A Knight In Wonderland
Darren Ritchie discusses returning to Broadway in Frank Wildhorn's inventive new musical adaptation of Alice In Wonderland.
THEATERMANIA: Growing up, did you ever imagine having this kind of Broadway career?
DARREN RITCHIE: I actually came to musical theater in a strange way. I was a baseball player in high school in Florida, where I went to this magnet arts school down there, and I did theater on weekends. But I was hooked on the idea that I'd be a professional baseball player, and then I hurt my arm one weekend, and ended up going to this audition for this consortium of colleges. I got into every school I applied to, and I got a full scholarship to Carnegie-Mellon. Once I was there, I realized that acting was what I really wanted to do.
TM: You were living in Los Angeles when you got the call about two years ago to do Wonderland. What made you say yes?
DR: I've known Frank Wildhorn [the composer and lyricist for Wonderland] for a long time -- we did Camille Claudel and Dracula together -- and we've stayed good friends, so I wanted to work with him again. But the thing that most appealed to me was that I am a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland, and I liked their take on it. I really believe Broadway needs something for kids and families. I also like the idea of playing these three different characters, who are essentially the same guy. That's cool as an actor for me to sink my teeth into.
TM: You mentioned Dracula. That had to be a rough experience, right?
DR: It was a tough show to be in, and when I finished that, I said I would never be part of a project that doesn't treat me with respect. I didn't do musicals for five years, and I was fine with it. I am in this job for fun, and if you're not, then I'm not interested. One of the great things about this company and this team is that we're all very similar in our positivity.
DR: A lot of the story is different. We're trying to make it a lot more linear. We actually had nine days to memorize the new book for the first preview. And right now, there are changes going in every day. I really admire that people are trying to get this right.
TM: One thing that hasn't changed, though, is that the White Knight's first big song, "One Knight," is done as sort of a boy-band number. Is that fun for you?
DR: Honestly, I was a bit skeptical when I first heard about it. I thought "hasn't that phase already passed?" But the way it's done, it's such a surprise for the audience -- it sort of comes out of nowhere -- and the audience just loves it. And it's been a little bit of a challenge for me to do that kind of rock-and-roll singing, but I'm really enjoying it.
TM: Are you enjoying wearing that costume? Those pants are definitely tight!
TM: They are and they have actually gotten tighter. I joke that as soon as I put those pants on, I am automatically a rock tenor. But working with our designer, Susan Hilferty, has been so great. When we started on this show, she told me the producers wanted me in these skin-tight pants, and I said I'll wear whatever you ask me to put on. The only thing is that during the first run, they were white pants, and I thought they were a little too see-through under the lights. So now they're blue, which is better, and then later on, I change into black pants -- which are actually even tighter than the blue ones. People keep telling me those pants could get me a television series.