How did you get started in theater?
Apart from playing a decayed tooth in a dental show
in Elementary School, My first role was in a Camp
Production of The Wizard of Oz. I got to play the Tin
What hooked you? Was it your first school play-
movie-first time seeing a Broadway Show?
What inspired you to be where you are today?
I suppose the first movie I remember ever seeing was The Wizard of Oz, and I know I said to myself I wanna do that. I wanted to create characters, and
make people laugh, and cry. I think I was 5 when that happened. I actually
started by getting the neighborhood involved in making movies with my Super 8 camera..Did I just date myself? I guess I started in the silent film era,
What was the first play you ever saw? Ever performed in?
The first Broadway show I ever saw was Gilda Radner Live From at the Winter Garden Theatre. Which was more like a one-woman show. The first show I saw was GREASE!. I started going to shows in my Senior year of High School. The first show I was in was The Wizard of Oz.
Did you study acting? If not, how did you get into it?
I studied acting in high school. I was in an intense program called Theatre Careers, and it was 2 years of acting studies. My first year I was awful. I was (and still am) very shy. So I was uncomfortable performing in from of a classroom, but in my senior year I was cast as Billis in South Pacific, and that got me out of my shell and classes became easier because I proved I could do it. After that I just started doing Theatre, I regret that I haven't had more training, but I am planning to go back.
What was your first audition?
My first Broadway Audition was for the Original cast of Biloxi Blues. It was an open call. I stood on line outside of the Neil Simon Theatre for 8 hours on the hottest day in July. My number was 896. At 7 PM when I got to the door they said they were stopping after 895. I was close. It was so hot that by standing on the line half of my face was sunburned, while the other side was as pale as it could be.
How do you choose what play you will audition for? The piece itself, the
director, theater, you were pre-cast, etc.
So far I have never been pre-cast in anything. I may get a call after
auditions have taken place, and said can you play this part, but I have never
All of the above reasons are why I would do a show. The piece has got to move me, or have something to say, or be able to let me put my own twist on it. There are some directors I enjoy working with, and I hope they like working with me and that helps with the process so that is an incentive. As for the theatre. I'll work anywhere really. I prefer working in the city as much as possible because its close by my home. There are some theaters in LI I would love to work with that do great work, but I live in Queens, and the mileage on my car is not to be believed. Most of all I like working with a professional family atmosphere, and if there are people I know doing shows where I know I'll get that. I'll do it.
Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about the subject.
Well like I said . I have never been pre-cast. I wish I was so I would be
able to plan my schedule. There's nothing wrong with it as long as the
production staff is up front about it, and says this role is pre-cast. I hate
wasting my time, and I hate auditioning. I agonize over it, and if the parts
pre-cast I agonized over it for no reason.
I can't tell you how many times I have gone down for roles that were
pre-cast, and called back for, and still not told. I think its awful to
make actors go through auditions for roles when the producers have it
pre-cast. Be up front.
What types of parts do you normally play? Do you feel typecast?
I usually get character roles,or the lead's best friend. I do feel typecast,
but that's the nature of the business. You as an actor have to be honest with
yourself. You have to know what you can play. I'm not going down for any 18 year old football player roles. I'd have a better chance playing the goal
post. The weird thing is people will say to me that I can't possibly play
that role, and then when I do it they say, Oh you can play that role. I like
it when a director is open-minded in casting I work hard to put my own stamp on it
Looking back on the roles you've been cast in, do you think there's a
certain kind of role you get cast in repeatedly? When directors look at a certain role, what do you think they see as a "Michael Buscemi" type?
That crazy comic type...Most of my serious stuff I did in Queens, so LI has
basically seen my comic bits.
What is your approach to developing your character?
I have to find a way to make the character different from the way anyone else would play it, and make it so personal. I usually work from inside out, but there are times that I create the exterior first and bring it internally. Such as creating the voice, or the movement of the character. I believe that acting should be as honest as it can be.
Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
I guess everyone will think its either Seymour from Little Shop, or
Hysterium from Forum, or maybe even Riff Raff from Rocky Horror, but I think my favorite role is Ebenezer Scrooge. That character runs the full spectrum of emotions, and I love sinking my teeth into that. I've played him on and off for ten years, and I never tire of it, and its not a MUSICAL!!
What do you think were your best roles? your worst?
My best roles are Seymour, Hysterium, Scrooge, Riff Raff, Fagin, Georges in La Cage. Pirelli in Sweeney Todd ( I love playing acting roles in musicals.)
Worst role PAUL SEYMOUR in the Musical "BIG" Hated doing it. It was a fill-in performance that kept growing!!! It is perhaps the worst written role in
Musical Theatre. Please don't even mention BIG to me!!
What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why? How well do you
think you met the challenge?
I've played some great roles, and I hope I met the challenges. It's very hard for me to judge myself. If I watch a video of a performance of mine I just keeping, "Why did I do that?" . I think the roles that offered me the biggest challenge were Scrooge & Willie Clark of "The Sunshine Boys" because
I also had to play characters that are forty years older than myself. Soon
that won't be a problem.
What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this
I would love to have a second chance at Georges in La Cage again. The first
time I played Georges I went into the production 7 days before it opened, so
I was just getting my lines down by opening night. I have played a lot of
roles twice. I don't think I want to play Hysterium again unless of course it
was in a road tour and I was getting paid to do it. But my Hysterium days are
What roles or types of roles would you most like to play in the future?
Oh there are many, but superstition won't let me open my mouth.
How do you feel when you perform?
I feel so alive. It's the best feeling. I'm more alive onstage than off. You can see the change when I'm not onstage. I am so grateful that audiences will
allow me to become so alive.
What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing?
Thinking the next performance will be right!! Gotta be a perfectionist.
During opening night jitters each one of us has said, "Why do I do this to
myself?" Why do you do it?
I have never had opening night Jitters in my life!!! I have often asked
that question Why Do I do this? During hell week, and half of my scenes where not blocked yet. Actually the only opening night I was nervous for was Rocky Horror, and that was because I didn't know what the audience was gonna do. I was fine once it got started...It's awesome to be pelted with Rice, toilet paper, and toast every Saturday night.
What is your favorite theater story?
When I was touring with Aladdin a few years ago; we played in some great
theaters, and they all had Carol Channing stories. My favorite is when a new
Barnaby came into the cast, and did a great job in his first performance.
After the show, the stage manager said to him,You were wonderful, but I think you should pull back a little." The actor said, "Sure." The next performance he pulled back, but still got an amazing ovation. After that show, the stage manager said, "Ms. Channing would like to see you in her dressing room." The actor went and Ms.Channing was as kind as could be, made him tea, etc. Then Ms. Channing said, "Years ago they wrote a play called The Matchmaker and it was turned into a marvelous musical." The actor said "Yes, I know." Carol said, "Let me ask you a question
sweetheart." The actor again said, "Sure." Carol asked, "Is this show called "Hello, Barnaby?" The actor laughed and said, "Of course not." ...Carol replied with "Thank you, You're Fired!" I don't know how true it is, but I think it's adorable..
Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable,
crack up on stage?
I have never missed an entrance, but I have screwed up a few songs. I have also made a few line mistakes. I think Rob Jones can stand by me on that one, 'coz he was usually there snickering .
What was your worst theater experience?
There have been a few, but the most memorable has to be Anne Frank!!!
I have played Mr. Frank a few times and it's another one of my favorite
roles, but one performance the actress playing Miep never showed up, and Mr. Kraler was written out of the script! So, There was no one to give us
information. I had to keep going downstairs and saying Miep says, this, and
Miep says that.! IT was awful!!. Which brings me to another Anne Frank mishap. Since the show starts out in the present and flashes back to the actual incident, the opening scene is just Mr. Frank and Miep because everyone else is dead. Well, I came on to do the opening scene, and Mrs. Van Dan was walking around he bedroom, which of course sends me into quiet giggles. She then decided to leave,just when Miep came up laughing. All I could say is, "This place has so many memories for me. I can still see Mrs.Van Dan walking around with her fur coat!!.. I love doing comedies.
What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?
I guess the granddaddy of them all was during a performance of The Rocky
Horror Show. I had a fast change into my Space outfit, and it was missing!!!
I went ballistic. First of all I had pre-set it so it had to be moved! If I
couldn't find it I would be walking out onstage with black panties, and
platforms!! Well, I couldn't find it and walked out in panties. I looked
like I was from outer space especially since a mic pack was stuck in my ***.
The costume was found 3 days later in the garbage. I wish I could have taken a picture of Frank n Furter's face when he turned around and saw me!!! And, as before, Rob Jones attended that performance, and has never let me live that one down.
Why do you perform at the theaters you do?
They ask me
Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.?
I'm sure it will, but I hope theatres get together, and stop doing the same
shows at the same time. Its awful when you read the Newsday listings and see three productions of "Guys and Dolls"
Who are some of the actors you've most admired or who have been
particularly rewarding to work with?
Ah the list. Robert Anthony Jones, Jean McCormick, Karie Koppel, Emily Nadler Klein, (Everyone picks her!) Staci Cobb, Gene Foreman, Heather Van Velsor,Meredith Shapiro, Annette Triguere,Carolyn Seiff,Tim Conway and Michael Carbonaro . And it's always a pleasure to work with a great stage manager and Wendy Patten and Brad Seidman are two of the best.
Who's the best (in your opinion) that you've done a show with?
All the people I have mentioned are really awesome. They have that something extra, and they are always in the moment and listen to everything that's going on. I haven't done a lot a shows with them, but when I get onstage with any of them there is great chemistry. Things just come together very easy. But of all the people I have been paired off with I'd have to say that Rob Jones in Forum was amazing to play off, and have fun. And Michael Carbonaro in Little Shop, and Rocky Horror was electric to work with. We just connect very well together and we can read each other's minds. That's when you make magic on stage. But all of the above I love dearly and would give my eye teeth to work with again.
Who is your favorite performer? favorite L.I. performer?
My favorite actors are John Travolta,Jimmy Stewart,Jack Lemmon and Johnny Depp.
LI Performers, Rob Jones, Emily Nadler Klein, Michael Carbonaro, Bob
Spiotto, George Ghossn and Michael DeVito (Even though he didn't mention me in his list) There are so many favorites. I'm just beginning to see so many shows now.
How do you maintain your career and do theater?
I don't. I can barely get myself through the day.
Why do you spend so much time toiling in L.I. Theater?
I have taken a break, and I find by taking a break I end up doing more shows. I love the people that I work with. That's the bottom line. And I love going to diners.
Do you find that your family supports your love of theater?
My family was never supportive of theatre, but then they realized that's all
I could do.
How has performing enriched your life?
Yes I love performing, we all do or else we wouldn't do it. I like putting
myself on the line in front of an audience.
What brings you the greatest joy?
the sound of laugher
What really irks you?
the sound of nails running against a blackboard
If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would.
Take all my friends on a cruise, and just have fun. I would also put myself
in a Broadway show. I would love to call into work RICH!!
Is it true that you'd really rather be rich than good looking?
Please - give me the money. I ain't rich and I ain't good-looking. But I'd
rather be rich.
What's your favorite word?
When you reach the pearly gates what do you want St. Peter to say?
Don't worry Mike...You get a Comp for this one!!
Do you have any projects on the horizon that you want the readers to be
Nothing right now. I'll be doing an interactive event in September with a group of friends that formed a production company. I would also like to direct again. I got to direct Little Shop last year. I'm also trying to put together a live version of a cult film to be staged in the city if I ever get my Microsoft Word working.
Given your choice of parts in plays, which play and role is your heart's
John Merrick in The Elephant Man