Jack Noseworthy is all set to do his stuff at the Metropolitan Room. Plus: Thank Heaven for cast album reissues from Sony/BMG and DRG!
"In the movie Breakdown, I played a killer. On Judging Amy, I played a stalker. On Law & Order, I played a child molester. On CSI, I played a rapist. And in The Brady Bunch Movie, I was the guy who beat up the Brady kids. People seem to expect me to be like those characters -- so I decided to call my show You Don't Know Jack." That's Broadway, film, and TV performer Jack Noseworthy explaining the impetus for his upcoming cabaret show at the Metropolitan Room, directed by Gary Griffn (The Color Purple).
It's true that Noseworthy has a lot of bad guys on his résumé; but if you're familiar with this versatile actor's theater work as well as his appearances on the big and small screens, you know that he hasn't always been cast as the villain. He made his Broadway debut in Jerome Robbins' Broadway, then left to play Mark in the original Broadway production of A Chorus Line during the final weeks of that show's marathon run. In 2000, he gave a memorable performance in the title role of Robert Johanson's outré staging of Pippin at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Two years later, he was nice-guy musician Dallas in the short-lived Broadway musical Sweet Smell of Success. Most recently, he played two small parts in The Public Theater's high-profile production of Mother Courage and Her Children at the Delacorte, which gave him the amazing opportunity to share the stage with Meryl Streep.
"I'm a happily working actor," says Noseworthy. "You go on your appointments and auditions. If you're offered a job and it sounds good, you take it." Last season, he dodged a bullet when he left the cast of the mega-flop Lestat during the musical's pre-Broadway run in San Francisco. "I was part of that show from the initial reading," he relates, "and I was cast because the creators felt I could play the character Armand as written by Anne Rice. But the way the material was translated to the stage, they began to feel that Armand as he is in the book was not going to work in the musical. They ultimately decided they wanted him to be a darker presence in the show, so we mutually decided to part ways. That's the official version of the story, but it's also the truth. There were no hard feelings; they threw me a going away party and everything. I'm a half-full guy, you know? I don't like to look at a glass and say that it's half-empty; I try to see every experience I have as positive."
What can people look forward to if they plan to attend You Don't Know Jack on September 19 or 20? "I want the show to be fun," says its star, "so there are a couple of really nice comedy songs that I've been working on with [musical director] Michael Lavine. I'll be doing at least two songs from Sweet Smell, and I'm going to do a take on my time in Jerome Robbins' Broadway and A Chorus Line. That was a really important and fulfilling time in my life; I had come from working with Jerry Robbins for almost two years, and then I joined the final company of what was then the longest running show in Broadway history. In fact, the day they announced the closing of A Chorus Line was the day of my first performance. The show ran for 10 more weeks, and it became the hottest ticket in town."
Noseworthy played a sexy ACT-UP member who falls for the closeted son of a right-wing politician in the recent indie film Poster Boy. Among his many other credits are the movies Encino Man, Alive, and U-571, and the MTV series Dead at 21. He's grateful that he has rarely been unemployed, even if he hasn't yet become an A-level star. "When I was in school, I wanted to be a triple threat," he says. "I wanted to be able to sing, dance, and approach everything from the foundation of being an actor. I'm very fortunate in that I can mix it up as far as the roles I play. It can be hard for actors to break a mold if they've been defined by playing one particular character week after week on a hit TV series -- though I'd like to have that problem someday!"
This description certainly applies to the 1976 revival cast album of My Fair Lady, which recently made its belated CD debut on Sony/BMG's "Masterworks Broadway" label. Starring Ian Richardson as Henry Higgins, Christine Andreas as Eliza Doolittle, and George Rose as Eliza's father, Alfie P., this is arguably the second-best aural document of the Lerner and Loewe masterpiece after the essential original cast recording with Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews, and Stanley Holloway. Richardson is a bit over-petulant as Higgins, but he gets away with it because he's completely committed to the characterization. Andreas is a joy throughout, and Rose is so much fun that it's no surprise he won a Tony Award for his performance. Jerry Lanning lends his gorgeous bari-tenor to "On the Street Where You Live," and the wonderful Robert Coote reprises his role of Colonel Pickering from the legendary 1956 production. The original orchestrations, by Robert Russell Bennett and Phil Lang, sound glorious in crisp, clear, full stereo.
Two other recordings that are making their CD debuts thanks to Sony/BMG are the cast albums of the Music Theater of Lincoln Center productions of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific and The King and I. (Richard Rodgers was the president and producing director of this company, which presented shows at the New York State Theater for a few years in the mid 1960s.) South Pacific is the better recording of the two: Florence Henderson sounds young and vibrant as Nellie Forbush, in contrast to Mary Martin's rather affected, more matronly performance on the original Broadway cast album; and Giorgio Tozzi, who dubbed Rossano Brazzi's singing voice in the execrable film version of SP, is just about perfect as Emile de Becque. Irene Byatt is a colorful Bloody Mary, and Justin McDonough does a pretty good job with Joe Cable's beautiful ballad "Younger Than Springtime."
As for The King and I, opera star Risë Stevens sounds a little plummy and not very British as Anna, yet her performance is full of warmth and humor. Darren McGavin is no threat to Yul Brynner in the role of the King, but Lee Venora and Frank Porretta soar in the songs of the doomed young lovers Tuptim and Lun Tha. Another plus is a moving rendition of Lady Thiang's "Something Wonderful" by Patricia Neway, who played the Mother Abbess in the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music. This, by the way, was the first recording of The King and I to include the ballet "The Small House of Uncle Thomas," even if it is heavily abridged here. And, as the press materials for the South Pacific and King and I CDs accurately state, "these are the only recordings of both shows in stereo that reflect Rodgers' famously specific ideas of how these scores should sound."
Harold Prince's 1973 production of Candide, first seen at the Chelsea Theater Center in Brooklyn and then on Broadway for 740 performances, was significant in that it made Leonard Bernstein's gorgeous but problematic operetta theatrically viable for the first time -- thanks to Prince's "environmental staging," with the action happening all around the audience, and to Hugh Wheeler's complete rewrite of the original book by Lillian Hellman. The two-disc cast album preserves virtually the entire show, including dialogue, and has a wonderful theatricality about it. Still, it's not really competitive with other recordings of Candide because (1) the original Bernstein-Hershy Kay orchestrations were drastically reduced for this production, and (2) much of the singing is not up to snuff.
Two of the three recent releases from DRG need little comment, since the recordings have been on CD before. Three Wishes for Jamie (1952) has an old-fashioned, romantic score by Ralph Blane that hasn't aged well, but the album is worth owning if only for the phenomenal singing of the great John Raitt in the role of an Irishman who immigrates to the U.S. in 1896. Salvation is a 1969 Off-Broadway musical that, as David Wolf writes in The TheaterMania Guide to Musical Theater Recordings, features "uncommonly sweet and melodic" songs by Peter Link and C.C. Courtney. The show yielded one sort-of pop hit, "If You Let Me Make Love to You Then Why Can't I Touch You?" Distressingly, there's no indication anywhere in the CD package as to which of the cast members -- including Link and Courtney, Joe Morton, Marta Heflin, and Yolande Bavan -- sing which songs!