Saturday, August 20, 2011

Interview with Bryce Ryness

Bryce Ryness appeared on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning revival of  Hair (Woof, Drama Desk nom) and Legally Blonde(Aaron, Emmett u/s). Other credits include the NY premiere of Drama Desk-award winning See Rock City... (Jess/Cutter), Crossing Brooklyn (AJ, Transport Group) and the national tour of Rent (Roger). Los Angeles musical theatre credits include the world premieres of Dangerous Beauty at the Pasadena Playhouse and Leap of Faith at the Ahmanson Theatre, as well as the Los Angeles premiere of Floyd Collins. Bryce fronts a rock band called Ryness and has sung backup for Roger Daltrey, Sarah Brightman, Frankie Valli, Marin Mazzie, and Josh Groban.He will star as the MC in Reprise Theatre Co's Cabaret opening their new season September 14 at The Freud, UCLA.

Tell me about the MC in Cabaret and what is challenging about playing him. 
And give away all my secrets!? What kind of magician would I be? Kidding.
First and foremost, he's human. He has thoughts, feelings, and opinions. And, in this particular production, I think audiences will be delighted and/or outraged by my/our take on him- I gladly take either reaction. I think he's a cautionary figure. And, hopefully, if I do my job right, he'll make you quite unsettled... all the while giving you that funny feeling in your tummy. So that, ultimately, is the challenge: to make this guy human, subtly terrifying, and irresistible. 

Is this perhaps the most challenging/difficult role for you to date? Why? or Why not?

in Hair
Well, it's certainly daunting… but then again I wouldn't have auditioned for the show if I wasn't terrified of the role. I've always been attracted to roles (and shows) that force me to confront an overwhelming fear; about myself, my abilities, my stamina, my resolve, my moral paradigms, etc. Roles are like children- each is challenging in its own unique way!  Iconic roles (like 'The Emcee' or 'Pippin' or 'Roger' or 'Reno Sweeney') present a unique challenge to the actor that lesser known roles avoid: preconception. Ironically, this has nothing to do with the actor. Iconic roles carry with them a built-in bias, generally chained to another actor's work. So, realistically, the notes aren't any higher or the choreography any more difficult than the guy before you- the challenge becomes undoing the preconceived notions the audience member brings into the theater before the show even starts! Can my characterization disarm the audience member and allow them to live in this moment anew? Or will it merely be a further academic exercise for him/her in "compare-and-contrast"? In addition to learning this entire show in 13 days, that's maybe the largest challenge I face.

Do you feel he is the key to Cabaret's message?
Subjectively (read: selfishly) speaking; of course! With the way we're telling this story- and we're telling it as historically accurate as we can- he's the guy you gotta watch out for, the one who's expertly trading on people's hopes and fears devoid of empathy.

You have done quite a few ground-breaking shows. Talk a bit about doing Hair and then Rent.
They were fantastic! Both experiences were fully three-dimensional. I spent enough time doing both- at a certain zenith of their exposure- to be fully immersed in all the joy and pain that a massive, hit show can bring. Shows are kind of like lovers. You spend somuch time getting to know them, learn their ins-and-outs, know how to please them, that each show feels like falling in love. Both HAIR 
and RENT were like being in relationships with a well-known celebrity: really attractive and popular but demand A LOT of time and attention because everyone knows them and (oftentimes) thinks they can do it better than you… but if you love them with truth and sincerity (and don't listen to the haters) they give back an ocean in return. 

Legally Blonde must have been a real switch. Did you enjoy it? In what ways?
Oh man, I loved it! I afforded my wife and I the chance to stay in New York City! We were on the verge of running out of money and were praying- literally, on our knees on the cracked parquet wood floor of our Woodside apartment- in November of 2007, asking Jesus to provide us a way to stay in New York. Exactly one month (to the day) after that pleading I got a call from my agent saying that I'd be making my Broadway debut on January 2nd, 2008. The divine comedy is that when I first got the call to go in for the audition, my response was, "Legally Blonde? What am I going to do in that?"

What is your favorite role so far in musical theatre?
Floyd Collins.

Do you have a favorite composer? A favorite show, whether you've done it or not?
I love Once On This Island. I'll never be able to do it (for obvious reasons) but I love every note of that score and all the lessons it imparts. I also love Jesus Christ Superstar. Not so much for its take on the gospel but the music is epic.

Favorite Composer: John Foreman.

Tell me about your band. Do you play gigs regularly? How does that fit in to your schedule as a musical comedy actor?

in Dangerous Beauty (right)
RYNESS is Robin Lai (drums), Jae Ko (bass), Jeff Washburn (guitar), and me. It's the best group of musicians I've ever worked withspanning both my onstage and offstage life. True friends. I write the majority of the songs but I'd be nowhere without them. They're all based in New York so playing gigs when I'm doing out-of-town productions is a bit tough. I think we've played out, as a band, once in the last year. But, when everyone is in the same quadrant of the U.S., we generally play out once every month or so. It started as an opportunity for me to be creative while in the midst of bartending, cater-waitering, and banging my head against brick walls (read: starting out in New York as an auditioning actor). It matured into this wonderful group of friends who love to create music together. We've got two albums out: Live @ Joe's Pub was recorded in September of 2008 and is available at our shows and A Fire In The Night came out in May of 2009 and is available on iTunes and Amazon. We're in the process of writing a third...

You were wonderful in 
Dangerous Beauty. Tell me your feelings about playing that role and the show overall.
Thank you! It was a wonderful confluence of events: being back in Pasadena (where my wife and I lived after we were first married), at the Playhouse (where I'd always wanted to work), working with my college roommate (James Snyder), on a new piece (yay, creativity!), directed by Sheryl Kaller (who I love). Every single person- from the lead producers to the 'Friends of the Playhouse' volunteer ushers- were sincerely loving, supportive, and ready to make something cool and new. It was a golden episode in our life. We were also walking distance from Vroman's Bookstore and their story-time in the kids section was the jam. (our daughter) Mercy. loved. it.

backstage with James Snyder before a performance of Dangerous Beauty at Pasadena Playhouse

Anything more to say about Cabaret before signing off?

I hope people are getting excited about our production of CABARET. I think it's going to blow your mind/heart. Whatever happens, you won't leave unaffected!
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:       The Freud Playhouse at UCLA, conveniently located in Macgowan Hall

Dates:          September 13-September 25
Tuesdays through Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 2:00pm & 8:00pm,
Sundays at 2:00 pm & 7:00 pm
Tickets:        UCLA Central Ticket Office:  310/825-2101

Prices:         September 13 preview $63.00; September 14 opening night - $78.00;
Tuesday through Thursday Evenings - $73.00;
Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, (all performances) - $78.00.
Student/Senior rush $20, 15 minutes before showtime
(subject to availability).

More Info:

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