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Interview: Brad Oscar Takes Over the Little Shop of Horrors

Oscar tells us about playing Mr. Mushnik and the upcoming Only Make Believe gala.

After the rough disappointment of Mrs. Doubtfire on Broadway, Tony nominee Brad Oscar has bounced back, as resilient actors do, and has now taken up residence on Skid Row. Oscar is the new Mr. Mushnick in the hit off-Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors, and plans to stick around for a good long while.

At the same time, Oscar is getting ready for the yearly Only Make Believe gala, celebrating an organization that he holds very close to his heart. Only Make Believe creates interactive theater in hospitals and care facilities for children, helping to inspire and foster growth within youngsters with fragile conditions and developmental delays. The gala, hosted by John Oliver, will take place November 14, Get tickets here.

Over Zoom, Oscar told us what to expect from the show, and sung the praises of his Little Shop home off-Broadway.

Brad Oscar
(© Allison Stock)

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

A lot of us theater geeks were very happy to see you and Rob McClure on stage together in Little Shop after the turmoil of Mrs. Doubtfire.
This is our third time together onstage like this [after Something Rotten! and Doubtfire], and you know how much I adore him. I think most people who work with him pretty much adore him. I think we all still have PTSD from Doubtfire. It was the strangest experience for all of us in so many different ways, and it's a big disappointment. It still hurts. It's still an open wound. But to have the opportunity to get back to work, and to play with people that you love and respect, is something that I don't take for granted. Live theater still feels rather tenuous, so I'm very grateful to have a job at home here in the city.

Is doing Little Shop as fun as it looks?
It really is. We're telling this wacky story that exists in two worlds: there's the camp and heightened reality, but all this truth has to also exist. That's why I think this cast is so great. You've got a really good group of actors. It always starts there. Good voices are a dime a dozen. There are so many great voices in this city. But if there's nothing going on as far as the storytelling…That's why we're so lucky right now. These roles can very easily get caricatured and out of hand, especially in a show that's long-running where they don't have eyes on us as much as they did when it first opened. We're doing the work and taking it very seriously, and we're firing on all cylinders right now, which is a great feeling.

Rob McClure and Brad Oscar in Little Shop of Horrors at the Westside Theatre
(© Emilio Madrid)

How did you get involved with Only Make Believe, and why is it so special to you?
A dear friend of mine introduced me to Dena Hammerstein, who founded the organization. I was doing The Producers at the time and did one of their benefits. That's how I got involved, really just performing at a benefit. It's a very special organization, taking what actors and performers do and really putting it up to its highest purpose, The idea of the healing power of the arts just transcends entertainment. Whatever I could do to support that I would do. I was pretty vocal about my support whenever I could be. I did every benefit they had if I was in town and became an honorary board member, and then last year became a real board member.

Only Make Believe started out by just going to hospitals for sick children, but now we're performing for developmentally disabled adults, children that are being detained in strange, scary environments…There are props and costumes we bring along and we do these scripted, interactive shows. Each program is a six-week cycle, so the children and people at these facilities and hospitals get to know the actors as they perform different scripted and interactive shows. As it goes along weekly, the bond and trust expands, which makes for a better experience for everybody.

What can people expect from the gala this year?
First and foremost, a great time, and it's a great cause. We broaden the horizons and let people know about this very special organization that started here in New York City and is now, little by little, all over the country. We have a major base in Washington, D.C., and is branching into other cities, other hospitals and facilities. So you come to the gala, be entertained, and find out what you could maybe do to become part of this organization and help its expansion.

Click here for more information about Only Make Believe.