Get Me Brent Barrett!
More sought after than ever, Brent Barrett takes time off from Kiss Me, Kate in London to star in the Encores! production of The Pajama Game.
It's his turn, coming through. While Brent Barrett has long been a musical theater mainstay, it can be argued that he was pretty much taken for granted for a number of years. Happily his stellar, back-to-back performances in the Broadway revivals of Candide, Chicago, and Annie Get Your Gun, the Encores! series' On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and the current London revival of Kiss Me, Kate seem to have finally earned Barrett the appreciation he deserves for his beautiful singing voice and his wonderful versatility as an actor.
If you haven't caught up with him lately, you have your chance this weekend: Barrett has taken a brief hiatus from Kate in order to appear as Sid Sorokin in the Encores! production of The Pajama Game. His co-star is Karen Ziemba, and the cast also includes Mark Linn-Baker, Deidre Goodwin, Daniel Jenkins, and Ken Page. Barrett began rehearsals almost immediately after getting off a plane from London, but he found time in his busy schedule to talk with TheaterMania about the show and about the recent upswing in what was already a highly respectable career.
THEATERMANIA: How are you holding up?
BRENT BARRETT: I'm a little tired right now, but I'm OK.
TM: Are you returning to Kiss Me, Kate right after Pajama Game is over?
BB: Pretty much. I'll be here for the two weeks, then I have five days off, and then I go back to London.
TM: Apparently, the show is quite a success over there.
BB: It's amazing: We were the first show that opened after 9/11 and there was not one bad review. It was kind of touted as the musical to bring back the West End, which was very nice.
TM: Whatever concerns people may have about the preponderance of revivals of musicals as compared to new shows, I suppose it's terrific from an actor's point of view to get to play the great roles.
BB: Yeah, I've been so lucky in the last few years, doing Billy Flynn [in Chicago] and Frank Butler [in Annie Get Your Gun] and now Kiss Me, Kate and Pajama Game. I'm also going to be doing a concert version of Oklahoma! at the Royal Albert Hall at the end of August.
TM: I hadn't heard about that.
BB: Do you know what The Proms is? It's a three-month concert schedule that they do at the Albert Hall. It's mostly a classical bent but, two years ago, I did one with Simon Rattle and we did Bernstein--Wonderful Town. This year, because of the Rodgers centennial, there's an evening of Richard Rodgers on August 17. I'm not sure what they're doing in the first half, but the second half is going to be a concert version of Oklahoma!
TM: Do you know who else is in it?
BB: Lisa Vroman is Laurey; she's a friend of mine. Klea Blackhurst is Ado Annie. And Maureen Lipman, who was in the Royal National production, is going to be doing Aunt Eller again in the concert and also functioning as the narrator. The BBC is going to televise it.
TM: So, what role haven't you gotten to yet that you'd most like to do?
BB: [Without missing a beat] Billy Bigelow.
TM: They're doing a concert of Carousel at Carnegie Hall in June, and Hugh Jackman is Billy.
BB: Yes, Hugh is doing it. They've gone for the Hollywood name! And can you blame them?
BB: It's one of those shows that I never did; I'm surprised that I didn't hook up with it somewhere down the line. [Director] John Rando is doing a wonderful job and David Ives is trimming the book down for a concert version. John Carrafa is choreographing.
TM: Which of these people have you worked with previously?
BB: I hadn't worked with John Rando before, but I did On a Clear Day... with John Carrafa. Of course, Karen Ziemba and I have done several things together. The funny thing is that, last year--I think it was at the Drama League brunch--Karen came up to me and said, "You know, Brent, we should do Pajama Game some time." That was a year ago almost to the day of our opening, and now here we are. You have to be careful what you put out there in the universe, because you just may get it!
TM: It's going to be great to hear you sing "Hey There."
BB: I'm having a good time with it. It's interesting: I love G-flat and all of Sid's songs are in G-flat. That's where I live. Hopefully, my jet lag will be over by the time we open...
TM: It must be hard enough to do the Encores! shows with such limited rehearsal time, aside from having to deal with everything else.
BB: Well, I've been away for eight months. You come back for two weeks and you try to cram everything in--your dentist appointment, getting your taxes done--and it's like, "Oh my God! This isn't much of a vacation."
TM: It seems as though your name was mentioned for Sid almost as soon as Encores! announced Pajama Game but there was some doubt as to whether you'd be able to take a break from Kiss Me, Kate in order to do it.