Hunter Ryan Herdlicka
Hunter Ryan Herdlicka
It has been quite a year for actor Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, who plays Henrik in Trevor Nunn's heralded production of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's A Little Night Music. On Sunday, June 20 he and his castmates will bid farewell to Tony Award winners Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury, who respectively play Desiree Armfeldt and Madame Armfeldt, and on Tuesday, July 13, the show will resume performances with Tony winners Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch taking over those roles. In addition, Herdlicka will make his New York solo cabaret debut at Feinstein's at Loews Regency on Sunday, June 27. TheaterMania recently spoke with the actor about these shows.

THEATERMANIA: How nervous were you to be making your Broadway debut opposite Catherine and Angela?
HUNTER RYAN HERDLICKA: I got the job so quickly before rehearsals that I didn't have much time to think about working with them, and once we started, I realized that having any fear of their celebrity would get in the way of rehearsal and building on-stage relationships. So I just tried to look at them as normal people, which they are. But there are some big moments in Act II when I think to myself -- don't scream, you're on stage with Catherine Zeta-Jones!

TM: So are you all now one big happy family?
HRH: This is not your typical Broadway musical with a large chorus; there's only one other person my age, Ramona Mallory, who plays Anne, and she and I have become great friends. But the whole cast didn't really start to bond until they told us about maybe closing on June 20 for good, followed by three or four weeks of rumors about recasting and reopening. All of a sudden, I was in people's dressing rooms that I've never been in before.

TM: How do you feel about getting to work with Bernadette and Elaine?
HRH: Bernadette is one of my biggest idols, and I know she wants to take a different approach to the part and that's great. And I know Elaine will do whatever she wants to do, and it will be genius whatever it will be. I saw her solo show Elaine Stritch: At Liberty about six times, and the fact that I now get to work with her is unbelievable. This just couldn't get any better for me.

The company of A Little Night Music
(© Joan Marcus)
The company of A Little Night Music
(© Joan Marcus)
TM: What has been your biggest challenge in playing Henrik?
HRH: I guess the biggest thing is that he's so down and gloomy and even suicidal, that it's been hard not to have some of that attitude leak into my real life. And learning to play the cello was a big challenge, since I didn't start until the second day of rehearsal. Every single night when I leave the theater, I get two questions: Is Angela coming out and did you really play the cello? And the answers are always maybe and yes.

TM: Have you seen a change in your audience during the show's run?
HRH: At the beginning of the run, the majority of audiences were definitely there to see A Little Night Music, and then about a third of the way through the run, we noticed less response to everything most of the cast did and more response to Catherine and Angela. What's so thrilling about the new cast is that a lot of people will be seeing the show for the first time, and a lot of Sondheim lovers will be seeing it again, and everyone is going to see a completely different show than what they've seen before.

TM: Were you disappointed not to get to perform on the Tony Awards, since the producers decided only to have Catherine sing Send in the Clowns?
HRH: Yes, I would have loved to have been included. But I'm only 23 and I'm sure I'll get another chance.

TM: Your cabaret show is called I Happen to Like New York. Is that an accurate sentiment?
HRH: I think that song is so true to me. As it says, I like the fight and the sound and stink of it. I know that New York is not for everybody. I've also paired it with "Another Hundred People," which talks about how some people just want to visit. But I want to live here. I'd be happy doing Broadway the rest of my life.

TM: What else can you tell us about the show and how it was put together?
HRH: I have a great director, Diana Basmajian, and the fantastic Mary-Mitchell Campbell work with me. And as much as I thought I could do anything I wanted, I suggested "Everybody's Got the Right" from Assassins and was told "I don't think so." Anyway, this is Feinstein's, so I'm aware of the audience, and that's one reason I'll be singing music that most people know already. Phyllis Newman is coming to support me, so I am doing an entire medley of her late husband Adolph Green's work. And there will be stories about me growing up -- but since I'm not Carrie Fisher; there isn't that much to tell. Still, I do think this show is a chance to say this is who I am.

TM: Do you have other plans for the time you'll have off before you go back into Night Music on July 13?
HRH: Even when we're performing, I try go to see other shows every Sunday or Monday night. But now I plan to do even more catching up. I am the biggest fan of Jan Maxwell; I saw her do The Royal Family twice, and now I can't wait to see her in Lend Me A Tenor. And I will be part of Broadway Barks this year with Bernadette, and I'm very excited. I just adopted a Yorkie, which I named Quincy. In fact, I am going to find Jan Maxwell's dog park and hope we can all spend some time together.