mezzanine lobby of the St. James Theatre, Grier said, "It's like I've done half the work now because I've rehearsed the play with everyone else and we've just put it on its feet. Ad libs came today that I never did in rehearsal. The second half is when the audience starts to come in and you start to improv with them, that really puts the signature on the role."
Grier saw the show early in its run, and he thought he'd be good for the role. "It was just great to see how Nathan Lane made it work...and then Whoopi was totally different yet totally worked, so that's only convinced me more that I could do it." Grier said he has no problem following the likes of Goldberg and Lane. "I'm just trying to be true to me and my own personal voice as opposed to trying to recreate anything I saw before -- unless it's funny and it works, then I will steal it and claim it for my own!"
"The cast that I'm working with is really nice, friendly, no trouble yet, but check with me in six weeks," Grier joked. "You know how that is: first day, nice-nice and then all hell breaks loose!"
As the company rehearsed "Lovely" and "Bring Me My Bride" on stage, Grier said that composer Stephen Sondheim "really tries to continue the dialogue and mold the conversation into the music so that it's all one through line. So in that sense I find it really easy, I really like the music that I'm singing."
When asked about his time as a replacement in 1981's Dreamgirls Grier joked, "You mean the 1990 revival, yes?"
Grier said that now on Broadway, "everyone's younger, prettier...they have electricity now. When I was a youngster they didn't have any of that."
Things have changed on Broadway since Grier's last turn on stage. "The strangest aspect of New York to me is walking down 42nd St. And hearing New Yorkers complain 'where are the hookers?', only in New York!"
Is there another musical theatre role Grier would like to play in the future? "Ragtime. Coalhouse Walker," a role Grier claims he turned down because of the two-year commitment. To do Forum Grier said he turned down several film offers. When he hangs up his toga in November, Grier said, he will return to Los Angles to work on a new sitcom with Damon Wayans for Fox-TV.
For tickets ($25-$75) and information on Forum call (212) 239-6200. You can also order tickets on Playbill On-Line.