Thursday, April 21, 2011

Interview with Tom Hewitt

Broadway star Tom Hewitt will costar with Lesli Margherita in Reprise's final show of this season Kiss Me Kate from May 10-22 @ the Freud Playhouse, UCLA. Best known for his award-winning role in the revival of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hewitt has played Count Dracula in Frank Wildhorn's musical production of Dracula, and costarred in a myriad of other hits like the tour of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and on Broadway as Billy Flynn in Chicago. In our conversation, he talks about Margherita, Kate and the numerous joys - some surprising - that he has encountered in his work, all the while displaying a wry humor.

What are the challenges of doing Kiss Me Kate as opposed to other musicals? What about your character specifically?  

One of the challenges of doing a popular musical is putting aside the fear of being compared to other actors in the role.  On the other hand I get to steal from Howard Keel and Brian Stokes Mitchell.  The biggest challenge of the role for me is doing scenes from Taming of the Shrew while bringing on the back-stage drama of Fred and Lilli.  

What is your most favorite role? Why?  

My favorite role is usually the last one I've done which, in this case, is Long John Silver in Treasure Island directed by the great B.H. Barry.  Silver's one of the great characters in literature, hands down.

I saw you do Dracula. How did that size up? Was it fun or difficult?  

Working on a new show is always an adventure.  And I loved it.  I loved the creative team, working with Melissa Ericco, our crew, especially my dresser James Wilcox who did miraculous costume changes.  "Darling, 45 seconds is an eternity."  I loved the flying and the stunts.  The challenge, of course, was to shut out the loud voices of dissent, most of whom had decided to hate the show before they saw it.  

Talk a little about Rocky Horror and how that got you so much attention in the beginning as a musical comedy star.  

Again, my fabulous dresser, Robert Guy, took me by the hand and showed me the ropes.  "Okay, Lilly Tomlin's coming back stage and here's what you do."  "There's a group of psycho fans out front, let's go this way."  I love him.  

Didn't you recently step into Chicago? How was that experience?  

After decades of Japanese avante guard, flying harnesses and 8" heels I was grateful for one tux, a spotlight, standing down center and letting the hot dancers do all the work.  

Talk a bit about Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and working with Norbert Leo Butz.  

Norbert Leo Butz is a force of nature... a talented El Nino that affected weather systems across the county as we toured.  I'm thrilled he's nominated again.    

Your favorite musical show of all time? Favorite composer?  

Sweeney Todd.  Maury Yeston.

How do you feel about contemporary musical theatre? Changes for the better or worse, do you think? Do you prefer doing the revivals?  

Of course, musicals always evolve with cultural, technological and economic changes, but the good new ones always seem to tap into the uniqueness of the theatrical event.  I find older shows more difficult to play because audience sensibilities have shifted. Kiss Me Kate is an example.  Like Private Lives, we have to assume hitting women is still funny.    

Lesli Margherita is great. Are you guys having fun?  

Okay... Leslie Margherita...  super talented, Olivier Award winner, never been on Broadway, doesn't need to be.  She has a wonderful career and a great life on the west coast.  America's a big country.  Broadway's one street.  She's delightful.  She is, however, wringing me out and mopping the stage with me.    

The Freud Playhouse at UCLA, conveniently located in Macgowan Hall
May 10 through the 22nd: Tuesdays through Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 2:00pm & 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:00 pm & 7:00 pm 
UCLA Central Ticket Office:  310/825-2101