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Billy Come Lately

Years after losing the role in college, Matt Bogart gets to play Billy Bigelow in Carousel at the Paper Mill Playhouse. logo

Matt Bogart
When Matt Bogart opens in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel this weekend in the leading male role of Billy Bigelow, he will, in a sense, be settling an old score. "I was a junior at CCM [the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music]," Bogart remembers vividly, "and they had supposedly chosen Carousel for me for my senior year. When the time came, I had a great audition for Billy--but they ended up double casting two other guys as Billy and they cast me as Jigger! I guess they thought no one else looked mean enough to play him. So, when I got this show, I called up my old professor at CCM and said, 'Guess what? I'm gonna do Billy in Carousel at Paper Mill!' He was really happy for me. I guess it took me awhile to get over that disappointment!"

The Carousel cast--which includes Glory Crampton as Julie Jordan, Christiane Noll as Carrie Pipperidge, Brandon Jovanovich as Mister Snow, and the beloved Eddie Bracken as the Starkeeper--was just about to move to Paper Mill for the final week of rehearsals when I spoke with Bogart at a press preview of a few numbers at the 890 Broadway studios. "I'm looking forward to getting on the stage," he said. "The show is going to be very environmental and situational, and I think that's great. If you've got the space, use it--especially when the house is as big as Paper Mill's."

How much of a vocal challenge is the show's famous "Soliloquy"? Says Bogart, "I've been working on pacing. It's, like, an eight-minute song--so you go hard in the sections that need to be intense, and you take it easy when you can. Tom Helm, the music director, and I have been working on it for a couple of months now, working up my stamina. That's the key. I'm feeling pretty good about it."

Bogart seemed properly awed when I told him that I had the golden opportunity to visit John Raitt, who created the role of Billy in the original, 1945 Broadway production of Carousel, at his home in California a couple of years ago. "He's definitely a model," says the young actor. Did Bogart see the Lincoln Center Theater revival of the show? "You know," he admits sheepishly, "I second-acted it a couple of times. I loved the ballet, and I loved what [director] Nicholas Hytner did to make the show a little edgier. I also saw the tour, with Patrick Wilson as Billy. He was great. I'm really glad to have the chance to do the part myself."

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