Ask Steven Pasquale how he likes spending his nights with 12 hot, sweaty men -- the cast of Second Stage's revival of A Soldier's Play -- and he's quick with a quip: "I'd rather they were leggy chorus girls." But, in truth, being part of this esteemed ensemble has been an enlightening experience for Pasquale. "It's fun to be with a bunch of really strong, highly opinionated young men," he says. "It's been cause for a lot of debate and a lot of laughter in the green room."
The handsome actor, who plays the strong-willed Capt. Charles Taylor, credits director Jo Bonney (who also directed him in Fat Pig) with creating the right onstage dynamic: "I think Jo is unbelievably smart. On the page, this play can read like a bunch of dudes yelling at each other, but she forced us to find other layers. I think, as a woman, she didn't just want to see all these men going head-to-head for two hours."
Working again with Bonney was just one reason why Pasquale took the part. Other factors included his long-time fascination with the script and -- most of all -- the opportunity to work with his longtime best friend Taye Diggs, who plays his onstage antagonist, Capt. Richard Davenport. "For a long time, we've looked for something to do together," says Pasquale, "but it can certainly be a humbling experience to be in a show with Taye. We come out after the show, and the minute the girls see him over my shoulder, they make a sprint for him."
Those who know Pasquale only for his dramatic work in A Soldier's Play, Fat Pig, or the TV series Rescue Me may be unaware that he possesses one of the theater's best singing voices; he was the original Fabrizio in The Light in the Piazza, a role he couldn't repeat on Broadway because of his TV schedule, and he also co-starred in A Man of No Importance and The Spitfire Grill. He'll be showing off that voice on Monday, November 7 in his first-ever cabaret show at Joe's Pub -- "but I won't be doing musical theater songs. I'm doing mostly obscure folk and soul music, covers of songs by people like Tyrone Wells and Amos Lee. I've never had the chance to sing that stuff professionally, and I want to share this music I love. It's very melodic and very groovy."
SAYING YES TO NOAH
Noah saved all the world's animals, and Adrian Zmed has proved to be almost as heroic by taking on the role of the Biblical forefather in The Ark less than a week before the show's first preview. "I love creating new shows," says the actor. "I knew that first week I would just have to live, eat, and breathe the show 24 hours a day, so I made a schedule of what had to get done each day. There was still some terror the first time the curtain went up, but after about 30 seconds, I was fine."
Zmed has prior experience playing Noah, having starred in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of Children of Eden. "What I like about both of these shows," he says, "is that they're both about families who have been thrown together for a long period time, and it's interesting how they handle the crises that happen. I think one of the reasons they wanted me for The Ark is that this Noah is just a regular guy, a kind of a cool dad. My two sons are about the same ages as the sons in the show."
Noah talks to the audience, which also delights Zmed: "They're like my therapists, and I'm like theirs. They're the only ones who understand me, and I'm the only one who understands them. Lately, I've been doing a lot of casino shows in Las Vegas and Reno where I work the audience -- so, in a way I've had great training for this part. I'm bringing in everything of myself that I can to make it work."
GRAND NIGHTS FOR SINGING
Judging from the audience reaction, Scott Siegel's Broadway/Cabaret Festival will become an annual event. The three-day extravaganza got off to a rousing start on October 21 with a tribute to John Kander and Fred Ebb, including bravura performances by such stars as Brent Barrett and Rachel York.
The next night brought a smashing two-part concert featuring the charming, silvery-voiced Euan Morton (who flew in from San Francisco, where he's rehearsing the upcoming Berkeley Rep production of Brundibar) and the rafter-raising Eden Espinosa (whose stirring rendition of "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" convinced me that she should be the next Evita). The icing on the cake came the following afternoon with the brilliant Broadway Originals concert, featuring such performers as Liz Callaway, Chuck Cooper, Melissa Errico, Priscilla Lopez, Alice Playten, and the aformentioned Ms. York singing representative songs from roles they created on the Great White Way.
Now, cabaret lovers are in for another fabulous month. The Encore is hosting three of my favorite performers, Karen Mason (who is celebrating the release of her smashing new CD, Sweetest of Days), Tom Andersen, and Marnie Baumer. The Duplex is offering a special "sneak preview" of My Liberace; the fabulous Jeanne MacDonald finishes her run at Helen's on November 5; and the lovely Lynn DiMenna comes to the Triad for shows on November 12 and 19.
As for the city's big-bucks rooms, crooner Steve Tyrell settles into the Café Carlyle on November 1; the sensational Michele Lee makes her long-awaited New York cabaret debut at Feinstein's at the Regency on November 15; and the august Oak Room at the Algonquin welcomes back the one-and-only Andrea Marcovicci on November 21.
While watching Souvenir at the York Theater, Donald Corren never dreamed that he would jump from audience member to Broadway star. But an e-mail to producer Ted Snowdon set those wheels in motion and now Corren is set to make his Main Stem debut as Cosme McMoon, the accompanist to socialite singer Florence Foster Jenkins (played by Judy Kaye), in the Broadway transfer of the show.
"I had worked with Ted on The Last Sunday in June," says Corren, who played Charles in that Off-Broadway production. "I told him how good I thought the play was and that, if there was ever a tour or another production, I would love to play Cosme. I also said to Ted, 'You probably don't know that I play piano" -- and he didn't. He later recommended me to the casting director when they were re-mounting the show this summer at the Berkshire Theater Festival."
In his twenties, Corren made a living playing in piano bars before moving full-time into acting, so he's thrilled to have a role that allows him to exercise all of his talents. "Souvenir is really a story about friendship and mentoring," he remarks. "What Cosme learns from Florence is to accept his own limitations as a musician. He also learns that things are not always what they appear to be; he eventually realizes that Florence is actually a deeper artist than he is."
He's also thrilled to share the stage with Kaye, saying, "Judy is a dream. From the first day we met, we've gotten along great. Our instincts are very similar." And there's yet another thrill to the role: Cosme's costume. "Tracy Christensen, the designer, said it was a real challenge finding something for me to wear that would be appropriate to all the play's time periods between 1932 and 1964," Corren relates. "So we ended up with a very simple suit -- but it's custom-made. This is the first time I've ever had clothing made for me, and it's a great experience."