PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Derek Klena of The Bridges of Madison County

Derek Klena is back on Broadway as Michael in the new musical adaptation of The Bridges of Madison County. He fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Derek Klena
Derek Klena

Previous theatre credits include Wicked (Fiyero), Dogfight (Eddie Birdlace), Carrie (Tommy), Hairspray, Happy Days, Cinderella, Joseph and Big River.

Full given name: Derek Anthony Klena
Where you were born/where you were raised: West Covina, CA
Zodiac Sign: Libra
What your parents did/do for a living: My mom used to be a teacher and my dad owns a lighting manufacturing company.
Siblings: I have a younger brother named Dillon (15) and a younger sister named Lauren (20). We all grew up singing and acting.
Special skills: Grew up playing many sports, primarily baseball.
Something you're REALLY bad at: I would have to say that I am very bad at anything that involves riding a board, such as skateboarding, snowboarding and wakeboarding. My lateral balance is rather challenged.
Current Audition Song: My go-to audition song would have to be “Goodbye” from Catch Me If You Can.
First Broadway show you ever saw: Ironically enough it was Wicked, which also ended up being my Broadway debut!
If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be? The original casts of Ragtime, Secret Garden or Parade. All huge favorites.
Current show other than your own you have been recommending to friends: Glass Menagerie or Matilda
Favorite showtune(s) of all time: “New Music” from Ragtime, “Old Red Hills of Home” from Parade
Some favorite modern musicals: Next to Normal, Spring Awakening, Parade, Ragtime
Some favorite classic musicals: Oklahoma!, Singin' in the Rain, Damn Yankees
Broadway or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with: Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Dick Van Dyke
Your personal performance idols, living or dead: Mark Rylance, Norbert Leo Butz, Mandy Patinkin
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: The first time I ever saw Phantom of the Opera when I was little at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. I just remember walking out of the theatre loving theatre and instantly going to buy the soundtrack.
Music that makes you cry, any genre: Well I am a tough guy and of course don’t cry… but IF I did have to choose something it would probably be the famous closing song from "Forrest Gump."
MAC or PC? Definitely MAC
Most played song on your iPod: “Wake Me Up”- Avicii
Most-visited websites: Facebook, GILT, YouTube
Last book you read: "Ender’s Game"
Must-see TV show(s): "Breaking Bad," "Modern Family"
Last good movie you saw: "Lone Survivor"
Some films you consider classics: Real Classic Favorites: "Singin' in the Rain," "Sound of Music," "Anchorman," "Good Will Hunting," "Shawshank Redemption," "A Beautiful Mind," "Saving Private Ryan"
Performer you would drop everything to go see: Mark Rylance, Mandy Patinkin, Norbert Leo Butz
Pop culture guilty pleasure: Online shopping and distractify.com...
Three favorite cities: NYC, LA and Orange County in general
Favorite sport/team/player: Baseball, Angels, Derek Jeter, and no not because we have the same name!
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: Not sure but probably Phantom of the Opera
First stage kiss: I think my first stage kiss was when I was playing Tommy Djilas in Music Man when I was 12 or 13.
Favorite or most memorable onstage role as a child/teenager: Probably my most memorable role growing up was Huck in Big River. I got to play the role a few times actually and it really helped me develop as an actor and I learned a lot while playing the role.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: When I came out to audition for Catch Me If You Can and realized that I actually had a shot. I had always loved and hoped to pursue acting, but that was a big realization experience for me.
How you got your Equity card: I actually got my card through doing Carrie Off-Broadway.

Favorite pre-/post- show meal: (note where) Good old fashion Subway sandwich or Thai food from either Room Service or Pure Thai in Hell’s Kitchen
Favorite liquid refreshment: An ice cold Arnold Palmer does the trick
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: It changes around for every show actually. No particular rituals or warm-ups.
Most challenging role you have ever played: Eddie Birdlace in Dogfight. It was a very intense show and I had to constantly take care of myself. Probably the most rewarding character and role I have ever had as well.
Biggest challenge about this current project: The biggest challenge for me in this role and project has probably been finding the balance between being an angst-driven teenager and a lost kid trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life.
Most fulfilling or fun aspect about the project: Getting to work with such an unbelievable cast and creative team. I looked forward to coming in for rehearsal everyday during the development process just to see what new things would be thrown our way. Not to mention getting to sing JRB music. That experience alone has been unbelievable.
Five favorite JRB songs of all time: “Old Red Hills of Home”- Parade, “Next Ten Minutes”- Last Five Years, “King of the World”- Songs for a New World, “Shiksa Goddess”- Last Five Years, and last but definitely not least: “One Second and A Million Miles”- Bridges of Madison County wink
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap:

The most memorable onstage mishap to happen so far was when I was in Wicked. During the Oz Dust Ballroom scene I was supposed to enter with Glinda at the top of the stairs, except Glinda was nowhere to be found. She did have a quick cross at that moment from another part of the stage, so I decided to “slide” on and make my normal entrance hoping that she would be running over any minute to join me. Well… she didn’t. There I was at the top of the stairs, standing alone, trying to figure out how to proceed into the partner dance portion of the scene alone! Thinking back now in the calmness of my living room, I probably should have exited the stage to find her and then re-entered back with her later in the dance. But that’s not what I did.

In the moment, I decided to continue into the dance by myself with no one at my side. Fiyero ended up having a little dance solo in the middle of the stage while he nervously hoped and prayed that Glinda would soon show up to save him from this terror. She soon did return after fixing a costume mishap and the show continued peacefully there on out, but I will never forget that crazy minute on the Wicked stage. That’s the beauty of live theatre!

Worst costume ever: I played “Joseph” in Joseph… Dreamcoat when I was 18 and had to wear this rainbow vest in "Go Go Joseph" that was one to remember….
Worst job you ever had: I’ve been lucky enough to have not had any terrible jobs yet… just learning experiences, I would say.
Craziest audition story:

Marc Shaiman had contacted me via Facebook after he heard through a Google alert that I was singing a song from Catch Me If You Can while the show was still previewing in Seattle. I had sang the song in a cabaret I was doing it in L.A. after finding it on YouTube and my accompanist was able to put an arrangement of the song together from hearing the recording. So you would imagine my surprise/terror getting a Facebook message from Marc Shaiman saying, “So I heard you sang the song. Did you sing it well?” He ended up asking if I would send him an MP3 of me singing the song because they were going to be looking for stand-bys for the production when they took it to Broadway.

So I ended up sending him an MP3 that I recorded at my friend’s studio and he liked it! Before I knew it, he forwarded the MP3 to casting and they contacted me about attending final callbacks in NY for the standby position. I ended up flying to NY for the audition, work session and dance call. It didn’t work out in the end, but Telsey Casting told me that they had other projects in mind that they thought I would be right for, one of which ended up being Carrie the Musical.

Leading man role you've been dying to play: Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees
Leading lady role you'd like a shot at: Evita
Something about you that surprises people: I played baseball in college.
Something you are incredibly proud of: My supportive and loving family and girlfriend
Something you're embarrassed to admit: I like watching "The Bachelor." THERE I SAID IT!
Career you would want if not a performer: Sports Broadcaster
Three things you can't live without: Ice cream, my cell phone, sleep
"I'll never understand why…" … double complete rainbows don’t come around more often.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: Savor and cherish every relationship you make along the way. Never take any opportunity for granted because you never know what may come of it.