DEBUT OF THE MONTH: BRIEF ENCOUNTER's Joseph Alessi & Annette McLaughlin
Each month, Broadway World is shining the spotlight on a stage actor making their Broadway debut as part of our "Debut of the Month" series.
Entertainment Reporter Nick Orlando spoke to Alessi and McLaughlin about their interest in this piece and their journey to Broadway.
Congratulations on your Broadway debut and the rave reviews!
Joseph Alessi: Thank you. It still hasn't sunk in yet. I am in the wig room right now getting my hair cut. I am getting shaved.
Annette McLaughlin: Thank you so much.
Joe, you have been involved with the production for most of its evolution. Has much changed?
JA: I wasn't there from the start, but I came in about a year later. Emma Rice, our director, gave us the freehand. She didn't want us to copy what others have done. She wanted us to bring something new to the piece.
What interested you in this piece?
AM: I first saw this piece while in previews in London and did not know much about it. It blew me away. I wanted to work with that director. I met her not long after and then I was offered the gig. I was so excited. It is such a wonderful show. I am so proud to be in it.
What stands out for you about this play?
AM: The theatrical-ness of it. It is about all different kinds of love and passion.
How does the stage version differ from the movie?
JA: It's a reinterpretation. Kneehigh incorporated a lot of music and physicality. If you took the film and put it on stage, it would be a very long and dry evening. We bring the essence of the story onstage. We are not mocking it. We have much respect for the piece. It is Noël Coward's words and songs and we re-imagined that story.
AM: It is such a classic movie. You have Noël Coward's music throughout, which adds to the story. The audience gets the experience right from the beginning.
Tell us about your characters.
JA: I play three very different characters. Albert is a really lovely, nice, innocent man; Fred is more studious and quiet. He is an equally good man. Stephen Lynn, is a repressed homosexual. As an actor, it is wonderful to play three different parts.
AM: Myrtle is great fun. She is a proud working woman. She has a cat and mouse relationship with Albert.
What was your first acting gig?
JA: My first acting gig was with the Cleveland Theatre Company. It was in 1990, when I first graduated. I have been working ever since. I thank my lucky stars everyday. My parents were supportive in the end. They didn't think acting was a career; their mentality was you go to work, save money, get married, and buy a house. It has been 20 years since I left college and I have not looked back.
AM: I had a role in Crazy for You. I did it for a year and couldn't believe I was doing it. I wasalongside Gavin Lee. This is back in, I think, 1994. We took a week off and came to New York and Gavin and I saw eight shows in one week.
What would you recommend for an aspiring actor trying to make it in the theatre?
AM: Be curious and try to find out as much about the business as you possibly can. I learned so much from my first job and I am always trying to learn more - by meeting people, taking classes, etc.... Find out as much about your craft and work on your craft. Determination!
Is this what you envisioned it would be like being on Broadway?
JA: I never really envisioned it. I tried to get through each day. This is like the cherry on the cake. I have done small, little plays in England and wound up on the West End. Everyone has been so friendly in New York. The generosity that has been extended to us is great. It is a real privilege to be here.
AM: Yes, it feels different because I am here now. I've always dreamed of being here. I get very excited. On Saturday night, our stage manager says ‘It's Saturday night on Broadway' and I am like, yes! Being at Studio 54 is exciting as well with all of the history behind it.
Hobbies / Special Skills:
JA: Cooking and photography. I love to cook and eat. I did join a gym. (I needed to!) My apartment has a nice kitchen. I like to cook steak; a nice dry-aged piece of meat. Also, I have been into photography for many years.
AM: I can now play the ukulele, which I was handed the first day of rehearsals. I learned it in three weeks. I am also getting good on the drums now. I'm also exploring New York while I am here.
Zodiac Sign / Birthday:
JA: My birthday is in March. I am an Aries, but I don't believe in any of that astrology!
AM: October 12th.
Annette, Happy Birthday!
AM: Thanks! I took the cast to Joe Allen's.
JA: Accrington (it's a town in Lancashire). My parents are from Sicily, they arrived in 1963.
AM: Harrow (it's in North London).
Brief Encounter is currently playing at Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street). For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.roundabouttheatre.org.
Photo Credit: (Bottom) Joan Marcus