BWW Blog: Meet Sean Patrick Doyle of Paper Mill's GREASE!
We officially opened this past Sunday, and from our preview crowds, it's very clear that this slice of 50s Americana holds a special place in audiences' hearts. Before starting this process, I was not incredibly familiar with the show myself, and had only seen the Korean tour onstage (audiences there seemed just as pleased, and just as familiar, with the piece). Of course, I had seen the movie a few times during high school, but I made a point not to revisit it before rehearsals. I do remember, though, that the The T-Birds from the film were a touch cooler than the Burger Palace Boys of the libretto. Our director, Daniel Goldstein, wanted to return to the concept that the central characters were actually a band of misfits who aren't envied or admired by anyone at Rydell. The gals are more of a motley gaggle of odd birds than a line of Heathers, and the boys more hornball outcasts with no money, as opposed to badass lady killers. I think this approach of policing the coolness of it makes the characters more endearing, and helps the moments where they pick on square kids Patty and Eugene read as less cruel (it also helps that the famous "Patty punch" that ends the show has been omitted from our production.)
I've really enjoyed playing a character who is on the periphery looking in, trying to insert himself into the world of the Greasers or maybe just survive walking past the bleachers when the boys are there to show off for their Pink Ladies. When I first read the text, I thought the easy trap would be to fall into playing Eugene as a caricatured bumbling victim or an entitled know-it-all. Danny and I decided that perhaps, like many people of extreme intellect, Eugene was slightly on the spectrum, which justifies some of the quirks that the Burger Palace boys ostracize him for: awkward posture, poor coordination, rigid speech, inability to understand humor or sarcasm, difficulty initiating or maintaining conversation without it being singularly focused. I also think he owes some of his social ineptitude to being home schooled until high school. Which would help explain his attachment to a maternal figure like Miss Lynch, his excitement to attend school activities (Eugene cuts the rug at prom thanks to our genius choreographer, JoAnn Hunter!!), and his inability to understand advances from the opposite sex (real advances from Cha Cha and joking advances from Rizzo). I know, I know! This is all a little deep for GREASE, the musicale (and trust me there's more!), but I've really come to love joyous, awkward, gullible, forgiving little Eugene! As Morgan Weed, who plays Rizzo, tells me every night when she invites me to dance across the stage in the finale: "You're not so bad, Eug."
It's also great to be back doing another show at Paper Mill! Last season, I played scheming, slithering Jetsam in the revised production of Disney's The Little Mermaid. It's nice to have a reunion with artistic staff, company management and our dressers! And to go back to Rockin' Joe's and the famous Millburn Deli ("Gobbler!!"). It's going to be a fun month ahead, and I'll be sure to keep you posted! Next entry: Performing at the Astaire Awards to honor original Grease choreographer Pat Birch! (Introduced by none other than Donna "Trick Neck" McKechnie!) Until then...