DIVA TALK: Chatting with Billy Elliot's Haydn Gwynne Plus News of McArdle, Marcovicci and Migenes

By Andrew Gans
09 Jan 2009

Hadyn Gwynne and her girls
photo by David Scheinmann
Question: How long will you be staying with the production on Broadway?
Gwynne: At the moment all I can say is I am contracted until mid-July.

Question: I would think it would be difficult to not become attached to some of the young actors who play the role. Was it that way in London?
Gwynne: You do. Here, they've started the journey without you and you've joined in. [In London] although [the Billy had] been through the preparation process in terms of the show, we all were starting out completely together. And, also we had a long period before we got the show on. We literally started work in November, and the show didn't open until…previews were in March, but we didn't open until May! It took forever, so you do get attached. . . . I worked with seven Billys. I always went back to see my Billys leave, and that went on until about a year ago. Unless I was working, I always went back for their last performance. We still keep in touch and [they] send me texts and stuff. I saw a couple of them over here, actually, while we were rehearsing. They popped in. Depending on what they do, I'm sure we'll be in touch. And the show is very good. It's not like, "Okay, you're too tall. Bye! See you then!" They're very good at the sort of post-Billy care.

Question: One last question. Why do you think [Billy Elliot] has been so successful all around the world now?
Gwynne: There's no magic formula. It can be all of the things I'm about to say and still not work. There are ingredients that you're never going to know. One can say it has a very strong story that we know about from the film. What it's got in addition, I think, unquestionably, it's now got more layers than the film because it now gives the whole miner story a community. That can be told onstage in the way that it couldn't in a low-budget movie. So you've also got the very strong political story — you've got something now that's working on several levels. . . . I think it's got a sophisticated appeal as well as its simple appeal. So a very strong emotional story, a strong political story, but then it's also very funny. A lot of it is very funny. A lot of it is very moving. And then it is, paradoxically, it's a very, very theatrical piece. Peter Darling's work choreographically is just fantastic. But at the same time a lot of it is rather cinematic in how fluid all of the scenes are. And then the music works, which is very eclectic. It works very well in its context. It is a supremely theatrical piece, and you do get a lot of bang for your buck. [Laughs.] There's just so much going on, and I think it does have several real hair-tingling moments per part.

[Billy Elliot — The Musical plays the Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th Street. For tickets call (212) 239-6200 or visit www.telecharge.com.]

Julia Migenes
photo by Michael Putland - Retna
Complete casting has been announced for the Reprise Theatre Company's upcoming production of Man of La Mancha. Brent Spiner, who played Data on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and appeared in the original cast of Sunday in the Park with George, will star in the title role with opera and theatre star Julia Migenes (Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, Carnival!, "Carmen") as Aldonza/Dulcinea and Lee Wilkof (Little Shop of Horrors, She Loves Me) as Sancho Panza. Valerie Perri (Evita) will play the role of Aldonza/Dulcinea at matinee performances. The cast will also feature George Ball, Brad Culver, Thomas Fiscella, Christopher Guilmet, Daniel Guzman, John Kassir, Ethan Le Phong, Robert Mammana, Maegan McConnell, Stefan Raulston, John J. Todd, Wendy Worthington and Sam Zeller. Directed by Michael Michetti, who is co-artistic director of The Theatre at Boston Court, the production will play a limited engagement at UCLA's Freud Playhouse Feb. 14-March 1. Tickets are available by calling (310) 825-2101 or by visiting www.reprise.org.

G'DAY USA: Australia Week 2009 will present Australia Plays Broadway — a celebration of leading Australian musical artists — Jan. 20 at Carnegie Hall. The 8 PM concert will boast the talents of Grammy Award winner Olivia Newton-John, Wicked's Amanda Harrison, singer Lior, singer/songwriter Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, rocker Jimmy Barnes, vocalist Ursula Yovich, stage actor/singer David Campbell and twin cellists Pei-Jee and Pei-Sian Ng. Simon Burke will host the evening, which will also feature the 70-member Adelaide Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arvo Volmer. Ross Mollison and Wayne Harrison will produce and direct the one-night-only event. Carnegie Hall is located in Manhattan at 57th Street at Seventh Avenue. Tickets, priced $50-$120, are now on sale by visiting www.carnegiehall.org or by calling (212) 247- 7800.

Andrea McArdle
A Class Act NY will present a one-day workshop for kids and teens with former Annie star Andrea McArdle March 7 in Manhattan. McArdle will mentor students on material from Annie, including songs, scenes and a dance combination. The students and their parents will also be able to take part in a Q & A session with the famed actress. The Annie workshop with McArdle will also feature musical theatre audition tips. Kids, ages 7-16, are welcome for the 1-5 PM workshop. The afternoon will be held in Manhattan at Ripley-Grier Studios, 520 8th Avenue on the 16th floor. There is a $175 charge; visit www.AClassActNY.com to make reservations.

Nicole Parker, who recently wrapped her seventh season on Fox's "MADtv," will join the Broadway company of Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman's Wicked Jan. 16. Parker will play the misunderstood, green-faced Elphaba, the role created by Tony winner Idina Menzel. Parker succeeds Marcie Dodd, who is currently playing the role. In related news, Aaron Tveit, who is starring in the Arena Stage production of Next to Normal, will return to the role of Fiyero Jan. 23. The Gershwin Theatre is located in Manhattan at 222 West 51st Street. For more information visit www.wickedthemusical.com.

Several theatre stars will join students from The California Conservatory of the Arts and its sister school, The McCoy Rigby Dance Academy, for Defying Gravity — The Music and Lyrics of Stephen Schwartz Jan. 24-25 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. The evening at the Barclay Theatre, which is located on the campus of the University of California, Irvine, will feature the talents of Broadway actors Shoshana Bean, Rex Smith, Eric Kunze, Marissa Perry, Lindsay Mendez, Terron Brooks, Cathy Rigby and Jonelle Allen. Defying Gravity will feature songs from Schwartz's award-winning songbook, including tunes from Godspell and Wicked, among others. Tickets, priced $15-$35, are available by visiting thebarclay.org or tickemaster.com. For more information go to www.ccarts.net.

Composer/lyricist Robert Rokicki and librettist/lyricist Michael Ruby's pop-rock musical Love, NY, which recently won Curtain Call's American Harmony Prize, will be presented at The Zipper Factory in Manhattan Jan. 26. Randy Aaron, Kevin Massey, Brynn O'Malley, Vanessa Ray, Krysta Rodriguez and Nick Spangler will star in the 7 PM concert. Francis Kelly directs. "Part love letter, part 'dear john' letter to the city we love to hate," Love, NY, according to press notes, "tells the story of five 20-somethings fighting to find their way in the Big Apple, figuring out if what they want in life is what they truly need – all while struggling not to get lost in a sea of 9 million people. The Zipper Factory is located at 336 West 37th Street in Manhattan. Tickets, priced $15, are available by calling (212) 563-0480 or by visiting www.thezipperfactory.com.

The Savannah Music Festival has commissioned cabaret favorite Andrea Marcovicci to create a concert tribute to the late Savannah native Johnny Mercer. Marcovicci will premiere Skylark, her celebration of lyricist Mercer, at the Savannah Music Festival in March. Show times at the Charles H. Morris Center will be March 21 at 12:30 and 3 PM, March 22 at 5 and 7:30 PM, March 23 at 7 PM, March 24 at 12:30 PM and March 25 at 12:30 PM. Charles H. Morris Center is located at 10 East Broad Street in Savannah, GA. For tickets call (912)-525-5050. For more information go to www.savannahmusicfestival.org.

Stephanie D'Abruzzo
photo by Meredith Zinner
A host of theatre favorites will help celebrate the end of George W. Bush's presidency Jan. 19 at Joe's Pub. The evening, entitled BYE GEORGE! An End of an Error, will be hosted by comic and On the Town star Lea DeLaria. The 7 PM performance will also feature Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Michael Urie, Jessica Kirson, Justin Bond and the cast of the forthcoming Broadway revival of Hair. Joe's Pub is located within the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. For tickets, priced $30, call (212) 967-7555 or visit www.joespub.com.

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.