STAGE TO SCREENS: Christian Borle, "Smash" Star and 2012 Tony Nominee for Starcatcher

By Michael Gioia
17 May 2012

Borle in Peter and the Starcatcher.
O&M Co.
Black Stache tends to ham things up, and he can easily become over-the-top. Where do you draw that line?
CB: It's a tightrope, and sometimes I fall off. I have Roger Rees there to sometimes say, "Less is more." As a comedian, if you show a little bit of your strength and not go for every single joke, sometimes you'll get a bigger laugh on the third joke. [However], sometimes something takes over, and you become a bit of a hog. You try to get it all, and when you do that, you can feel the difference — you can feel the audience not responding as well. [SPOILER!] When I get my hand chopped off, and I go on and on [with an] over-the-top reaction, there's a fine line. When I blow it and go too far, I can't put the genie back in the bottle. [Laughs.] You just go, "Oops," and then you move on to the next joke. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fail. That's live theatre, and that's the great shame of the hamming actor. Also, you want to keep it fresh. That's the other part of the challenge. The audience can tangibly sense when something new is happening when the entire company is responding. If you're doing literally the same thing night after night, subconsciously, it starts to bleed into a rote energy. The great gift that this entire cast has is that we're constantly trying to surprise each other and, I will say somewhat ashamedly, even trying to make each other laugh a little bit.

Peter and the Starcatcher is very much an ensemble piece.
CB: That's what makes it special. We are — this is going to sound so pretentious — literally breathing together. There are lines that we have to all say together, and there's no cue. We're not looking at each other and nodding and saying, "We're going to speak…now!" We just have become this almost single-minded entity at times. Everyone is very good at taking cues from each other, and there's an extraordinary level of trust in terms of the physicality — we're hoisting each other over our heads, and Adam is constantly being spun around. There's a sense of abandon to [the show] because we trust each other. It's also really a testament to Roger and Alex's [direction] — they were absolutely focused on getting it tight and clean, and they drilled us. The preview process was not easy. It's a lot of hitting precise marks… There's almost an acrobatic sense of physical accuracy that has to happen or else somebody is going to get hurt.

What do you think Black Stache's ultimate motive is? Is he — like Peter — looking for a sense of belonging or is he just power-hungry?
CB: Well, it's something that came [up] at La Jolla that Rick latched onto. What Black Stache is looking for, because it's just what pirates look for, is booty — treasure. That's what he's been programmed to hunt for, but it's ultimately left him to feel quite shallow. There's some part of him that realizes that he's not a whole person, and he is looking for a hero to make him feel whole. Finally, at the end of the play, he sees this Boy make the ultimate sacrifice, [and] he understands who he is meant to be in the world — the true complete villain.

Read Playbill's Leading Men column with Adam Chanler-Berat, who stars as Boy in Peter and the Starcatcher.

Michael Gioia's work frequently appears in the news, feature and video sections of Write to him at

Playbill Video interviews Tony nominee Borle: