THE LEADING MEN: Batt, O'Hare, Steggert, Wilson, Herdlicka, Hydzik, Heredia, Cantone, Jbara

News   THE LEADING MEN: Batt, O'Hare, Steggert, Wilson, Herdlicka, Hydzik, Heredia, Cantone, Jbara Leading Men-o-Mania! It's the annual Broadway Flea Market column, where we chatted up as many guys as we could at this year's event in Shubert Alley.

Bryan Batt
Bryan Batt Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

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The 24th Flea Market and Grand Auction, held Sept. 26, raised $476,917 dollars for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which is excellent. If you couldn't make it this year and would like to contribute, check out www.broadwaycares.org for ways to do just that.

BRYAN BATT
I bumped into Broadway and "Mad Men" veteran Bryan Batt (and other Leading Men) backstage at the Marquis Theatre, which was the photo area for the people signing at autograph tables. Turns out we were standing in a former dressing room of his.

This used to be your playground, so to speak, in the days of the first Broadway revival of La Cage aux Folles?
It was Gary Beach's, and I went on for him a few times.

So the standby gets the star's dressing room?
You do, you do. And you receive people. I remember Tina Fey came to see me, because a friend of mine used to work with her on "Saturday Night Live." That was the big star that got to see me in La Cage. It's great when people come. I get a little nervous though. You are such a positive guy. How do you keep an even keel in this business?
I look at it all as a gift. So many people want to do it, and you work so hard to get the jobs on Broadway, on film and television, it is such a random shot and such a gift that to ruin it, in my opinion, would be the biggest blasphemy around. I'm so grateful for "Mad Men." I mean, who knew that this pilot we shot in 2006 would become this huge thing? And from my first Broadway show, Starlight Express, I was in heaven, even though I can't walk because of that show. [Laughs.]

So, I have to ask, will you be back on "Mad Men"?
Ahhhh. They tell me I'm not dead, so that's good. In fact [show creator] Matt Weiner said that backstage at the Emmys to a CNN reporter who singled me out.

Does someone ask that every day?
Oh, God, yes! It's really lovely that so many people love the show and come up and compliment me on the character. I stopped counting, but the most times in one day is 32.

 

Denis O'Hare
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

DENIS O'HARE
Tony-winner Denis O'Hare (Take Me Out, Sweet Charity) has built himself a career on stage, screen and now HBO's "True Blood," which has given him a role that people love to loathe.

How do you like hanging out at an event like the Broadway Flea Market with your fellow theatre actors?
In Shubert Alley! It's historic. It's the center of the theatrical world, and they give you food afterward. I always tell directors, just give me food the first day and you've bought me for life. I'm like a dog.

You've done so much stage and film — and TV work now, with "True Blood." Are you ever surprised by what people recognize you for?
Yeah. You never want to denigrate what someone thinks was your best work, so you always want to ratify their choice and say, "Yeah, that's great!" But sometimes it is shocking. It's funny because I was playing Russell on "True Blood" and people really like this character a lot, which I think is great on one level. On another level I'm like, "You know he's really evil? So what is it you like about him?" They like the humor, the charm, the freedom and outrageousness, they identify with that.

I was watching "Michael Clayton" the other night. You have a brief but very cool scene in that. Any recollections?
"Michael Clayton" for me was one night. I showed up on set the night George Clooney had won his Oscar, and around ten at night we started shooting and he walked in with the statue in his hand and he held it aloft and passed it around so everyone in the crew could hold it for a second. Then we went into our scene, it was a little intimidating for me. [Laughs.]

Did you wish you'd had your Tony?
Yes, it was like, "Where's my Tony? I usually carry it." [Laughs.]

BOBBY STEGGERT
Rising star Steggert was much-feted for his work in Ragtime (Tony nomination), Yank and The Grand Manner, all in 2009-10.

So, you've had an eventful last year.
It was a weird year.

In a positive way?
Absolutely positive. I mean, all I want to do is work, so it was strange to get so much focus on me for a show [Ragtime] that ran a short amount of time, but I'm grateful because it gave me an opportunity and I just want to do more good work.

Did it kill you that Ragtime didn't last?
In the moment, yes, because I loved doing it, but everything that's happened since allowed me to play other interesting people and get involved in other interesting projects, so I see it as sort of a blessing in disguise, because I liked Ragtime so much that I'd still be doing it right now, but it was so emotionally demanding that I would probably be in therapy by now if I were still doing it. [Laughs.]

You grew up around Washington, DC. Did you come up and see Broadway shows as a kid?
My mom and I would come up. One of the first shows I saw was Damn Yankees in this theatre. I remember just loving every minute of it.

Wilson Jermaine Heredia
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

WILSON JERMAINE HEREDIA
The Tony Award winner for his role as Angel in Rent recently starred in Off-Broadway's Tales from the Tunnel (it was running at the time of the Flea Market, and closed in early October.)

Looking back, what has Rent meant to you?
It's a show that changed everything. Last night I was chatting with a friend about finding more opportunities in film and TV and so forth. We were saying how there is someone like Michael Douglas, what are the films that people associate with him? You think, "Basic Instinct" and "Wall Street." I said, "I'd like to have that one thing that people associate me with," and then I stopped — "Wait a second, I do have that. I do have that one thing!" [Laughs.]

PATRICK WILSON
Another movie star who never hesitates to work onstage and support his favorite Broadway charity, Wilson will next be seen in "Morning Glory" with Harrison Ford, Rachel McAdams and Diane Keaton. On Oct. 18 he appeared in a Broadway reading of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart.

How do you like the atmosphere of this kind of event, where you commune with Broadway stars and fans alike?
It's a rare thing because you don't get this vibe outside of a convention. That's what is great: to be very approachable with Broadway fans. Fans of theatre have a very die-hard love that is respected by every actor. For instance, I got a Playbill to sign today from one of the first stops on my tour of Carousel which was like 15 years ago or something crazy. That's really neat to see somebody hanging onto that kind of stuff, because I did that. I literally learned people's names through Playbills, so I had an easy conversation starter when I would meet people at parties, I would know what shows people have been in, etc. "Oh, so you were in the chorus of so-and-so..." And they'd say, "Why did you know that?" "Uh, no reason." I was good at parties.

Do you save stuff from your own shows, your own memorabilia?
I do. I try to take one thing from every show or movie. Like a piece of the set?
Depends. Carousel, I have a buoy from that set. Usually it is just articles of clothing. These boots I'm wearing now, I wore in "The A-Team." These are my "A-Team" boots.

Greg Jbara
photo by Aubrey Reuben

GREG JBARA
Fans can see Greg in his Tony-winning performance in Billy Elliot from now until June 26, 2011.

You've been involved with BC/EFA for awhile.
Twenty years. Since 1988. I've seen the benefits this organization provides. I'm a believer. I can remember when it was just Jerry Mitchell putting together the original Easter Bonnet competition, back when I was doing Born Yesterday and spending all my free time with hot glue and foam core building our nation's capitol that was going to ride on Heather Ehlers' head as she wore nothing but a bikini, which was my favorite part of her outfit. It's come a long way. Now Broadway Cares has raised something like $200 million dollars. It is fun to be in a show and do the plea at the end of the show and see how people rally and contribute.

What do you like about the Broadway Flea Market event?
It's nice because you get to relive your history as an actor. People bring Playbills from shows that I did like playing Frankenstein's Monster Off-Broadway. You go, "Wow! Look what I used to look like!" It reminds you how much people really enjoy theatre and makes you feel privileged to be a part of it.

Is it still tough being on the other side of the country from your family?
They were here for the summer and we tore the town apart. One good thing now is the show now starts a half-hour earlier, which means I get home a half-hour earlier, so now I'm online with the boys before they go to bed!

MARIO CANTONE
The stage actor (Assassins), film and TV star ("Sex and the City") and comedian has several shows coming up at Caroline's on Broadway Nov. 11-14.

What keeps you involved with Broadway Cares?
For me, this is my charity. I wish it didn't exist and that the virus didn't exist in the world. But I love the benefits BC/EFA does. They know how to do it. I was thinking, they get to know you early on during your Broadway career, so you develop a relationship with them through the years.

When I saw you in Assassins, you seemed to be having such fun onstage…
It was magnificent. It has been all downhill from there. I'm sad it didn't last longer. That was an amazing year because I did three shows in a row. I did The Violet Hour; that tanked. I did Assassins which critically did very well, and then I did my show, Laugh Whore — that was all [in] 2003-04. Jesus, time flies!

What are you working on now?
Nothin'. [Laughs.] I'm doing my one-man show in Boston and shows at Caroline's. We'll see what the New Year brings. There are a couple of things that may happen, and if they don't, I'll stay home and bake.

Matthew Hydzik
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

MATTHEW HYDZIK
The Steelers fan from Pittsburgh is firmly-entrenched as Tony in West Side Story, and now falling for a new Maria.

Do you still enjoy playing such an iconic character?
I love it like a disease and its cure. We just lost our Maria [Josefina Scaglione], who I've known since the moment she stepped off the plane into the U.S. because I auditioned with her and they cast her on the spot. She just [recently] left the show…and it broke my heart, so I'm still trying to get over that. I feel like I got dumped by the most popular girl in high school. But we have a great new girl, Sarah Amengual, she's fantastic.

That show seems to always be breaking new people in. Has that been tough?
It has always been positive. This is the first time I've been in a show with this much transition, but it is also the first time I've been in a show this long. I've been with it from the beginning, starting as a standby and I took over full-time about nine months ago. Everybody pulls their weight. The producers do a great job of hiring new people so when new people come in, there's a support system in place.

Do the Jets and Sharks get to be friends offstage?
Sometimes I'll go a month without really talking to someone because we're always running around, and the show is segregated, literally, onstage. Originally Jerome Robbins had it where they weren't allowed to have lunch together or talk. But I hang out with Bernardo [George Akram] pretty much more than anyone else.

JOHN TARTAGLIA
The erstwhile Avenue Q star's creation, ImaginOcean washed ashore at New World Stages, where Q is also playing.

Tell us about your new Off-Broadway venture, ImaginOcean.
It's similar to Avenue Q in that I never expected it to be Off-Broadway. It was created because Royal Caribbean asked me to create a children's show for them. People loved it so much that we got asked to bring it to New World Stages. So that's been great. It is the first theatrical piece that I've written that's been produced, and I love any time that you can bring theatre to younger audiences. I'm passionate about getting kids to the theatre so they grow up with it in their lives, so it isn't just a one-time experience for them. I wrote it so the whole family can watch it and there is something in it for everybody. Some people will laugh. Little, little kids won't get all the humor but they will love the puppets and the glow-in-the-dark aspect and the music.

You aren't actually performing in the show though?
I'm not in it at all. My voice is, six of my voices. It's weird to walk by a theatre and be like, "There's a show going on! My voice is there and people are hearing me. My name's there, but I'm not there!" But it's all good, it's really cool.

You are one of the truly good guys around the theatre, what keeps you grounded?
My mother's an actress and I grew up around the theatre, so I think I kind of got from an early age how much of a privilege it is to perform, and I think that part of it is that I have wonderful friends around me who aren't driven by this, so I think they remind me what life is about. And I'm lucky. I get to do a lot of different things. I just try to look at [my career] as a gift. I know it is probably not going to be here forever, so I try to appreciate it. I've seen too many people not appreciate it and not be in the moment, so I'm hoping to do that as much as I can.

Hunter Ryan Herdlicka
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

HUNTER RYAN HERDLICKA
A Little Night Music's Henrik is from Texas, but came to NYC via Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh, which he says gave him preparation for big-city life. He will also return to Feinstein's at Loews Regency Nov. 15 at 8:30 PM with his solo show, I (Still) Happen to Like New York; call (212) 339-4095 for tickets.

You bore witness as Night Music went from Catherine Zeta-Jones to Bernadette Peters, how would you describe that?
It's been an even bigger dream come true because I grew up with a headshot of Bernadette hanging up in my bedroom my whole life. So to be onstage with her every night is unbelievable, it is exactly what Bradley [Dean] and Stephen [Buntrock] said in your last column, a dream come true.

Was it incredible for you from the beginning, being onstage with superstars and legends?
It was so much at once, that it didn't really hit me what was going on. I moved here and within a week I started rehearsals for the show, and I was working with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury, and all the press happened and we were in previews and then we opened and it was all at once. It wasn't until a few months later that it sunk in and I realized, "Oh my gosh, I'm on Broadway with Catherine and Angela!" And then Bernadette came in and Elaine Stritch, it was all that all over again, but I got to experience it in a whole different way.

What is your favorite part of a night at Night?
Talking to Bernadette backstage. When I hear the five-minute call, I run down and tune the cello because I play cello in the show, and I am so excited for when Bernadette comes down because she comes over and talks to me. It really is as cheesy and nerdy as that.

(Tom Nondorf can be reached at tnondorf@playbill.com.)

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