Final Bow

Final Bow: Zak Resnick Will Leave a Piece of His Heart With Off-Broadway's Piece of My Heart

The rising star reflects on the time he spent twisting and shouting while playing prolific songwriter Bert Berns.

Zak Resnick just can't get away from 1650 Broadway. Even now that he's no longer on the block (where he worked as a server at Stardust Diner and starred in Mamma Mia!), in some ways he's closer than ever. Through September 14, Resnick is starring in Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story as the eponymous songwriter Bert Berns — who penned such ubiquitous hits as "Twist and Shout," "I Want Candy," and "Brown Eyed Girl" from his office in that same iconic building.

Now that it's time for Resnick to move on from the hit off-Broadway musical, he's reflecting on his favorite moments and considering breaking the 1650 trend, or…maybe not.

Zak Resnick stars as songwriter Bert Berns in Piece of My Heart.
Zak Resnick stars as songwriter Bert Berns in Piece of My Heart.
(© Jenny Anderson)

1. What is your favorite line that you delivered?

Probably "If not now, when?" It kind of speaks for itself. It's all about grabbing life by the balls.

2. Everyone loves inside jokes. What is the best one from your show?

Well, my mind immediately goes to Bryan Fenkart who plays Young Wazzel. I think the funniest thing he does every show is Bert and Eileen have a Jewish wedding in act two — yarmulkes [and all] and he crushes the glass and everyone yells "mazel tov!" — and Brian yells [the unscripted line] "Wazzel tov!" Every show.

3. Every show experiences technical difficulties. What was the worst technical difficulty experienced during your show and how was it handled?

The first thing that comes to my mind is when I was trying to figure out the sound in my character's death scene because our mics are worn on our cheeks not up in our hairlines. So I'm clutching and grasping at the character of my wife and sort of putting my face all over her and then you hear the mic rustling and [it] totally killed the moment.

4. What was the most "interesting" present someone gave you at the stage door?

Someone actually just brought me like a ten-by-twelve sort of painting they did of our show poster with a Sharpie. It's pretty amazing. It's totally framable.

Zak Resnick and Gabrielle Ruiz share a heated moment in Piece of My Heart.
Zak Resnick and Gabrielle Ruiz share a heated moment in Piece of My Heart.
(© Jenny Anderson)

5. Who is the coolest person who came to see your show? (You can't say family!)

Cissy Houston came last night. Clive Davis came opening night. Bette Midler came. Paul Schaffer was at opening. I think probably Clive or Cissy. That's pretty cool.

6. From a gig at Stardust Diner to embodying Bert Berns, you've been on a 1650 Broadway kick. Do you have your eye on Beautiful next?

I think it's a fantastic show. I don't know if my eye is specifically there, but if they came knockin' on my door, I wouldn't close the door on 'em. It does fit so perfectly. I've thought about that actually. But we'll see. Maybe it's time to break out of the mold.

7. What is it like playing dad to Leslie Kritzer, a New York theater veteran and ten years your senior?

It's great…I remember rushing up to her at the stage door when I was like eighteen, just as a fan. So I mean to play her dad is definitely weird but it's also amazing. She says that I'm like her little brother but we all know that I'm much more like her father. That's really the way it is. She's not allowed to talk back to me — she has to watch her language around me. [laughs] All those things.

8. What's the most interesting fact that you've learned about Bert Berns while working on Piece of My Heart?

Bert does some kind of shady things towards the end of his life because he's protecting his life's work. And it's easy to scoff at that and be like, Oh, what an inappropriate way to handle that — because things got a little violent. But I really started to think about the weight of what was in front of him. The man had a death sentence and he knew he didn't have much longer. It's not just about a couple of songs, who has ownership over them, whatever. This is what this man will leave behind on this planet when he goes. And I think when you look at it that way, it's much easier to relate to his desperation.

9. Which of the songs in the show is your favorite to perform?

"Here Comes the Night." The whole setup of it, the way that it closes the act, is so fun. That will be the thing that I'm the saddest to leave behind when the show closes. But I do have to say that I really enjoy "Baby Can I Take You Home" in the second act that he sings to the character of his future wife, Eileen. I feel like a movie camera in that scene. The way that the lights are shining on Eileen on the box that she's dancing on, and I'm circling her basically the entire song. I feel like I have the view of what eventually the audience of a movie would see.

10. Did you grow up with most of the songs in the show or were a lot of them new to you?

Well, my mother is like the biggest Beatles fan in the world. So obviously "Twist and Shout" was huge. I loved "Tell Him" growing up and "Cry to Me." I did not know "Here Comes the Night," which I'm obsessed with. Though, I have to say, having heard a couple of the other versions of it, I don't know whether I would have connected to it in the way that I do in the show. The arrangement in the show is so beautiful, and some of the original recorded versions, they're just a little hokey. But I'm so happy to have them in my life now, all of them.

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