, who created the role of Marius in the latest Broadway mounting of Les Miserables
, was most recently seen on The Great White Way as Hanschen in the critically acclaimed revival of Spring Awakening
, which is nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Direction of a Musical for Michael Arden, Mientus’ husband. Here, the Smash
star shares the theatregoing experiences that most affected him as part of the audience.
The cast of Assassins at Studio 54
Just a wall-to-wall perfect cast of a challenging show I feel really lucky to have seen. I saw it just as I was really beginning to consider a career in acting, and to be presented with so many role models on stage at once was a real gift.
Euan Morton in Taboo
I talk about this one a lot, but I really think this show deserved more love (and/or a smaller theater to play in). I absolutely loved the show—the score, the humor, the costumes, the subject matter, and mostly the performances—and I left thinking it was a huge hit. In retrospect, I think it was more significant to my development than I realized, seeing the non-binary represented on stage. Gender-queerness and bisexuality on Broadway! The whole cast was stellar, but I totally fell in love with Euan Morton as George. So much so that I met him recently and was still starstruck.
Imelda Staunton in Sweeney Todd
There was a beat in “A Little Priest” toward the end where she was approaching Sweeney, and there was a chair in her way, and without even looking down, she grabbed it and THREW it toward the back wall, and I actually screamed in delight.
The Cast of Twelfth Night at Shakespeare in the Park (2009)
I was going to list Rory Kinnear and Adrian Lester in Othello
at the National Theater, who were both totally masterful, but then I remembered the most recent Twelfth Night
in the park, which was Shakespeare done just as well, but by a totally American cast, which has stuck with me. There is a perception in the theater community—I feel like I have it, for sure—that the Brits always do it better when it comes to classical acting, but I was totally transported by this company of Americans, and I found it really inspiring.
The 2006-ish cast of Rent
I saw the original production of Rent
more than I’ve seen anything else. My extended family lived in New York, so we’d come to town to visit, and I’d always see Rent
and one other show. Over the years it amounted to something like 30 times at the show. My favorite cast was the one I saw while I was in college, which included Matt Caplan as Mark, Antonique Smith as Mimi, Tim Howar as Roger, Destan Owens as Collins and Justin Johnston as Angel. I felt like it was a cast that could have opened the show fresh, everyone felt so right and so fresh in those roles. Antonique Smith was a particular obsession of mine, and I would love to see her back on Broadway soon, maybe as Maria Reynolds in Hamilton
Emma Stone in Cabaret
Sally Bowles is my dream role, and Emma Stone is my celebrity crush, so it was really a complicated and wonderful experience to watch her nail the role in the recent revival.
Michael Stuhlbarg in The Pillowman
Audra McDonald in 110 in the Shade
Every time Audra takes on a role, we are blessed (this is her second appearance on this list, I’m noticing), and everyone has their favorite Audra moment, but mine was 110 in the Shade
. Everyone knows how she can break your heart, but it is also a joy when she gets to show off her comedic chops, and this role let her do it all. She’s also stunningly beautiful but was able to totally transform into a meek wallflower and back again over the course of the night. I wept openly at the end.
The cast of The Aliens at Rattlestick
This is another one I feel lucky to have caught. I saw Circle Mirror Transformation
and loved it, and so my friend Henry Stram urged me to get (and assisted me in getting) tickets to Annie Baker’s next play at the tiny Rattlestick downtown. I was totally spellbound by the play and deeply moved by the work of the cast, especially Dane DeHaan, who would, of course, go on to stardom shortly thereafter. It’s my favorite play by my favorite playwright, and I will never forget seeing that original production by Sam Gold.
Michael Arden in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Even if he weren’t in the family, this would be right at the top of the list. The vocals, the acting, the humor and the ASL (did you catch it? It was there) all amounted to a performance that totally destroyed me every time I saw it. It was a role he was born to play, and I really believe it could have been his Tony if the Broadway gods had been kinder. Luckily, record crowds at La Jolla and Paper Mill did get to see it, and some of the magic of it is preserved on the terrific cast recording. Truly Heaven’s light.