PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: The Snow Geese Gone With the Winged

By Harry Haun
25 Oct 2013

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When Clark lifts her lyric soprano in song here (hymns, mostly), it reaches the screeching point — her choice, Sullivan said. "She sang it for a while in her beautiful voice, then realized her character really wouldn't be able to hold a tune that well."

Clark laughed out loud when asked if this was her Broadway debut as a dance captain. (She assisted in a few fleeting dances that Sullivan's wife, Mimi Lieber, provided for the show.) "Don't you love how big the billing was?" she hooted.

And what did she do as a dance captain? "Nothing," she shot back, pausing a beat before adding, "Eventually, I'm going to have to do something, but not right now."

When The Snow Geese ends, Clark will climb back into her flying harness (currently filled by Mrs. Danny Burstein, Rebecca Luker) and resume her miracle-making as Cinderella's fairy godmother, quietly hoping for another shot at straight theatre. "I wish someone would cast me in a comedy. I'm the craziest, silliest person I know."

In addition to zinging some choice zingers, she has the best line in the show, helping Parker out of a white dress and into her regulation black: "'I remember as a child the day I realized the world was divided into women who wore black and women who didn't.' She puts the white dress away in the closet and comes back with the black dress. 'Always alarming when you realize you've moved to the other side.'"

Clark does such a heartfelt reading of that line, one has to ask what she's thinking when she says it. "I remember as a little girl when my mom was stuffing things away in her closet, and I asked, 'Can we be this way forever?' And she said, 'No. Things always change. Nothing's ever going to stay the same.' Sometimes, when I'm saying that line, I'm thinking about that. Sometimes, I'm thinking about sending my son off to college and how I never thought I'd see the day. This is one of our play's themes.

"I'm Mary-Louise's sparring partner here. We disagree about how to raise the kids. It's a wonderful role — very complex and tricky. She's wry and very compassionate. I'm also the peacemaker and the one person in the play who can see we're going to survive. No matter how bad it seems to be getting, we're all going to make it."

Christopher Innvar
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

As Clark's German-born doctor husband who is battling the prejudices that came with World War I, Burstein has a similarly lofty view of his character. "His function in the play, as he sees it, is that he's the one who keeps everybody honest. He's the voice of reason. He's had a varied life because of what's going on in 1917. Despite personal attacks on him, he stays optimistic — even when people are mean.

"This play was a labor of love for me to do, but, at the start of it, I was terrified because I'd never done a German accent before, and that was unbelievably hard to learn. A woman named Charlotte Gleck taught me — a taskmaster and loving at the same time. I completely credit her for my performance. I mean it. She's wonderful."

It's an accent that he might not immediately abandon. His next job is at The Met in Die Fledermaus, playing the nonsinging role of Frosch, the drunken Austrian jailer that has been newly revised and overhauled by Douglas Carter Beane. "I could use that accent," he tentatively allowed, "but I'm not sure that's the way Jeremy [Sans, the director] wants it to go. I've no idea. We start rehearsing the end of November."

As the cause of it all — the happy hedonist who wastes his inheritance to the eternal detriment of his immediate survivors but mercifully dies of a massive heart attack in front of the family without ever knowing the damage he has done them — Christopher Innvar entered the play D.O.A. but was still allotted a single scene at the top of Act II. Echoing happier times, he's a randy toy-ghost for Parker to play with in the attic.

"My character is the father of the family, and it's all my fault," Innvar admitted. "He was put on earth to have a good time. He's sort of a fun-loving, partying, financially irresponsible guy, who inherited a fortune and squandered it very quickly, leaving the family in dire straits without them really knowing what was happening.