Jen Cody, Hunter Foster and Deven May talk about SNOOPY! benefit set for Monday, April 12th
This Monday, April 12th, several of Broadway's finest will take to the stage at Symphony Space on the upper west side for a concert version of SNOOPY! The Musical. The event will benefit the Pied Piper Children's Theatre. I recently sat down with Jen Cody, Hunter Foster and Deven May to talk about their involvement in Monday's concert.
Unlike doing a full production, the performers don't have a lot of time to prepare for their roles. "I think of Sally as the youngest one, so I am trying to think of youthful things that kids do like catching your breath. My character is funny because she just says things and it comes from that innocent place. It's also a fun role because Sally has a big crush on Linus so it makes for some very funny moments in the show," said Jen.
Why does that amuse Jen? Because playing Linus is real life husband, Hunter Foster. Hunter is no stranger to the role having played it before (but in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown) when he was 13. "The Peanuts were one of my favorite things growing up as a kid so I have always loved Linus. I have to tell you though, I don't really remember how I played him - it was the first thing I ever did."
Deven May is also reprising his role as Charlie Brown having portrayed him in, what he politely refers to, as an amalgamation of both YAGMCB and Snoopy! back in High School which then toured to middle schools and summer camps. Deven was being quite entertaining as he went into a very "cerebral" type mode during the interview. "When you've done a role before you've already done most of the legwork. So now doing Charlie Brown, it's a little bit - I wouldn't say easier - I am just more familiar with the Peanuts gang. I'm also a big Peanuts fan. I collected the books and watched all the cartoons when I was a kid, so I pretty much had it keyed in. Everyone feels down sometimes, or hasn't had the right answer. He's a bit of a depressive guy. He has his moments of joy but they're squashed. You know Charlie Brown is every man. If you think about on a small scale what the Peanuts gang goes through - on a larger scale we've all gone through."
When asked how they were recruited for their roles in SNOOPY! by producer, Sutton Foster, Jen, Hunter and Deven (almost like it was rehearsed) gave the same answer. "We had to audition." Deven chimed in that clearly it was "nepotism." Hunter said "Actually she called up and did it very formally. She said 'Hi this is Sutton and I'd like to formally offer you the role of Linus' and I was like 'what's with all the formality - just ask me to do it." Jen was offered her role at a Christmas party, while Deven was contacted by Sutton having worked together on such projects like the workshop for Wicked.
Sutton's not the only producer - Jamie McGonnigal, after the very successful "Children of Eden" and "Embrace" events (the latter for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, is also on hand. Hunter and Jen both said that although at this point they haven't worked that much with Jamie specifically (they've been working more with the director, choreographer and musical director at this point) that they really like him and "he really has great things to say. He's really smart and insightful," says Jen, "he's such an easy audience. He makes you feel funny because he just laughs and laughs." Hunter adds that "He's also really positive and supportive." Sutton has been very proactive in organizing the event, but during the actual rehearsals, Jen says that she's had to let go of some of those responsibilities and let Jamie take those on so she can concentrate on being an actress.
"This all happens so quick," continues Jen, "we've been doing a lot of homework because we don't rehearse on weekends and we're only a few days away." Their final dress rehearsal is a couple of hours before they perform in front of the benefit audience. Both Jen and Hunter raved about the costumes having just had their fitting a few days before the interview.
It will be a treat for those attending to see both Sutton and Hunter perform on the same stage here in NYC. Hunter reminded me that they have actually performed together before "We did Grease together for about 2 weeks and Les Mis together for 2 days." Jen and Hunter are quite familiar sharing the same stage having appeared in quite a few shows together - Urinetown, Grease, and Cats (where they first met). So do they like working together? "I love it!" boasts Jen. Hunter paused, and when I raised an eyebrow to see if he'd disagree, he said "It's both good and bad. It's bad - not on something like this because something like this is fun - but doing a long run it gets difficult because the show problems become your problems and I don't like that. I don't like when she gets upset about the show-" Jen continued with " If one of us is mad at somebody in the show and then the other person is like 'how can you talk to that person??'" Hunter then added "But on the other hand, it's nice to go to work and spend time together."
With both of them very active in the Broadway community, how does the happy couple influence each other's decisions on which roles to take? "I think more now we talk about things when it comes down to leaving town. I don't think I would ever leave now for a long period of time. We've been, knock on wood, very fortunate and never had to really make those decisions."
So what can people expect on Monday evening? "A lot of good wholesome fun. A lot of smiling" says Deven, "What we've been able to raise for this children's theater already is fantastic. We have like 50 kids singing as part of the chorus with 8 or 9 acting as doppelgangers to each character. "A really fun evening. We've got John Tartaglia hosting, and kids - we have these 50 kids singing as part of the chorus. So they are part of the performance and also who we are raising the money for...And this one cute 6 year old (McKinny Danger-James) who plays
So what role would Jen like to take on most? "Thinking ahead to what shows are coming to Broadway, I'd like to be in West Side Story. It's one of those things you grew up on as a kid and to have it play when I'm the right age to do it. Ahh. I would love to play Anybodys. It's my dream"
As for Hunter, he's a little torn. His initial answer was Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar. But then corrected himself "I'd really love to play Georg in She Loves Me - it's just a great show and a great character."
And if they could do a show together? They both responded with "Mack and Mabel," which Hunter appeared with his sister, Sutton, in concert last year.
Deven told me that he has some interesting plans already in the works. After having originated the role of Bat Boy/Edgar both in LA and
Deven's dream role would be to play Sweeney in Sweeney Todd. And if he could perform with his girlfriend? Well Deven didn't want to answer without first calling Jessica Grove (who is currently in Thoroughly Modern Millie) on her cell. "She's saying Bat Boy. No.. actually we would both love to originate roles in a new Broadway show. So all you lyricists, composers and book writers out there - Jessica Grove and Deven May want to be in your show."
It's not too late to pick up tickets to Monday's event. For more information about the Snoopy benefit, visit http://www.snoopyconcert.org.
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