PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Casa Valentina — Harvey's Girls

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24 Apr 2014

Nick Westrate
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Nick Westrate plays the youngest of the transvestites. "I'm Michael-slash-Gloria, the little more modern, forward-thinking member of the group. I like to say Gloria is the pretty one." He's been told he looks like Eve Arden, but it's really Janis Paige.

"It's real inspiring to play jazz with these guys every night. You just have to try to be as truthful as whoever is standing next to you. When you're standing next to John Cullum, that's a tall task. Everyone's incredible. It's an incredible company of people and such an honor to be included with them. It's a great sorority. We have so much fun together. We make each other laugh like crazy. I'm having such a good time."

Tom McGowan, who's in the process of switching coasts, landed the role Fierstein originally wrote for himself (Albert/Bessie). "He started developing Bessie for himself and then, early on in the process, decided he wasn't going to play it so I was the beneficiary of that. I feel very lucky to be a part of it. It's such a great group, and Joe Mantello's a wonderful director. Harvey described the character as 'Willie Loman by day and Ethel Mertz by night,' which was all I needed to start reading the play."

The character, having done his dissertation on Oscar Wilde, gingerly sprinkles Wilde witticisms through the play. "At one point, I had 12, but I think I'm left with five or six."

Gabriel Ebert flashes a fresh-faced innocence as the casa's first-time client, trying to fit in with all the other misfits, making his maiden voyage as a dolled-up woman in front of them. (She's stopped at the first pit-stop for an immediate makeover.)

Ebert executes his role so charmingly that you forget he just won a Tony as Matilda's indifferent and abusive dad. "Now, I play the abused child. It's come full circle.

"I get to go through a huge arc in this play, which is frightening, but it's exciting to be able to play such innocence and such exaltation and such heartbreak. It's a big arc every night. The audience comes in through my character and enters this world through my eyes. I feel if I do my job right, I can take the audience on that journey.

"I'm Jonathan, this young gun who comes in, and he has never dressed in public before with anyone else, and his relationship to it is sorta filled with shame in his basement. When his wife is away for a safe amount of time, he dresses and stays in the basement so that no one sees him through the windows upstairs. This weekend is filled with terror for him but also exaltation as he comes to release Miranda, the inner woman that he has, in a room with other people. That requires a leap of faith."

Ebert is the recipient of the one kiss in the play, and he said the guy was a good kisser. "Day One, he went right for it. I said, 'Well, all right, here we go.' Why not? We're in dresses. Let's go for it.'

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