PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Steve Kazee; Broadway's Once "Guy" Talks About Exiting the Hit

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27 Mar 2013

Steve Kazee on opening night of <i>Once</i>.
Steve Kazee on opening night of Once.
Photo by Monica Simoes

Steve Kazee, the Tony Award winner for playing Guy in the Broadway musical Once, talks about his sudden exit from the show — and addresses his social-media life, his health issues and rumors about his absence.

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Steve Kazee, the Broadway actor who shot to greater fame in 2012 when he was named Best Actor in a Musical for playing a broken Irish troubadour named Guy in Once, went silent in February. In more ways than one.

In early February, following a week's vacation from the Tony-winning Best Musical, he was experiencing vocal issues that had surfaced earlier. On doctor's orders, he said, he went on vocal rest, dropping out of the musical for what he thought might be a limited time. But the vocal rest lasted for more than seven weeks, with Kazee also going silent on his busy Twitter account since Feb. 14 (he's got 17,000 followers and he had tweeted more than 7,590 times by February, not counting any potential deletions). By agreement with the Once producers, who were assessing casting options during his illness, he did not speak to media until March 25, the day after his (and co-star, Tony nominee Cristin Milioti's) exit from the show was official. (The producers announced on March 18 that Ben Hope, Kazee's standby, who had played performances in his absence, would graduate to the role of Guy full-time on March 26. Original cast members Will Connolly and Tony nominee Elizabeth A. Davis also exited March 24.)

Kazee's silence in the Twitterverse raised eyebrows, proving the power of social media to fuel negative speculation and/or inspire caregiving. Why would an actor who has tweeted @SteveKazee more than 7,000 times suddenly stop? Was he in crisis? Was he in rehab? Was the pressure of carrying a vocally demanding show catching up with him? After all, his time since the 2011 A.R.T. tryout of Once (which later moved to Off-Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop, then Broadway) had been crowded with incident: He'd Tweeted about health issues (Lyme disease and an ailing shoulder, both mentioned by him in Tweets in 2012); his mother, Kathy, died of cancer shortly before he won the Tony Award last spring; he was dating pop star Christina Perri last year and sang a duet with her, "A Thousand Years," on the latest "Twilight" soundtrack (they stopped dating last fall in what he calls "just a normal didn't-work-out situation"), to say nothing of the earlier public breakup with "Smash" actress Megan Hilty, his longtime girlfriend (they both released amicable, mutually respectful statements at the time).



Kazee, 37, told Playbill on Monday, March 25 that he'd heard all the rumors. He's setting the record straight. Hours after this interview was conducted, he posted an open letter "to the fans" on SteveKazee.com, recapitulating some of what he shared here (scooping Playbill!). He also tweeted a link to his open letter. (Welcome back, Steve!)

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Kazee in Once.
photo by Joan Marcus

Read Playbill.com's spring 2012 Leading Men interview with Kentucky-bred Kazee, whose name is pronounced "kuh-ZEE."

You've been on vocal rest?
Steve Kazee: I have been on vocal rest, yes, since February the sixth, actually. I'd gone on vacation…the end of January, first week of February. And I got back on Sunday and went back into the show on Tuesday [Feb. 5], and on Tuesday night I felt a little rough…

Before I went on this vacation I was starting to feel fatigued, vocally. We'd been going on for so long, almost a year and a half at that point, and, you know, I was starting to definitely feel the pressure of the role a little bit on my vocal cords. So I thought I should probably take a little vacation to try and build up some steam, moving forward. So I went on vacation, I came back, went back into the show, and on that Tuesday night I just didn't feel great, I felt like I should've felt better after a week's rest. So the next day I went into my vocal lesson, which I have every week with Liz Caplan, who has been wonderful and the sole reason that I was able to do the show as long as I [have]. I went to her on Wednesday morning, and sort of listened around and tried to see what was going on with it and we felt like maybe go into the matinee and try to see what it was. And I went into the matinee [Feb. 6], and unfortunately right off the bat, I knew something just wasn't right. I didn't have the notes I had had so effortlessly. So I pushed through the first act, got to intermission and I definitely, at that point, could tell that something was wrong. I thought, "Well, let me just finish the show and I'll got to the ENT [ear, nose and throat doctor] between the matinee and the evening, and we'll go from there." I went to the ENT and, unfortunately, saw that I was starting to develop a little bit of a bump on my vocal cords.

And the biggest problem was I had a blood vessel that was stretched over it that was enflamed quite a bit and was pretty precarious. Had I continued on without seeing an ENT, I ran the risk of hemorrhaging the vocal cord. So the decision was made to put me on a week's vocal rest. I went back the following week to see the ENT again. I got scoped again. It had improved some but it was still apparent that I needed some more time, so we decided at that point that we'd take another week, possibly two, then I went back again, got scoped again and this just kept happening for four weeks. At that point I'd already come to the end of my contract.

Continued...

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