By Michael Gioia
14 Jul 2012
Matthew Saldivar knew he had his work cut out for him when he accepted the role of Black Stache in Rick Elice's imaginative new play with music, Peter and the Starcatcher. Saldivar, who was recently seen in the multi-ethnic revival of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, succeed Christian Borle, the "Smash" star who received a Tony Award for his performance as the menacing — yet bumbling — pirate. After a couple short weeks of rehearsals — while simultaneously performing Streetcar at night — the singing actor, who was also seen in the Broadway musicals Grease and The Wedding Singer, picked up the hook and donned the "stache" of one of literature's most famous villains. Following his first week of performances, we caught up with Saldivar, who talked about fearlessly throwing himself into the most cohesive and creative ensemble on Broadway.
You began performances in Starcatcher July 2. How's it going over at the Brooks Atkinson?
Matthew Saldivar: It's going great! I made it through my first week, which was a bit of a trial-by-fire, but it's super fun and a wonderful thing to be sharing with audiences and with my colleagues. It took a bit of fearlessness to get out there and start doing it…
MS: Yes, absolutely!... A well-deserved Tony Award. It was a wonderful performance, and he created a wonderful character — along with the directors and the playwright — so, yes, that expression, "big shoes to fill"… Fortunately, they're giving me my own shoes!
|photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Did Christian leave you with any words of wisdom before you stepped in?
MS: He said, "You're going to have a great time. You're going to love it," which is funny because the last person to say that to me was Danny Burstein, who played Luther Billis [in the Broadway revival of South Pacific] at Lincoln Center, and then I played Luther Billis on the road in the first national tour. And, before I played Hamlet, I saw Ethan Hawke in a deli, and we talked. I said, "Hey, man. I saw your movie" — it was "Hamlet" — "I thought you did a great job." He said, "Thanks," and I said, "Yeah, I'm going to play it." He said, "What?! Oh my God, you are going to have the greatest time!" And, it's been true all three times. It's so wonderful to hear an actor say that and to believe it — "to be able to play this character is a gift, and you are going to have a wonderful time." And, it's true.
What were your thoughts before rehearsals began? Had you seen the show?
MS: I saw [Peter and the Starcatcher] the day that they offered me the job… I think that was good because I had been working on my audition just based on the script. I had not seen the show yet because I was [playing Steve] in A Streetcar Named Desire. So I saw the show the night they had offered me the role, and it was pretty terrifying because it's such an ensemble piece. And, while most people think of the great challenge to be replacing another actor — a wonderful actor who gave a wonderful performance — my true concern was getting up to speed with the ensemble because that is a lot of work, and it is a wonderful display of craft and dedication and timing. It's kind of theatrical magic to create the evening, and that was very daunting to me because I knew that I had a very short amount of time to rehearse and that I wasn't going to be learning it with the company, as the company learns it. It was scary, but I had two wonderful people, [assistant director] Lilly King and [movement associate] Patrick McCollum. They were incredibly patient and incredibly helpful. They kind of taught me the nuts and bolts, and then I had a few sessions with the directors, [Roger Rees and Alex Timbers], and then a couple of run-throughs, and then I was on. It was pretty crazy.