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Fantasy Man

Malcolm Gets walks through walls in Michel Legrand's Amour. logo
Malcolm Gets
The role of Marcel Dusoleil in the new Michel Legrand musical Amour allows Malcolm Gets to do something extraordinary. "It's total fantasy," says Gets of the show, in which he plays a civil servant who discovers that he has the ability to walk through walls. "I think that people who are coming to see the show know what the premise is," says the actor as we chat in his dressing room at The Music Box. "Still, the first time I go through that first little door, I wonder if there's anyone out there who doesn't know what's coming."

The show is directed by James Lapine (Into the Woods). Gets describes his character as "very much like Walter Mitty: a little guy who wears a gray suit and writes letters to his mother. He likes everything to be neat and orderly. He goes to work every day, doesn't have any friends, doesn't have a girlfriend. He loves Isabelle [co-star Melissa Errico] from afar but never dreams that she'd ever look at him, because she's married and she's so beautiful. One day, he goes home and suddenly realizes that he's walked through the wall of his apartment building. In a lot of ways, Dusoleil feels very familiar to me. I have a place in my heart for him."

Gets first met Errico at Yale Drama School. "I was in graduate school and Melissa was an undergrad," he says. "Later, we did one of the big workshops for Triumph of Love. When she came aboard for Amour, I was so happy. I adore Melissa! She's extremely talented, unbelievably bright, very beautiful, and her voice meshes so well with Michel's music."

Having spent four seasons playing Richard, the caustic colorist on the TV sitcom Caroline in the City, Get has achieved the financial security to pursue theater work with greater freedom. "It's a much different experience now that I have a little nest egg," he says. "I loved working on television but I knew I wanted to come back to the stage. This is where my roots are. My mother saw an ad for the show and said, 'I see they have you in glasses again.' I wore glasses for Caroline and in a movie I did that's coming out in November. No matter what I do, there's part of me that feels that people want to see me as a geek. That's okay. Growing up, I studied classical piano; when I was in a second grade talent show and everyone else was singing John Denver or rock and roll, I played 'If Ever I Would Leave You.'"

Gets in a publicity shot for Amour
Born in Chicago, Gets was raised in Gainesville, Florida. "All of us in my family were involved in music," he tells me. "When we were kids, the record cabinet was chock-full of Broadway shows. I grew up listening to Carousel, Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady. It had an impact on my life. There was a community theater at the end of our street and one day, when I was 13, some friends got me into the cast of Annie Get Your Gun there. That was it; I was hooked." His first professional job "was in Juno at the Vineyard. I've done three or four shows with [director] Mark Lamos, including a Martin Guerre at Hartford Stage." His most recent work with Lamos was a controversial production of Edward II at ACT in San Francisco. "It had a lot of nudity, simulated sex, and graphic violence," Gets relates. "I have a really rebellious spirit, but there were times when even I was surprised by the staging!"

Gets met Barbara Cook during a workshop for the Roundabout of a show comprised of Stephen Sondheim songs: "It was James Lapine's idea, but then Putting It Together came to Broadway and it just wasn't the time to do it." However, Cook invited Gets to join her at Carnegie Hall for her Mostly Sondheim concert there on February 2, 2001, a recording of which was released as a 2-CD set by DRG. In addition to duets with Cook, Gets performed a piece in which he combined songs from West Side Story with lines from Romeo and Juliet. Other Sondheim associations for Gets include the 1994 York Theatre Company production of Merrily We Roll Along (he won an Obie Award and a Drama Desk nomination for his performance as Franklin Shepard) and a 2001 Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera production of Company in which he starred as Bobby.

In 1997, Gets did The Boys from Syracuse for Encores! Also that year, he played Og, the leprechaun, in an L.A. Reprise! concert version of Finian's Rainbow. The latter, he claims, "was one of the easiest jobs I ever had. I was a last-minute replacement. Will Mackenzie, who directed, had done a lot of episodes of Caroline in the City. It's a brilliant score -- but the book is so tricky to get around that, these days, I think a concert version is the only way to do it."

Melissa Errico and Malcolm Gets
in Amour
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
Among Gets's other credits are Hello Again and A New Brain at Lincoln Center, Boys and Girls at Playwrights Horizons, and Two Gentlemen of Verona (for which he also won an Obie) and The Moliere Comedies at the Roundabout with Brian Bedford ("the best Moliere actor I've ever seen"). Recently, Gets appeared in Jerry's Boys "with Jerry Herman, Nancy Dussault, and the Los Angeles Gay Men's Chorus. We did three performances [at L.A.'s Alex Theatre] and the people went crazy for the number from Miss Spectacular [Herman's latest score]." In November, Gets will be seen in the film Love in the Time of Money -- "a very intense, complex little movie. I'm married to Jill Hennessy and exploring my bisexuality with Steve Buscemi!"

He also was involved in a recent workshop with Graciela Daniele and Michael John LaChiusa, "and I can't wait for people to hear Michael John's new score. There are so many talented young composers: Adam Guettel, Jason Robert Brown, Ricky Ian Gordon. Thank God for CDs! A New Brain only ran four months but the CD has so much beautiful music. That show was such a brave undertaking.

"Amour is a challenge, too," says Gets. "Though it's a charming piece, it's just 'off' enough to not be a sure thing. But I think it's thrilling to be involved in things that are experimental and risky. It makes the heart go a little faster."

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