Steve Kazee, Once's Tony-Winning Troubadour, Finds Harmony in Dream Role
By Brandon Voss
28 Jun 2012
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
Tony-winning Once star Steve Kazee traces his theatrical passion back to seeing Rent — twice. Read more about Kazee and the new musical that is "the most perfect thing" he's ever worked on.
Steve Kazee became a Renthead on his first trip to New York with the undergrad theatre department of Kentucky's Morehead State University in 1997. "I saw Rent and thought Adam Pascal was the most amazing performer in the world, a rock and roll guy just wailing it out," Kazee recalls. "It wasn't what I thought Broadway would be like." When cast member Anthony Rapp invited the students to attend another performance with fewer understudies, Kazee snatched a standing-room ticket. "I went back in my Rent cap, my Rent t-shirt, and waited afterward at the stage door for autographs and pictures. I was hooked."
That trip, which also included visits to see Dixie Carter in Master Class and Whoopi Goldberg in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, turned out to be a major catalyst in Kazee's career. "I knew when we first walked through Times Square that this was the city where I was going to live someday," he says. "Finally, for the first time in my life, I found someplace that felt like home."
Now, 15 years later, Kazee, 36, is the one greeting fans at the stage door of Broadway's Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, where he stars as a struggling Irish street musician inspired by a Czech immigrant (Cristin Milioti) in Once, the intimate, Tony-winning Best Musical based on the 2007 Oscar-winning indie flick. For the record, Kazee has heard that some of the show's rabid repeat customers, Once's own version of Rentheads, call themselves Onesies.
Not long after earning an MFA in acting at NYU in 2005, Kazee was cast as a replacement in Spamalot, followed by other Broadway roles in 110 in the Shade and To Be Or Not To Be. But Kazee considers Once his most precious credit. "There are times in your life when everything comes together in such a beautiful, harmonious way that it's impossible not to get lost in that feeling," says Kazee from a second-row orchestra seat at the Jacobs before a recent performance. The actor has been with the production since its 2011 workshop at American Repertory Theater and its subsequent Off-Broadway run at New York Theater Workshop. "I'll admit that I was apprehensive, worried, and I didn't know if it was the right thing for me to do. Then I gave myself over to it, and it's ended up being the most perfect thing I've ever been a part of. This show and the people involved have opened up my heart, my mind, and just made me a better person."
Holed up in a seedy motel on the edge of the Mojave Desert, two former lovers unpack the deep secrets and dark desires of their tangled relationship, passionately tearing each other apart. Led by director Daniel Aukin (Back Back Back at MTC, 4,000 Miles), Tony winner Nina Arianda (Venus in Fur at MTC, Born Yesterday) and Sam Rockwell (A Behanding in Spokane, The Way Way Back) bring an explosive intensity to Sam Shepard’s (Buried Child, True West) landmark myth of the new Wild West.