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Beau Bridges Keeps Trying

The award-winning actor discusses making his Broadway musical debut in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

By New York City
Beau Bridges
(© David Gordon)
Beau Bridges
(© David Gordon)
Beau Bridges is currently making his musical debut on Broadway as corporate bigwig J.B. Biggley in the hit revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the Al Hirschfeld Theate, and the show is just one more notch on the actor's lengthy and diverse resume. He made his Broadway debut in 1966 in William Inge's Where's Daddy, has since starred in numerous hit films (including The Fabulous Baker Boys with his brother Jeff, and 2011's Oscar-winning drama The Descendants) and has won three Emmy Awards for his television work. He recently spoke with TheaterMania about passing the torch in his family of performers, what it's like to share the stage with a Jonas brother, and his dream role.

THEATERMANIA: What is Beau Bridges' secret to succeeding in show business?
BEAU BRIDGES: My dad [actor Lloyd Bridges] taught me a long time ago that preparation is so important and to just give each task that you have in front of you your very best. My old basketball coach also said that anyone can bring hard work to the table, but when you bring it with a combination of joy and the joy of doing your task, that's when exciting things can happen.

TM: In 2009, you appeared in the Hollywood Bowl production of Guys and Dolls, which was your first professional musical. Is it true doing that show led to you getting cast in How to Succeed?
BB: That was pretty wild. There were about 20,000 people in the audience at the Hollywood Bowl, and it just happens that Jim Burrows, who is related to Abe Burrows (who wrote the book for How to Succeed), saw the show and recommended me to the How to Succeed team.

TM: What was the biggest challenge for you when it came to taking on a this role?
BB: Doing a musical is a physical challenge because of dancing and singing at the same time! I had to do a bit of training just to get my body ready. I worked out at the studio in L.A. where my daughter works teaching Pilates and ballet.

TM: Your character, J.B. Biggley, enjoys knitting. What are some of your own hobbies?
BB: My daughter had to teach me how to knit for the show! I'm enjoying it now; in fact, I am looking forward to making something! I also collect Native American percussion instruments.

TM: What is the best part of performing with Nick Jonas?
BB: Nick is a wonderful guy. He's only 19 years old and he's so composed. He's a really hard worker, and he's very respectful of his fans. One of the fun things about being in the show is seeing all of these young folks who mainly came to see Nick, but they're also seeing a Broadway musical, which for many of them is a first. We're turning on a new generation to this type of entertainment.

TM: Your dad, Lloyd Bridges, did a number of Broadway shows.. What do you think he would have to say to you about the work you're doing in How to Succeed?
BB: My father always loved the theater and was involved in it all his life. He would love that his tradition of being in theater has carried on. My daughter Emily and I adapted a book called Acting: The First Six Lessons which was the only book on acting that my father ever gave me. It was written in 1939 by Richard Boleslavsky. We made it into a play and performed it in L.A. for a couple of months, and we are looking forward to maybe touring it this year.

TM: If you could choose to take on any role on Broadway next time around, which would it be?
BB: I wanted to play Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye as a young man, but the author J.D. Salinger won't allow that to be done on stage. I came close to it, though. Gregory Peck's family puts on a reading series at the Los Angeles Library. You can select any book that you want to read from, so I selected The Catcher in the Rye. Even though I wasn't a young man like Holden Caulfield, I still got to read those famous words. It was a lot of fun. So getting to do that part, in any way, would be my fantasy.


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