By Wayman Wong
01 Jun 2004
THE ĎLEADINGí CONTENDERS
Hugh Jackman: This wonder from Down Under is so Oz-some as Peter Allen that he makes everything old look Hugh again. So whatís the first Broadway musical he ever saw? "Cats. I loved it. I was 11, and my father took me [to see it in Australia]. I remember cats yelping out from behind me and scaring the hell out of me. My father also took me to La Cage Aux Folles, which kind of surprised me because my fatherís pretty religious, a straight kind of guy. When we got there, I thought, ĎMy fatherís made a mistake.í But I really liked it and my dad loved it, too. Itís a great show." . . . Dream roles? "Iím a big Shakespeare lover. Henry V would be a great part." . . . And his idea of heaven? "Something combining swimming, my family and a great meal. Iím a genuine lover of all food, except for liver. No liver!"
Hunter Foster: When you play opposite a monstrous, man-eating plant like Audrey II, itís not easy being seen, but Foster really blossomed as Seymour. Howís it feel getting a Tony nomination? "Really, really great. But thereís also been a backlash [against Little Shop of Horrors]. Not that the other revivals arenít great. They are. But our show wasnít nominated for a Drama Desk or Tony and hasnít gotten the recognition we deserve. Our reviews were generally positive, so I donít know why. But the cast has been so happy for me." . . . Whatís the latest word on his musical of Bonnie & Clyde? "We just did a reading with Christian Borle and Megan Lawrence and a lot of Urinetown people. Weíre in talks about doing a workshop." . . . Howís he feel about taking over the role of Leo Bloom in The Producers on June 15? "Itís gonna be fun. I saw it with Matthew [Broderick] and Nathan [Lane], and itís one of my favorite shows. And Iíd love to be in Young Frankenstein. Maybe thisíll help me get [into it]. Iíll do anything!"
Alfred Molina: Art isnít easy, and neither is scoring a Tony nod for a Broadway musical debut, but thatís what Alfred Molina did. Whenís the last time he did a musical? "Twenty-three years ago in London. It was Destry Rides Again. I did the Andy Griffith part, and itís where I met my wife [Jill Gascoine]. She played Frenchy. I also once did Judd Fry in Oklahoma! . . . What does he enjoy most about Tevye? "Itís just one of the greatest parts in one of the greatest musicals ever written. My favorite moments are when he talks to God." . . . Molina also plays Dr. Ock, a villain with eight tentacles in the "Spider-Man 2" movie opening June 30. It stars Tobey Maguire, who says Molina is "awesome." And how was his co star? "Working with Tobey was great, just great." Molina once joked that he hadnít had calamari since the shooting. True? "Iíve had it several times. Iím a big fan of the dish!"
Euan Morton: If anyone from Taboo deserves a Rosie future, itís this amazing actor. Boy George says, "This boy did a better job of playing me than I ever did." If he had a chance, would Morton do anything differently? "No, I donít think I would. Maybe I wouldnít have mentioned that I wore high heels around the house back at the beginning; thatís all the Scottish press writes about. But I had a fantastic ride in Taboo, and we had a great cast. Rosie OíDonnell and Kelly [Carpenter] are still supporting me. Theyíve been like my mother . . . and my mother." . . . What was it like working with that ensemble? "I had a really easy job. I spent most of my time with Raul [Esparza], Jeffrey [Carlson] or Cary [Shields]. We had a terrific time. But it was difficult when you have two men [Cary and me] playing lovers. They got us to both kiss on the first day of rehearsals, and I was so nervous. So was he. Thank God, it was Cary. By the end, I thought I really was in love with him [laughs]."
NOTABLE QUOTES AT TONY TIME
Heard among the whirlwind of awards shows, CD signings and parties:
Raul Esparza: "Taboo was fraught with so much horrible publicity, so much anxiety and so much crap, frankly, but Euan, for me, became the center of the show. He is a beautiful actor who gives every last inch of everything he has to the part. We had an extraordinary time onstage, and it was a joy to do. Stephen Sondheim said he was enormously moved by Taboo, and Michael John LaChiusa saw it three times. I would not have been able to give the performance I gave if it hadnít been for Euan. Or Rosie OíDonnell. She adores this community and poured so much love and money and time into it. I hope she gets up on her horse and tries again because we need producers like that to say that Broadway is important and needs to be seen."
Rod from Avenue Q: "Iím so thrilled about going to the Tonys and meeting Hugh Jackman. Iíve seen The Boy From Oz 475 times. I tried to bid on Hughís T-shirt during the Broadway Cares fund-raising, but I couldnít carry that much money on me because I donít have any pockets."
Douglas Sills: "Audrey II is not happy about Joey Fatone joining Little Shop of Horrors [on June 24] because she fears heíll upstage her. But Audrey II might leave Broadway and set her sights on higher office. She offers, as an example, George Bush. She says, ĎLook how far a well operated puppet can go!í"
THEY WROTE THE BOOK ON ĎBROADWAYí
If you think working in theatre is glitzy and ritzy, youíve got to read David Wienir and Jodie Langelís "Making It on Broadway" (Allworth Press). Itís a heartbreaking, humbling and hilarious look at todayís Great White Way. Wienir and Langel interviewed more than 150 performers ó including over 50 Tony Award winners and nominees, featuring Donna McKechnie, Donna Murphy and Lea Salonga. Plus, itís loaded with "Leading Men" alumni: Antonio Banderas, Matt Bogart, Stephen Buntrock, Jarrod Emick, Marc Kudisch, Hugh Panaro, Jim Walton and Patrick Wilson.
Candidly and courageously, they reveal their aspirations, aggravations and frustrations with a life in the theatre. Hunter Foster recalls how the porters used to kill rats during Grease!: "The rats would get caught in glue traps. Sometimes, in the middle of the show, the porters would put a box on top of a rat and stomp on the box. One time, I was downstairs and I heard this squealing. It was awful!" Speaking of feeling trapped, actors also speak out about the "Disneyfication" of theatre, the corporate machinery of mega musicals and stunt casting. Adrian Zmed says, "Most of the celebrities [on Broadway] today suck." Nor is winning a Tony a guarantee of fame and fortune, says Scott Wise, who took home a trophy for Jerome Robbinsí Broadway. Three months after his big night, he says, "I was at a kidsí birthday party dressed up as a Teenage Ninja Turtle. Hey, look at me! Tony winner! Tony winner!"
Wienir and Langel, who have been dating for ten years, say their illuminating book aims to address the misconceptions about theatre for both performers and audiences. The authors especially empathize with todayís working actors. Wienir, 33, grew up in Southern California, where he made his stage debut playing a potato at age 6. At Oxford University, he started the first rock a cappella group, and he is currently an entertainment lawyer for Coudert Brothers LLP in New York. Langel, 32, who grew up in Ossining, N.Y., made her Broadway debut as Cosette in Les Misťrables. She has toured in Cats, Martin Guerre and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and is now pursuing her MFA in theatre at UCLA.
Wienir and Langel interviewed dozens and dozens of actors over the past four years. So which stories didnít make the book? Wienir says, "The ones people were most afraid of, like personal experiences with casting." One actor who played Marius on a tour of Les Miz recalled rejecting the advances of a male director; afterward, he was demoted to chorus and told he was "too Jewish-looking to play Marius."
Has the book confronted any criticism? Wienir says, "Claude-Michel SchŲnberg [the composer of Les Miz] is worried that this book will shatter the dreams of kids throughout America. I donít. I think itís going to inspire them. Once they know whatís really going on, theyíll be more prepared to pursue a successful career. What drives me crazy is when people tell performers: "Donít complain. Youíre lucky." So in effect thereís been this gag order in theatre. But Iím hoping this book is a reality check that encourages Broadway to change and grow in a more positive direction."
Wienir and Langel, along with Broadway actors theyíve interviewed, will appear June 10 at 7 PM at Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Center, 1972 Broadway, NYC.
For more information, visit www.makingitonbroadway.com. Continued...