Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I Dreamed a Dream...

In 1985, when I was a sophomore in college, I received as a holiday gift the original London cast recording of Les Misérables.  This album came to the States long before the show ever did, and I became instantly obsessed with it.  I was a serious acting student in a theatre program and to me this show represented a bridge between my two favorite theatre genres, classical theatre and musical theatre.  Imagine-- an epic pop opera based on great literature produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company!  I was in heaven.  

Sometime over the next year or so, the tour of the show came through Boston and I went.  I can still remember the impact the original production had on me... it was so sweeping, so impassioned, with such spectacular stagecraft.  The finale literally lifted me out of my seat.  So great was my appreciation of the show, I did the Marius/Eponine duet, "A Little Fall of Rain" for my senior showcase presentation.

I moved to New York right after graduating college, and was here less than a year before I returned to Boston to get more experience and be better prepared for the demands of life in NYC.  But during that brief time I was here, I went to every single audition for the Broadway production of Les Misérables I could get into.  I was 22 years old, ambitious and in love with the idea of being one of those guys on the barricade.  After several calls where I got 'typed out' each time, the casting director, Vinnie Liff, took me aside, put his arm around me and, after praising my singing and my audition, told me I was simply too short for the show.  I was disappointed but am to this day grateful to Mr. Liff (may he rest in peace) for being so generous to tell me why this coveted show was out of my reach.

Well, fast forward over 25 years and I am now a character actor, with a new goal: to play the show-stealing, shameless, hilarious and villainous Thénardier.  Over the past few years I have done numerous auditions for the role for regional theatre productions and for the recent 25th anniversary tour... chasing the part with the same determination with which I chased John Adams in 1776.  It always seemed I was losing the role to an actor who, without the aid of makeup or costume, looked more 'charactery.'  But I knew that I had the stuff to bring both the comedy and the chilling evil of the character and the transformative ability to look the part as well.

Fortunately, director DJ Salisbury and Orlando Shakespeare Theater Artistic Director Jim Helsinger 'got it' this season, and have cast me in what will be the most ambitious production in the theatre's history, amidst a company that includes Broadway greats like Davis Gaines, and dear friends like the sublime Lianne Marie Dobbs, whose successful debut cabaret act I directed here in New York.  In just a couple weeks I will become the 'master of the house' and finally get to be a part of this fabulous piece of musical theatre, fulfilling an ambition I've cherished for nearly 30 years!

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