BWW Interviews: PROMISES' Sean Martin Hingston
In the year 2000, the face of Sean Martin Hingston became quite familiar to New Yorkers; not just theatergoers, but the average Joes and Janes who traversed the city via public transportation. Susan Stroman's innovative CONTACT was playing at Lincoln Center and its ads were blazoned on every bus, taxi, and subway billboard. The artwork featured the ravishing Deborah Yates as "The Girl In The Yellow Dress being pursued by the forlorn-looking Boyd Gaines. Looking on was the menacing presence of Sean Martin Hingston. The image remains in the memories of almost everyone who saw it.
"I guess the biggest kick I got out of it concerned the gym that used to be across the street from Lincoln Center's plaza. I worked out there regularly and would often stare out the window while doing so. For many years I felt that I'd really like to work at Lincoln Center. Within six months of the show's opening, winning the Tony Award and all that acclaim, I'd be at the gym and look across the street to see a big banner for the show with my face on it," Hingston explains with a laugh. "That was a pretty remarkable turn-around for both my ego and my career. It was thrilling at the time."
Currently Hingston is featured in the colorful and energetic production of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David musical PROMISES, PROMISES which has been directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford. The show, playing at the Broadway Theatre, is infusing audiences with such ebullience that they stand and cheer at every performance. They also exit humming snippets from the delightful score. This is not an easy task because the show touches upon such themes as marital infidelity, sycophancy, and suicide. With all that, it's possibly one of the most enjoyable production of the past season.
Speaking from his dressing room on one of the hottest days in New York's history, Hingston sounds remarkably cool and relaxed after a matinee performance. He and Brooks Ashmanskas, Peter Benson and Ken Land have once again come close to stopping the show with their rendition of "Where Can You Take a Girl" and the crowd ate up every moment of Hingston's performance. Theatre-goers have long known him to be an outstanding singer and dancer, but in this production he shows off his skills as a character actor. On the telephone, his Australian accent is very much evident reflecting his roots in Melbourne.
"I worked in musical theatre in Australia. I also had a band-a 30's style jazz band, but I really started out doing the Australian production of CATS. Then I did FORTY SECOND STREET and a revival of MAN OF LA MANCHA. Really, I went straight out of high school to show business. There were one or two universities in Australia where you could go and study acting but they didn't have any musical theatre courses. Now, of course, they have a lot of them. It was plenty of on-the-job training for me."
CATS proved to be a veritable education in theatre arts for Hingston. "Yeah, I was young enough to get through that show," he comments with a chuckle. "It was a great two or three years."
While Hingston was hardly in his twenties he auditioned for the role of Tulsa in an Australian production of GYPSY. When he didn't get the role, he decided to head to New York. Originally thinking he'd come for some sort of extended vacation, things turned out differently.
"I arrived on a Sunday and on Tuesday I crashed an audition. By the following Monday I had been offered a job. I'd originally thought that I was just coming here to take some classes and get some experience doing auditions because in Australia we got to audition perhaps twice a year, as opposed to twice a week here. Suddenly I was being offered a job and I realized that New York was the mecca for musical theatre...well all theatre, really. It also gave me the chance to branch out into film and TV, so I jumped at it and decided to make my life in the City. You see, the theatre is really an industry here in New York. In Australia, it may also be an industry but it's a very small one. Unless you're a sporting hero or a sports personality Down Under, you can't really have the kind of career you'd want." Hingston has been in New York 18 or 19 years now. It's safe to assume he likes the place.