Steggert Speaks of Ragtime Experience and Gurney's Grand Manner

News   Steggert Speaks of Ragtime Experience and Gurney's Grand Manner
For Tony Award nominee Bobby Steggert, being remembered for his fervent performance as Younger Brother in the brief Broadway revival of Ragtime is a "mind-blowing" experience.
Bobby Steggert
Bobby Steggert

"You always hear that the Tonys are skewed to shows that are still open. I can't believe that I'm so young and this is happening to me. I haven't fully processed it yet," Steggert said of his nomination. A 2010 Best Revival of a Musical Tony Award nominee, Ragtime returned to Broadway last fall; however, the musical shuttered after only 65 performances.

Steggert, who earned a Best Featured Actor in a Musical Tony nomination, originated the role of Younger Brother when the revival first premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in summer 2009. He relished the opportunity to revisit the role for Broadway. "I think time is good with anything, whether it's cooking or acting or sports," he said. "Time and practice deepens things, and I think our relationships on stage deepened because we got to really know each other. I'm so grateful to people like Christiane Noll and Quentin Earl Darrington, who I've grown to really love. I think that's why our work was so strong in the show because we were there for each other."

Reviews for Ragtime singled out Steggert's performance, praising his work as Younger Brother, a privileged white man who essentially serves as the political heartbeat of the story from the Caucasian perspective.

Steggert described his approach for the character: "I'm a generally happy person, but I just kind of found my sense of injustice in the world that we live in right now. The fact that we're still struggling for marriage equality and that there's still such racism against our President. I kind of thought of my sense of injustice and just translated it to a hundred years before with this character."

From its first Broadway previews Ragtime found an ardent group of supporters. When producers indicated that ticket sales weren't strong enough to keep the production open, fans rallied around the revival. Fans and cast members united to promote the show and encouraged theatregoers to buy ticket, although their efforts were not enough to save the financially struggling production. "It was really moving, because I could tell that people really loved the piece and loved what we were doing," Steggert recalled. "It was also very disappointing because it taught me that art and commerce are two very different things and Broadway needs both. Unfortunately, if art is there it might not necessarily succeed commercially. That's a lesson I learned. I'll go forward concentrating on the art and knowing that you can't control anything other than that."

Steggert is in demand. After starring in Yank! Off-Broadway this past winter (he is also attached for the 2011 Broadway run of the musical), he is now in rehearsals for A.R. Gurney's The Grand Manner, which begins previews June 2 at Lincoln Center Theater. Steggert will portray a young Gurney in the autobiographical backstage play.

"I'm having so much fun learning from Kate Burton and Boyd Gaines and Brenda Wehle," Steggert said of his Grand Manner co-stars. "They're amazing actors, and I feel so fortunate to be learning from them everyday, because not only are they major Tony nominees and winners, some of them, but they're good people. So, I'm learning to balance that and hopefully emulate them as I grow older."

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