Monday, March 2, 2009

2007 interview with Sean McDermott

Jekyll & Hyde

When this interview was conducted for, actor/singer Sean McDermott was about to perform at the Ford Amphitheatre as part of a benefit for Valley Musical Theatre called Broadway Unplugged. Unfortunately, Valley Musical Theatre has since disbanded, but McDermott continues successfully to cross country singing in his one-man show and in a show with Kevin Spiritas entitled Jersey Men.
(McDermott had spent the summer of 2007 on a European concert tour with Barbra Streisand. Billed as the Broadway Boys, McDermott, Hugh Panaro, Michael Arden and Peter Lockyer sang with La Streisand in Zurich, Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, Dublin, Manchester and London: just 10 performances in 8 cities. Various parts of these concerts may be viewed on You Tube. I have included here a couple of the questions that relate to that phenomenal experience.)
Q: How did this whole experience make you feel?
McD: It was sort of a dream come true. Barbra Streisand was a big inspiration for me. My older sister was also a singer. We both learned how to sing, listening to Streisand...Johnny Mathis...Jane Olivor came out after that...Sinatra was great too. My sister came to Dublin to see the show and came back and met Streisand. And I told her (Barbra), "You taught us how to sing."
Q: How did she react?
McD: She was thrilled.
Q: How did she treat you throughout the tour?
McD: She was great to us. She took us out to dinner; she gave us presents. Donna Karan threw us a party in London...I only have great things to say...just standing off stage and watching her...(he is awestruck)...
Q: I'm so glad she's back doing the concert scene again!
McD: Stage fright kept her away for about 20 years. You know, she got a lot of flack for the teleprompters. They're very big. There's one that sits out over the audience. It's huge. She doesn't use it a lot, but it's there for security. She's a perfectionist. She's not a club type singer to whom patter comes easy. She wants things a certain way.
Q: Let's switch to Sean. Tell me about your recent recordings.
McD: I have a CD that was released in Europe. I'm going to go over there and do some concert work to promote it. Dublin loves singers, and so, it's a big release there. I don't know about its release here, probably via the internet. The music business is very strange now, and to get a big record company (... is difficult)... It's primarily original, with a few cover tunes like "Danny Boy" and "Open Arms". It's not Broadway like my previous 2 CDs (the last being Piece of Sky) . It's more rock and pop. I'm a Josh Grobin type and producer Charlie Midnight would pull me back on a lot of my big singing, because, for radio play, it's just not as effective.
Q: Those Broadway albums are terrific!
McD: Yes, thank you. Well my producer in London who did them (Jay Records) wants to do a third, so we were recording in London while I was there this summer. I also want to do an album of Irish songs.
Q: How's LA treating you?
(he recently guested on an episode of NBC's Medium - February, 2009)
McD: I've been out for a lot of film and TV work and done some co-star stuff.
Q: What kind of music do you like to listen to in your leisure time? Besides Barbra, of course!
McD: Mathis, Michel LeGrand. Sting is a huge favorite of mine. Annie Lennox, as far as pop is concerned. It's the way they write, so poignant.
Q: Do you compose?
McD: I do not write. Just some lyrics, but no. I wish I could. I play the piano minimally. My mother studied to be a concert pianist and she taught us. But there was a point where she really couldn't teach us anymore, so we took lessons, into college. If you can't play by then, it's not meant to be.
Q: What about the newer Broadway musicals?
McD: I've been discouraged with many, but there's a new piece called Spring Awakening (2007's Tony Award for Best Musical) that is so inspirational. I loved that. I loved Wicked, although it's a little silly. I like some of the tunes quite a bit. Spring Awakening...I can remember every song.
Q: When are you going to do another show?
McD: From your mouth to God's ears. I've been busy touring and doing a lot of concert work. When the part or the moment is right, I'd love to do more theatre out here.
Q: Do you have a favorite current pop song or singer?
McD: I watched Justin Timberlake recently. He's wonderful. I like his voice. It has this real high timber to it. I also like this rapper Timbaland who performs with Elton John. Keane, a group from London...they have a great sound, a very Beatlesish sound, yet very now.
Q: Are Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Schwartz composing material that is too hard for the voice to sing?
McD: Miss Saigon is like singing an opera. You do it 8 times a week, and it's very hard. Starlight Express was extremely high, and it's really difficult to replace people in it. But they're young singers conditioned to sing that way, so I think they've kind of raised the bar, and singers are really coming up to it. They're like machines. You have to really be disciplined not only in your technique, but also in your livelihood. It's a difficult lifestyle.
Q: Do you sing every day?
McD: No, I don't. You really have to take your time off. When you're not singing at night, you have to just be silent, so that the voice can rest. We don't get the break that opera singers have. They usually have a performance and then 3 or 4 days off. Sad to say, the younger you are, the easier it is. You have to keep yourself in shape.
Q: What is your favorite show of all time?
McD: West Side Story. Especially doing it. I know it sounds corny, but there's not another role written like Tony, if you are a tenor.
Q: Favorite composer?
McD: Sondheim.
Q: Mine too.
McD: I mean, I haven't done a lot of Sondheim shows, but I love singing his music. Every one should break out with a Sondheim tune every now and then. You learn so much from singing his material. Singing is the expression of the soul, I think, so his tunes hit the heart; they resonate.
Q: Favorite role you've played? Tony?
McD: It's Tony. Chris, too, was amazing in Miss Saigon.
Q: What role do you think is your best work?
McD: I did a production of Jekyll & Hyde. That was a stretch, a wonderful part...
Q: What role do you yearn to play?
McD: That's the big question. Probably Jean Valjean (Les Miz). Also... Phantom of the Opera, the Phantom, just because I haven't done it. Today there's so much clout in the world of musical theatre.
Q: Is there any role you'd like to play again?
McD: Jekyll & Hyde. I'm getting to the age where you kind of grow into it. And ... Billy Bigelow in Carousel.
Q: What do you feel is your mission as a performer?
McD: To make people happy, to spread the light and love. To just do...You're only as good as your last film or CD or Broadway show, so you're always wanting to do better, to create something really great. I want to just keep doing my music, and I don't know if I've ultimately found it yet. With each new project, I'm getting closer to ...finding my place.
Who is Sean McDermott?
An open, pleasant guy with good Irish genes and a keen talent. Whatever lies ahead for him, he'll surely make it great.
Visit him in his home away from home @
His achievements will amaze you!

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