Joey McIntyre: New Kid on the Block at Waitress
Here's something many people don't know about New Kids on the Block member Joey McIntyre: He's a theater geek.
McIntyre grew up a stone's throw away from Boston's Footlight Club, the oldest continually operating community theater in America, where he played Winthrop in The Music Man at the age of 8. He was the second-ever Fiyero replacement in the Broadway production of Wicked, and took over for Raúl Esparza in the original off-Broadway Tick, Tick…BOOM!
Now, before the New Kids reunite for a summertime tour, McIntyre is making a stop at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre as the new Dr. Pomatter in Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson's Waitress. Beginning performances tonight, February 4, McIntyre is joining the company after a few false starts, but it only "took a taste" for him to realize that it was far from a "bad idea."
This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Are you excited to be joining Waitress?
I'm thrilled. I get to sing three great songs and have lots of fun moments. And I'm certainly going to grow as an actor.
How did you come to play Dr. Pomatter?
The show kept coming in and out of my universe in different ways. I knew people in the show — I was in Wicked with Chris Fitzgerald [who currently plays Ogie], and I know Rich Mercurio, the drummer — and I had heard that the production might have been interested in me. When I saw the show, they comped me in, which is unheard of. [laughs]
After I saw it, I said, "Why don't I just work on the song 'Bad Idea,'" knowing I may never go into the show? "Bad Idea" is a beast, especially when you first confront it. You have to go note by note to learn that song. I was gonna go in [to audition] and my dad passed away. It was supposed to be two days after his funeral, and I was drained. I literally said, "I don't have the energy to do 'Bad Idea,'" and they were like, "Ok, we'll see you down the road." Which made sense. They called back a week later and said to come in for a work session. I had done the work, and by the time I auditioned, I felt good.
Having seen the show a few times now, is it hard to shake off your memories of other actors as you develop your own version of the character?
Everybody that I've seen in the part is lovely and funny, and I go, "Well, I can't do that, so…" I'm finding one or two things to take from them. When I spoke to Gavin [Creel], he couldn't have been nicer or more generous. But he was like, "Don't watch me again!" And it's true. As I get more and more into the role, I can let go of what he does even more, because we're just different people.
Do you see any differences between acting on Broadway and touring with New Kids?
It's apples and oranges, but still fruit. The New Kids get to be rock stars. Our first hit was "Please Don't Go Girl," and I got to sing lead on that. I've been singing that for 30 years now. I make it a moment in our show; it's special, and there's history, and it's a great song. And afterwards, people are all like, "You should do Broadway!" [laughs] I connect the way I connect regardless of the arena.