AUTUMN IN NEW YORK
Autumn Hurlbert
(© Tristan Fuge)
Autumn Hurlbert
(© Tristan Fuge)
Talk about having no downtime! Autumn Hurlbert plays her last performance as an ensemble member of Broadway's Legally Blonde on October 19, and on October 20, she begins a series of Monday night performances in the musical Glimpses of the Moon, based on the Edith Wharton novel, at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room. "I would love to say I want a little break between these shows, but as a performer who always worries about getting the next job, I figure I can breathe when I am dead."

In Glimpses, which debuted earlier this year (with a different cast), Hurlbert plays the lead character of Suzy Branch, who devises a scheme to marry her friend Nick and live off the wedding presents while they help find one another suitable millionaires. "The first time I read the script, I fell in love with it. Suzy is goal-oriented and spunky, so it's not going to be a far stretch for me to play her. I think there's something timeless about playing this sort of independent woman," she says. Hurlbert also loves the idea of portraying someone from the 1920s. "My great-grandmother, who only died two years ago, used to tell me a lot of stories about that period, like how she didn't want to go to a speakeasy, but ended up getting in trouble for going out drinking anyway."

Moving from the Palace Theatre to the 90-seat Oak Room will also be a substantial adjustment. "It's a very big difference, space-wise, but I am looking forward to gaining intimacy -- and I can't imagine this show being anywhere else," she says. "It's also very different in how John Mercutio's music sits in my voice, but I think the volume will come out just as it's supposed to -- and you'll be able to hear those beautiful lyrics."

Hurlbert, who gained her role in Legally Blonde by being named first runner-up on the MTV reality series The Search for Elle Woods, has thoroughly enjoyed her first stay on Broadway -- which has come with some unexpected side benefits. "One of the nicest things is how many women have sent me notes, saying they are actresses who were in my position -- being older and not getting that huge break -- and that they were ready to give up, but now they don't want to. Giving them hope has given me hope," she says. "Of course, I'm a little sad I never got to play Elle, but I hope to do it regionally someday. I think I understand the character more than I did during the TV show, and I can really bring my own take on her."

Meanwhile, Hurlbert has plenty of other career goals. "I'd love to sing either of the leads in Wicked; and if I was Latin, I would really want to do In the Heights, and my favorite musical is Once on This Island, but I doubt there will be an all-white version," she says. "And I would love do Shakespeare and Stoppard. Actually, I did mostly straight plays in college; I almost didn't do enough musicals to actually graduate with my degree."


Chris Diamantopoulos and Becki Newton
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Chris Diamantopoulos and Becki Newton
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
IT'S NOT WHERE YOU STARTER
Chris Diamantopoulous could have had a satisfying career in musical theater, as those who saw him on Broadway in Les Miserables and The Full Monty can attest. But five years ago, with the support of then-girlfriend and now-wife Becki Newton -- who plays the scheming Amanda on ABC's Ugly Betty -- he tried his luck in Hollywood, and now plays the pivotal role of Rodney, the gay best friend of Debra Messing's Molly, on USA's new series The Starter Wife.

The show began life last season as a mini-series, and Diamantopoulous admits he almost didn't read that script. "It was shooting in Australia, and I didn't want to be away from Becki. But my wife, who is responsible for every smart decision I've ever made, convinced me to go in and read. And even though I think I did half-heartedly, they offered me the job," he says. "The main reason I agreed to the part, though, and now to the series, was the chance to work with Debra. We became instant friends -- like we'd known each other for 20 years. She is the most professional actor and has a great guy-like sense of humor."

Diamantopoulos also admits he's very pleased with how Rodney's character has been expanded in the series, which runs for 10 episodes. "He's more than just being Molly's ear or a shoulder to lean on now; they've delved into the reality of his everyday life," he says. "They also gave him a love interest pretty quickly -- he ends up falling for a closeted famous gay (played by James Black). Personally, I think playing against type sexually is challenging, but more important, Rodney's sexuality is just one aspect of his personality, just like him being a decorator. The funny thing is I have a really good eye for decorating. I've enjoyed renovating both of our homes."

Now that the series has wrapped, he's looking forward to spending time in New York with Newton -- now that Ugly Betty is shooting in the Big Apple. And that means the theater can be a big part of his life again. "I've felt starved for seeing theater in L.A., so I hope to see a lot of shows," he says. "And I would definitely do another musical if the right part came along -- my body clock is still on Broadway time. In fact, I'd love to do a biomusical about one of the great Rat Pack crooners, like Dean Martin. And I am a huge fan of Spider Man, so maybe there will be a part for me in there somehow."


LEARNING THE LANGUAGE

Michael Warner and Michael Hayden
in The Language of Trees
(© Joan Marcus)
Michael Warner and Michael Hayden
in The Language of Trees
(© Joan Marcus)
If New Yorkers haven't seen much of Michael Hayden lately, it's because the celebrated actor has been living in England until recently. But he's returned stateside, and one of his first projects is the Roundabout Underground's production of Steven Levenson's The Language of Trees, in which he plays, Denton Pinkerstone, an American translator who gets captured while in Iraq. "I really love Steven's ear for dialogue, and his writing is very poetic," says Hayden. "When I go to the theater, or do theater, I want it to offer something very different from film and television."

Language aside, Hayden says the role of Denton was the deciding factor in taking the job. "I really think he's a great character. He's someone who volunteers for this job, because he's a bit idealistic and sees himself as someone who can help other people communicate -- and this is really a story about people and their ability or inability to communicate," he says. "In fact, he doesn't even see himself as someone who would be in danger, and when he ends up captured, he realizes he's out of his depth. My only regret is that once he's captured, he's isolated from most of the other characters in the play -- including his family so it makes me feel a little lonely."

Hayden is also happy to be playing a family man. Even though his real-life children are ages 12 and 4, casting directors often think he looks too young for such roles. And although he starred as Billy Bigelow in Lincoln Center's production of Carousel, he's not considered a traditional musical theater leading man. "My career has always been a little difficult because I'm not pigeonholed, nor do I get hired because of my name," he says. "So I take whatever great parts I can get. And to do this play, which I really like, is wonderful."


Orfeh
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Orfeh
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
LISTEN UP!
Time to make room again on the CD shelf! Stephen Sondheim: The Story So Far is a must-have for any of the composer-lyricist's multitude of fans, especially those who want to hear never-before-recorded songs like "Happily Ever After." Also, make sure to listen to the weekly series of podcasts featuring such stars as Patti LuPone, Elaine Stritch, and Bernadette Peters.

Kristin Chenoweth ushers in the holiday season -- albeit a little early -- with the aptly-titled A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas; Orfeh goes pop in a big way with What Do You Want From Me; Jessica Molaskey delights as always with A Kiss to Build a Dream On; and the original cast recording of the new Broadway musical 13 allows you to appreciate the sheer craft of Jason Robert Brown's songwriting and the talents of its teen-aged cast.

Two recordings made at New York's invaluable Metropolitan Room are also worth adding to your collection: Teri Ralston's I've Gotta Get Back to New York is a superb showcase for the former Company star, full of delicious anecdotes and priceless songs like "Chanson," "Marieke" and "Losing My Mind" (and a grand guest star turn from good pal Pamela Myers); while Devlin's Live from New York is a fine introduction to a talented cabaret singer, who traverses the soundscape of Laura Nyro, Amanda McBroom, and Irving Berlin with ease and flair. (And if you want to hear these ladies in person, you're in luck! Devlin will be at Don't Tell Mama on October 15 and 18, while Ralston performs on October 15 at Barnes & Noble and returns to the Metropolitan Room on November 17!)

Finally, recession be damned -- save your pennies for the November 11 release of Patti LuPone's Live at Les Mouches, an aural testimony to her amazing, vocally daring 1980 nightclub act. From her spellbinding takes on theater songs like "Meadowlark," "Rainbow High," and "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina," to her surehanded and often ambitious forays into pop standards -- like "Downtown," "Because the Night," and "Mr. Tambourine Man" -- LuPone's talent proves to be nothing short of dazzling.