"I was seven when I started doing magic," Patrick Boyd recalls. "I got the magic kit that all the kids get at Christmas--and, unfortunately for my mom and dad, I never got tired of it. I was always spending time and money on mail-order magic."
Though musical theater is his bread and butter nowadays, it was magic that sparked Boyd's interest in show business. "There was no theater where I grew up in southern West Virginia," he explains, "and magic was something I could do that nobody else could do. People just love magic. Even when it's bad, they seem to be thoroughly entertained! I would watch magicians on television when I was a kid, and I really thought they had powers that nobody else had. It was a disappointment when I figured out that it's all tricks, lies, and mendacity--but I still find it fascinating. If you can make the people who are watching it think it's magic, well, then it is."
Boy, Oh Boy, the talented Mr. B's debut cabaret show, was most recently seen at Don't Tell Mama in New York in early December and will return there in the spring. "I had been to see some cabaret shows at Mama's," Boyd says, "and I had wanted to do one of my own for a long time. I thought cabaret would be a perfect venue for me to do my magic as well as to sing. As for the choice of songs, I realized that the music closest to me was the 'boy' material from popular Broadway musicals--and it would allow me to blend in the magic as well, because that's how I got started as a performer."
In his still-young career, Boyd has garnered some impressive musical theater credits: Fresh out of college, he played Tony in a national tour of West Side Story. He later toured throughout this country and abroad in such shows as Crazy for You and A Chorus Line, and he played the Tin Man to the Wicked Witch of Roseanne [Barr] in The Wizard of Oz at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. His Main Stem debut came in the ensemble of the Grease! revisal. "I always thought my first time on Broadway would be as a fork in Beauty and the Beast, or something like that," he jokes, "but this was a major revival with a high-profile cast. And I got to understudy Sam Harris as Doody. We did the Tony Awards, the Macy's parade, the Tonight Show. Megan Mullally played Marty, and working with her was a lot of fun."
Boyd went on as Doody quite often during the show's run...but he had a big moment in Grease! even when he wasn't subbing for Harris. "I was the 'dream mooner,'" he notes. "As Roger sang 'Mooning,' there was a fantasy couple upstage, and at the end of the number I would moon the audience. I dropped my pants on Broadway every night for a year!"
High on the list of Boyd's most exciting ventures was his appearance as one of Dainty June's farm boys in the TV film of Gypsy starring Bette Midler. "That was amazing," he says. "They spent a lot of money on the project and they didn't change one word of the Broadway script, which I thought was commendable. Bette was extremely professional, but accessible. Really classy. She would sometimes suggest how to do things, but she always deferred to the director, Emile Ardolino. She never used her star power to get her way."
Though he's had no shortage of work in musicals, it's the shows that got away--e.g., Miss Saigon and Les Misérables--that are the source of much humor in Boyd's cabaret act as he offers wickedly funny parodies of "Why, God?" and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," the male ingénue showcase numbers from those blockbusters. "I knew I couldn't get away with doing the songs straight," he says, "so I thought I would offer my own twist on them. I was doing some extra work on a film once and I was bored out of my mind, so I wrote these parodies. I asked some of the other people in the holding area if they'd seen Saigon or Les Miz, and none of them had. I said, 'Let me sing these songs for you and please tell me if you think they're funny or not.' They loved them! I thought, 'If people can laugh at the parodies without knowing the shows, that means they work. And they'll be twice as funny to people who have seen the shows.' "
The takeoffs in question are full of hilariously bitter observations. "They won't cast me in Les Miz now, but they're hired all my friends," Boyd sings to the tune of "Empty Chairs...," while his version of "Why, God?" includes the following lament over his failure to get into Saigon: "My bod's not that bad; must I be a recent college grad?" Though both sets of lyrics contain pointed references to the casting couch, Boyd is quick to say that he himself has had no experience in that area. "I've heard stories," he admits, "but the only thing in my Saigon parody that actually happened to me was that [casting director] Ron LaRosa saw me go on as Doody in Grease! and he said to me, 'You're amazing. You look just like Peter Lockyer, who's doing Chris in Miss Saigon.' I told him that I knew Peter; we had done the TV Gypsy together. Ron said, 'Well, come and get the Saigon material.' Now, mind you, Peter is nine years younger than me. So I got the music, I auditioned--and they called my agent and said, 'He's too young.' That's the joke I have in my parody lyric: 'They tell me that I'm still too young, then hire a guy who's 21!' "
Cabaret has proven to be the perfect venue for Boyd to joke about such things, though he confesses to mixed feelings. "I don't like having to do the publicity myself," he says frankly, "but I don't have the funds to hire a P.R. person. I've learned a lot about the business and how to network, but it's a lot to handle. On the plus side, I just love cabaret as a medium. And my musical director, Bryan Schimmel, is magnificent. It's been fun to put our own twist on songs, to create a different story with the music and lyrics every time. That's something you really can't do in a book show."