Thursday, April 29, 2010
ANNIE GET YOUR GUN: Week Seven
photo by Diane Sobolewski
JAMES BEAMAN CONTINUES AS CHARLIE DAVENPORT IN "ANNIE GET YOUR GUN" AT GOODSPEED OPERA HOUSE THROUGH JULY 3!
This week's post is about Broadway dreams. I don't know a stage actor who doesn't hold Broadway as one of his or her ultimate goals. Broadway represents the highest level of achievement in American theatre, and it is the place where a stage actor can accomplish the most visibility and best income. I decided to be a Broadway star at the ripe old age of twelve! And what's interesting as I look back is that the people I went to school with, my teachers, everyone who has known me and my lifelong obsession with succeeding in this profession, have all expected that one day I would achieve that dream. It continues to be a motivator for me and a goal that feeds my ambition and my persistence in this precarious business.
Working at Goodspeed, as on the National Tour of "Spamalot," has given me the opportunity to work alongside performers who have already achieved their Broadway dreams and, in some cases, have been back to the Great White Way many times. Nearly all of my fellow principal players in this show have trod the boards on Broadway; this realization makes me feel simultaneously thrilled to be working with people of this calibre, and all the more eager to make my own Broadway debut a reality. Doing this production at Goodspeed feels like another vital step toward that achievement--this theatre represents the best of musical theatre and draws upon the rich pool of talented artists that have earned their stripes on Broadway. A handful of friends have made their Broadway debuts in the past year, most recently a very talented and dear pal who is part of the cast of the hit new revival of "La Cage Aux Folles." Sean Patrick and I met doing a production of that very show together and to see him realize his own Broadway dream fills me with great hope (and a twinge of jealousy!). I feel like I am getting closer and closer to being a part of this wonderful Broadway community of great performers doing new and exciting work.
I got a marvelous taste of this community when I attended the 24th Annual Easter Bonnet Competition at the Minskoff Theatre in New York on my day off this week. This event is the culmination of a season of fundraising by Broadway and touring companies for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, an organization that provides funds and services to people living with HIV and AIDS, and many other worthy causes. At the Easter Bonnet Competition itself, representatives from various shows put on skits and musical numbers created for the event, and each company creates an elaborate 'Easter bonnet' as part of their presentation. Celebrity judges then vote for the best performances and best bonnets, and awards are presented to those Broadway and Off-Broadway shows that raised the most money for BC/EFA. The performances were both hilarious and deeply moving and the spirit on either side of the footlights was one of love, caring and celebration. I was alternately roaring with laughter and fighting back tears, and before and after the show I was able to mingle with so many friends that I have made over my years in New York and particularly in the last few years, with my work on the "Spamalot" tour. I felt like I was already a part of the Broadway community I so want to join, and was proud and happy to be there. By the way, the annual fund drive raised over $3,000,000, a testament to the commitment of the theatre community and the generosity of its patrons.
I had a very magical experience last week while doing one of my costume changes in "Annie Get Your Gun." Goodspeed has one of the most extensive and best quality costume collections in the country; in addition to creating brand new costume creations for each production, they also acquire entire Broadway productions. It is not unusual for an actor to find him or herself wearing a costume piece that was created for a Broadway show, or that was part of the stock of one of the legendary costume rental houses in New York. I was dressing for my scene at the Brevoort Ballroom, where all of the men wear elegant white tie and tails, and I noticed an old label in the back of my cream colored waistcoat. The actor's name on it was none other than Robert Morse! I was disappointed that few of my fellow performers knew who Bobby Morse is, but personally I was excited. Morse is one of my idols, and one of the actors I feel I have strong kinship with in terms of type and personality. He was the original Finch in "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying," for which he won a Tony and went on to make the motion picture. He also starred in the musical version of "Some Like It Hot," "Sugar"--I had the thrill of playing his role of Jerry and hope one day to get a chance to do it again. Morse won a Tony for his one man show about Truman Capote, "Tru," which was also filmed for PBS, and recently appeared in a recurring guest role on the smash hit series "Mad Men." Morse is one of those brilliant, funny, short actors that I have always been inspired by. I don't know what show the vest I wear came from, but knowing that Robert Morse wore it on Broadway makes it a lucky talisman for me. Someday, hopefully not too far in the future, an ambitious actor full of dreams will find himself wearing a costume made for me for a Broadway show, and will point to the label and exclaim, "Look! James Beaman wore this!" Well... I can dream, can't I?