Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Good Old Reliable

New York is a center, a world's fair, and a den of thieves, and a house of miracles. ~Frank Loesser

I have been blessed in my career, especially the past decade, to be granted opportunities to play dream parts.  An actor's path is an uncertain one, and while we have aspirations, and obsessions with great roles, we sometimes chase them for years and years, hoping that a producer will give us our shot before we 'age out' of some of these gems.  And some of them just pass us by.

Oh, how lucky I have been to get to do John Adams in "1776," and Thénardier in "Les Misérables," Max in "The Sound of Music," Lord Evelyn in "Anything Goes" and Albin in "La Cage Aux Folles." The wish list is not exhausted... and this summer--lo and behold!--I get to do another of those dream parts, Nathan Detroit in "Guys and Dolls!"

No one can doubt that this show is one of the most perfect musical comedies ever written, with a superb book by Abe Burrows based on Damon Runyon stories, and a sparkling score by the great Frank Loesser.  Nathan Detroit and his fiancé of 14 years, Adelaide, are one of the most beloved theatre couples of all time.  

At left, in green, as Rusty, in NSMT's "Guys and Dolls"
I had the opportunity to do an enormously successful "Guys and Dolls" at my hometown theatre, North Shore Music Theatre, about five years ago, playing Rusty Charlie ('But look at Epitaph, he wins it by a half') and understudying the roles of Benny Southstreet and Nathan.  Under the wonderful direction of Mark Martino, with choreography by Michael Lichtefeld, I learned so much about this great piece by rehearsing three roles in it... and I became utterly enamored with the lovable wheeler dealer that is Nathan Detroit.

I've doggedly pursued the part every time I've seen the show being produced and at last, my time has come.  I will be reunited with director DJ Salisbury, with whom I did "Les Mis" in Orlando and "Buddy" at Gateway and Ogunquit, as well as a reading of the new musical, "Bodice."  This will also mark my debut at Maine State Music Theatre and I am truly blessed to work at this esteemed summer theatre in beautiful Maine.

Sam Levene and Vivien Blaine in "Guys and Dolls"
I am finishing up a rollicking run of "Baskerville" at Cape Fear Regional Theatre and have not yet started my work on Nathan, but I do know that I will be drawing as much inspiration as I can from the role's originator, Sam Levene.  So many great actors have done the role, including the great Nathan Lane (who took his stage name from the part!), but being a purist, I am fascinated by going back to the start, and learning all I can from the guy who was in the studio with the creators as they crafted this truly wonderful character.  Levene did a few Hollywood films, and these give a sense of his streetwise, New York persona.  I will be studying these, and all the wonderful recordings of "Guys and Dolls," as I steep myself in this role of roles!  Stay tuned for more when rehearsals begin in Brunswick in June!