Steve Kazee, Once's Tony-Winning Troubadour, Finds Harmony in Dream Role

By Brandon Voss
28 Jun 2012

Cristin Milioti and Steve Kazee in Once.
photo by Joan Marcus

Kazee also wants to make it clear that there is no bad blood between the casts of Once and Newsies, which went head-to-head in many major Tony categories, including Best Musical. "It's so weird how people want a rivalry there, but there's absolutely no rivalry," he says. "I love everybody in that show." Kazee even poked fun at the perceived competitiveness on Twitter prior to the Tonys, kidding around with Newsies star Jeremy Jordan, a fellow Best Actor in a Musical nominee, that they should attend the ceremony as each other's date. "Jeremy's a great guy and a phenomenal talent, and I hope both our shows run for the next five years. I want everything to succeed, because that means my friends are working and more people are coming to see Broadway shows."

Sipping the dregs of his pre-show beverage of choice, an Açaí Extreme Energy smoothie from Juice Generation, Kazee spends much of the remainder of our chat praising other actors he admires, particularly the stream of celebrities who have attended Once, such as Bono, Zooey Deschanel, Jesse Martin, Liza Minnelli and Vanessa Redgrave. "I get really excited when famous people come to see the show, so I always ask beforehand if there's anyone in the audience," he says. "I realize that I'm in the minority on this, just like how I always read reviews, but I want to know who's here every night."

After sharing several personal anecdotes in support of his passionate claims that various actors are "the nicest people ever," Kazee leans in a bit closer. "I won't name names, but there are some pretty bad people in this business too," he says. "I'm somebody who constantly learns by other peoples' examples. When my mom died, I based the way I handled myself after the classy, graceful way that Audra McDonald handled herself when she lost her dad during previews of 110 in the Shade. Anthony Rapp, all those years ago, taught me that I should always sign autographs at the stage door. But I also learn from the entitled people who don't care about anybody but themselves, and I try to be better than that."

Back on the subject of Rapp and stage doors, Kazee reveals that he recently stumbled across the picture he took with the friendly Rent star outside the Nederlander Theatre in 1997 — and then shared the find on his Twitter account. Aware that the tweeted snapshot was an inspiration to his younger fans and other aspiring performers, Kazee readily admits that he primarily posted the photo because he wanted Rapp to see it. "I'm a fan," he explains. "I'm in awe of people who do amazing things. I'm still that guy with the Rent shirt and hat, waiting at the stage door. That will never change."

Crazy for more Kazee? Read the March 2012 Leading Men interview with Kazee.

(A version of this feature appears in the July 2012 issue of Playbill magazine.)