Final Bow: Clarke Thorell Takes One Last Stroll Down "Easy Street" as Rooster in Broadway's Annie
Thorell reflects on a year of rotating Miss Hannigans, terrified children, and a few inopportune moments of improvisational dance.
Every show ends sometime (unless you're Phantom), so before the cast takes their final bow, there are a few things we want to know.
Clarke Thorell has been crooning the role of the villainous Rooster in the revival of Annie since performances first began at Broadway's Palace Theatre in October 2012. Now that the beloved musical is only weeks away from taking its final bow, TheaterMania asked Thorell to share some favorite memories from his past year with the production. TheaterMania got the inside scoop on all three of his infamous Miss Hannigans (Katie Finneran, Jane Lynch, and Faith Prince) and the final word on whether there's truth in the old saying, "Never work with children or animals."
1. What is your favorite line that you delivered?
I love digging my teeth into the line, "Some old geezer from Yonkers said I swindled him out of eleven hundred bucks."
2. Everyone loves inside jokes. So tell us…
a. What's the best one from your show?
There's a line that Miss Hannigan has to speak that involves trying to shoo the children away when the officer brings Annie back after she's run away. She says, "Children, children! There's hot cocoa and ginger snaps in the recreation room for you!" Somehow, Katie Finneran and Jane Lynch both went up on that line and rewrote it on the spot because they couldn't remember what the products were and they both said something like "Cocoa Puffs and hot chocolate." They brought in a product that had not been invented yet. Very anachronistic. Jane didn't know that that had happened with Katie but somehow Cocoa Puffs wanted to make itself known in the show on different occasions.
b. Since there probably is one, what's the punch line of your cast's most unprintable inside joke?
Having so many young girls in the cast, we've managed to temper our material. We do have a weekly Saturday Night on Broadway tradition that started in [our Grace Farrell] Brynn O'Malley's dressing room. While she's getting ready for the show, she hosts Saturday Night on Broadway festivities for the adults and we have adult beverages and snacks. That's generally when the dirt comes out…the unprintables. [laughs]
3. Every show experiences technical difficulties. What was the worst technical difficulty to be experienced during your show and how was it handled?
At the end of "Easy Street," a black car comes onstage and the three of us — Miss Hannigan, Rooster, and Lily — get into the car. It didn't come on one night and we didn't have any alternate choreography so [it was] Katie Finneran and [our Lily St. Regis] J. Elaine Marcos kind of doing dosey dos and me running around — the proverbial chicken with its head cut off…pun intended. It was just a big embarrassing mess. Very shortly after, we were given some alternate choreography to cover ourselves, but it was one of those moments [when] probably thirty seconds of material felt like an eternity.
Did you ever have to use the alternate choreography?
We did. And I think by that time it had been long enough that we had all forgotten it so we did the same shucking and jiving and clucking around [one another]…Lots of big arm gestures.
4. What was the most "interesting" present someone gave you at the stage door?
I get drawings sometimes from children that are really super cute. [But] some time after we opened we did receive pieces of the original orchestration segments of our songs from our orchestrator, Michael Starobin. That was a lovely thing to have. This iconic piece of material that you got to perform eight times a week on Broadway.
5. Who is the coolest person who came to see your show? (You can't say your family!)
Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters. He's been one of my heroes in the music world for a long time. I don't get starstruck often but I was like a screaming little girl. He was saying, "I don't know how you guys do this eight times a week. I would love to be able to sing like you guys." And I was saying just the exact same thing to him, [and] that songs of his are regularly in my pre-show warm-up mix.
6. Describe each of your Miss Hannigans in one phrase:
a. Katie Finneran: Somebody you would be dying to have an affair with but wouldn't want to cross.
b. Jane Lynch: Hilariously committed to making her way through, one way or the other.
c. Faith Prince: Desperately drunk.
7. What is the funniest thing a kid has said to you at the stage door?
The little girl from Modern Family, Aubrey Anderson, came backstage and she was all smiles meeting the orphans and taking pictures with them and the other characters. As soon as she saw me, she hid behind her mom and didn't want to have anything to do with me…until I started speaking as Donald Duck. Then she loosened up a bit.
8. Who in the cast most often forgets there are children around?
I actually think it was James Lapine, our director, in rehearsals, [who] did it the most. Without a doubt. [But] I've had to put money into the swear jar a couple times.
9. What would be your version of "Easy Street"?
Having a house on the beach — preferably on both coasts. And the ability to go to New York and L.A. and travel as I please singing with an ever-expanding circle of both friends and performers.
10. After your time in Annie, would you pass on the infamous advice, "Never work with children or animals"?
There's definitely truth in it, but for me, I would rather sacrifice ego for the absolute joy of getting to work with both animals and children. I'm a huge sucker for both. I used to do a lot of rescue work so I'm totally in love with the dogs we have in Annie and any cause that seeks to get the word out there about rescuing animals from shelters. And I feel like I'm growing a uterus sometimes because I want to have a kid so badly. So this has been a ton of fun and it's a dream to work with some of these girls. It's been a delight.