THEATERGOER'S NOTEBOOK -- April 1998
There's something determined about the jawline -- the way it frames that angelic face -- that convinces you Brian d'Arcy James would indeed, as he does each week in Titanic, give up his seat in the lifeboat.
That beau geste constitutes one of the show's major heartbreaks -- you suddenly realize you've grown to care about this strapping young stoker who has a girl to marry when he gets back -- so it's a jolt to learn this ennobling act never happened. "It's not documented" is Brian's way of breaking it to us gently. In fact, Frederick Barrett -- the character he plays -- survived the tragedy heroically: "He served to the last possible second in the boiler room before he bolted topside and skippered Lifeboat No. 13 to safety."
Brian's inspiration to act was the example of his uncle, Brian Kelly, who starred as the father in TV's "Flipper" and was on the brink of feature-film stardom as Jacqueline Susann's The Love Machine when a motorcycle accident permanently sidelined him. Still paralyzed, he stayed in the business and has executive-produced flicks like Blade Runner. "Like any actor, he told me not to do it, but it did no good. Acting really took hold at Northwestern."
His alma mater pressed him into service at the last Kennedy Center Honors to serenade a fellow alum, Charlton Heston. He sang Guys and Dolls' "More I
Cannot Wish You," and his lilting tenor made mush of Moses.
After Northwestern, Brian came directly to Broadway, got to go on for Con O'Neill in Blood Brothers and made the Carousel ensemble. He met his fiancee rehearsing "June Is Bustin' Out All Over." Jennifer Prescott literally came flying into his uncertain arms, twirling feverishly. They will wed in August.