Corbin Bleu
(© David Gordon)
Corbin Bleu
(© David Gordon)
Corbin Bleu became a household name as Chad Danforth in Disney's smash hit television movie High School Musical, and later made his Broadway debut in 2010 as bodega-owner Usnavi in the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights. He recently returned to the Great White Way to star as Jesus in the revival of the legendary musical Godspell at Circle in the Square. TheaterMania recently spoke with Bleu about taking on this demanding role.

THEATERMANIA: Is your second time on Broadway a bit easier than the first?
CORBIN BLEU: No! It's actually the complete opposite. For me, on a personal level, when you get another chance at something, you want to do it better than the last time.

TM: How familiar were you with this show before you got the gig?
CB: I knew the music, but have never seen a stage production until I was in New York a couple of months ago and Jim Caruso took me to see this production and introduced me to Danny Goldstein, the director. That's when I found out that they were thinking about me for the role of Jesus.

TM: What was the rehearsal process like?
CB: It was two weeks, which was the same that I had for In The Heights. It is such a short amount of time. I worked with the director, musical director, and dance captain. And then I got about eight hours of rehearsal with the full cast before my first performance.

TM: Did you have some time to speak with Hunter Parrish, who originated the role in this production? Did he give you any advice?
CB: He gave me a sweet opening night gift and card. The card said to go out there and love every single person on that stage. No matter how you view Jesus, he was an incredible person. He was a giving, open man. He was a person like you and me, and made incredible choices. He decides to take the high road in every situation and I think that is what Hunter was telling me.

TM: What is the hardest thing about this role?
CB: The technical standpoint of words and dialogue. You have these preachy monologues and teachings. I try to keep them fun and lighthearted, and not make them too preachy. This show is not supposed to make you feel like you are at church. I say one preach and then move on to the next. The teachings are not connected to one another, so I have to always remember what I have to teach next.

TM: This is your first time performing in the round. Is it difficult?
CB: It is. Every single moment, eyes are on you. You feel the energy, but also pressure. With a regular stage, the energy only comes from one direction. You literally feel the energy here. I'm on stage for two-and-a-half hours, and I only leave once.

TM: Do you enjoy the audience interaction?
CB: It's great. We bring audience members onto the stage and play with them. We want them to have a good time; that's a key part of the show.

TM: How have your own religious beliefs helped you with this role?
CB: I'm a person of faith. The language is all biblical text. It is incredible, but can also hinder certain parts. I'm a Christian and truly believe in religion and so does the character I am playing. As a child, your parents are your heroes, but then when you reach a certain age, you realize your parents are human and make certain mistakes, too. It's finding the balance -- you are still believing and trusting in them, and they have this wisdom, but then you realize they also make mistakes, and you wonder if they make mistakes, how can I trust them? It's like that with Jesus.