SOUND OFF Special Interview: Robert Cuccioli At Feinstein's
Though most well-known to Broadway babies for his starring role in the original Broadway production of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse's JEKYLL & HYDE, over the last few decades Robert Cuccioli has carved out quite a career for himself as a performer of considerable range, as his resume amply evidences: from LES MISERABLES and CAMELOT in the 80s and early 90s, to Maury Yeston's PHANTOM and the original Off-Broadway production of the Susan Stroman-directed Kander & Ebb revue AND THE WORLD GOES ROUND, as well as Woody Allen's CELEBRITY starring Kenneth Branagh, to Jacques Brel IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS as well as a string of Shakespeare roles in the 00s, all the way up to today and his participation in three brand new original musicals - in between rehearsing Iago for an upcoming production of OTHELLO, of course - including: Bruce Hornsby's SCKBSTD, CUTMAN: THE BOXING MUSICAL, and his own solo show, A STANDARD LOVE. Discussing many aspects of these enterprises and much more - and even a comment or two on Lone Star Love and the Quaids' shenanigans - Cuccioli also shares all about his upcoming appearance at Feinstein's in BROADWAY LIVE! and what we can expect from him on Monday night, as well as in the future, near and far - with his long-awaited solo album of romantic standards included!
Be sure to catch Robert Cuccioli alongside Terry Burrell and Christianne Tisdale in BROADWAY LIVE! at Feinstein's At Loews Regency on Monday, August 29 at 8:30 PM! More information and tickets can be found at the official site, here.
This Is His Moment
PC: The weather today has been so wild - can you believe there was an earthquake? Did you feel it where you are?
RC: Oh, I know! It's so funny because I am playing Iago and, in the scene we were rehearsing, Othello and I get down on our knees and he invokes the gods and, right at that moment, the earthquake happened! (Laughs.)
PC: No way!
RC: Yeah! We were like, "Oh, my God! What the hell happened?" (Laughs.)
PC: What was the exact line that you were saying? It's probably on the tip of your tongue since you're rehearsing.
RC: Well, sort of... I'm still trying to learn it! (Laughs.)
PC: Of course.
RC: It was the, (Recites complete passage.) "remorseful bloody business ever-" and then everything shook!
PC: What an amazing reading! That must have been so weird!
RC: Yeah, it was really wild!
PC: What a great story. I really enjoyed you recently in NINE in Weschester.
RC: Oh, in NINE? Yeah, that's a great musical.
PC: Maury Yeston has done this column and he spoke very favorably of you and that production. He was so happy with it.
RC: Oh, yeah. I love doing that role.
PC: You do a magnificent job of "Home" from his PHANTOM on THE Maury Yeston ALBUM, which is one of my favorite collections.
RC: Thank you, thank you. You know, I love Maury and I love his music. This was the second Maury Yeston show that I have been able to do - I did PHANTOM and now I have done NINE - and, I really love his stuff.
PC: You've done PHANTOM a few times, actually - many years apart, yes?
RC: Yeah, I did the east coast premiere of it at Westchester Broadway.
PC: Of course.
RC: So, I did it a couple of other times there and I did it in Atlanta, also. So, I've done it a couple of times now. Yeah.
PC: Did you ever perform it with Kristin Chenoweth?
RC: No. I didn't get to do it with her.
PC: Glory Crampton, of course, famously did it with you, though.
RC: Yes! I did it with Glory, yeah.
PC: And she was in NINE with you, as well.
RC: (Laughs.) She was! Yeah.
PC: Do you enjoy working with the same actors or do you prefer always having a new crew every time?
RC: No, I do - especially when you have such a short rehearsal period. When your characters are very intimate, it is good to have a history with someone so you have a shorthand and you have a trust. So, there are certain actors and actresses that I have worked with a number of times that we fall together into it very easily and we have a great language and a great trust and a great rapport that shows up onstage.
PC: I thought the ensemble work in Jacques Brel was absolutely superb and the cast album is absolutely excellent - and definitive.
RC: Yeah. Yeah. It was a really good production.
PC: What do you think of Brel's work in general?
RC: His music is very... what's the word... they are all story songs, you know?
PC: Yes, yes.
RC: They are so act-able.
RC: And, they are so able to be taken out of context or put into any context. They are speeches in themselves, so they are great for actors to work on - very much like country songs, they are story songs to some extent - and Brel worked in that regard, too. They are really brilliant acting pieces - every single one of them.
PC: I totally agree.
RC: I think that's why they work so well in an ensemble type situation.
PC: And a song like "Marianne" is so memorable - an ear-worm.
RC: Oh, yeah. Right. I know exactly what you mean!
PC: Speaking of country music, what was the score like to Lone Star Love since we never got to hear it on Broadway?
RC: (Big Laugh.) Lone Star Love was terrific!
PC: I know there was a lot of drama with Randy Quaid and his wife...
RC: A lot of drama!
PC: What was the show like?
RC: You know, it was a real shame that all of that stuff happened because it was a piece that was so worthy. It was so funny and the script was great. Sure, it needed some work - but, I mean, that was the reason for what we were doing in Seattle.
PC: That's what out-of-town tryouts are for, after all.
RC: Yeah, it was a really great piece - and, I still think it is a really great piece. I hope it has a life at some point.
PC: So, you didn't have any issues working with Randy Quaid? There were no problems onstage?
RC: Well, I didn't have any personal run-ins with Randy and my relationship with him was generally cool. But, you know, I really don't want to go into all that.
PC: Understandably! So, your character did sing country music in it, then?
RC: Yeah. Yeah. It was country/bluegrass and that kind of stuff.
PC: I would not assume that that would be the first type of music for you to want to sing, so did you find it challenging?
RC: I loved it! I really loved it. You know, I am pretty versatile even though New York hasn't seen a lot of variety from me in that regard - I have certainly done it in a lot of regional venues and stuff like that.
PC: What about SICK BASTARD aka SCKBSTD, the Bruce Hornsby show?
RC: That's a really exciting production and a really exciting piece and we are looking forward to continuing work on that. Bruce's music is phenomenal. I've known him for years, you know, just growing up and listening to his work.
PC: What was it like working with him, especially as a fan?
RC: He was fantastic to work with. It is a very exciting production and it is very unique. You know, his music works really well onstage and what he wrote is really great.
PC: Is it a modern score?
RC: Yeah, I would say that. It's got a lot of variety in it - it's not like one-note kind of music. It's very versatile and very varied!
PC: Sounds very, very interesting. Are you continuing on to the next step with the show, then?
RC: Yeah, even though we haven't gotten final confirmation yet on what the next step is, I will definitely proceed with it.
PC: So, what is CUTMAN about?
RC: CUTMAN is a boxing musical. You know, it's interesting how things get in the ether - it's sort of like Maury Yeston's PHANTOM and how, at the same time he was doing that, Andrew Lloyd Webber was writing his own PHANTOM. And, there were two other PHANTOMs around the same time, too!
PC: Of course.
RC: A certain kind of idea goes into the universe - I hope I am not getting too esoteric...
PC: Not at all.
RC: It's like with the movie THE FIGHTER and how there is also a ROCKY musical in the works. So, this is CUTMAN: THE BOXING MUSICAL.
PC: What is it about?
RC: It's a very unique and a very interesting story. The music is wonderful. The creative team is young and hip and hot and interesting.
PC: I've heard there is rap in it, yes?
RC: Yes, there is rap in it.
PC: Finally, some rap on Broadway!
RC: Yeah, there's pop, rock, rap - it's a great score. It really is.
PC: I'm so happy a contemporary score like that is coming in eventually - hopefully, sooner rather than later.
RC: Yeah, yeah! We'll see what happens with that.
PC: I can't wait.
RC: You know - knock on wood - this has been a great year: I have done two new original musicals.
PC: And your solo show A STANDARD LOVE!
RC: Yes! And A STANDARD LOVE - so, make it three!
PC: Did you enjoy having the Jekyll look all the time back when you had it - onstage and off? It's pretty iconic.
RC: Yeah, I did! You know, there were no other Broadway performers with that look at the time - the long hair like that.
PC: Just you and Rob Evan - who has also done this column. Did you ever go and see him in the show?
RC: I think I may have - remember, he was the matinee Jekyll and I was the evening, so he did two shows a week and I did six. I think I may have sat in, though.
PC: So, you've seen others play it since you've directed it, as well, then?
RC: Yes, I have directed it a number of times and I've seen a number of actors in the role. Certainly, there's a lot that I feel there is a way it should be done and how I believe certain things are, but I just try to put parameters up and hire really good actors and really good singers and say, "These are the parameters," and they can work within that and create.
PC: So, we can expect a "This Is The Moment" at Feinstein's on Monday?
RC: Yes, yes! You can expect "This Is The Moment" at Feinstein's. (Laughs.)
PC: Will you be doing any Sondheim?
RC: Yes, we are doing some Sondheim. We are doing some older shows - some David Merrick shows - and we are also doing some Andrew Lloyd Webber shows. Definitely Sondheim. Each one of us - Christianne Tisdale, Terry Burrell and I - do our signature numbers.
RC: It's a varied evening. It's a walk down memory lane but we also keep it a little more contemporary. And, of course, we bring our personalities to it, as well. And, we have a wonderful music director, Barry. I think our personalities and the music together make it a really light, fun, exciting evening.
PC: Any duets or trios that we can look forward to?
RC: Yes, we do some duets and some trios! This is actually a condensed version of a show we have done in a number of venues that is usually a ninety minute show, so we have put in a very specialized number at the end that is sort of a mega-mix. It will be fun.
PC: Since you are doing Andrew Lloyd Webber, I have to ask if you've heard LOVE NEVER DIES?
RC: No, but I am actually interested in hearing what it is like.
PC: You could do amazing things with some of those songs - "Til I Hear You Sing", in particular.
RC: It sounds very cool from what I've heard.
RC: (Laughs.) Well, my audition for Woody Allen was at this place that was almost like a hotel. I was told to go into the room, so I went in and I didn't even say any lines or anything!
PC: I've heard that's sort of typical, as strange as it is!
RC: Yeah, I just sort of walked in and talked to the casting person. Woody was like way in the back and didn't really even show his face. He was just there, hiding, in the back.
PC: That's bizarre.
RC: I went in and talked to whoever was there and then I left. Later on, I got a call that I got the job. I was like, "I didn't even know he was in the damn room!" (Laughs.)
PC: That's hilarious.
RC: When I did the movie shoot, I asked him for direction or whatever on a scene and he said, "Just do what you do!" And, I think that's what he does: he gets people who do what they do and hires them to do what they do and doesn't give much direction. I've heard that from a lot of people who've done his movies.
PC: He doesn't give a lot of input unless he has to, apparently.
RC: Yeah, and the result is fantastic. Plus, he has a great eye and he trusts the people that he hires, so he just lets them do his stuff.
PC: Did you have any scenes that were cut that you missed?
RC: I don't think I got cut out of anything, but I remember one of my favorite things was to hang out on the sidewalk with Fred Molina and Kenneth Branagh and just, you know, talk about theatre. (Laughs.)
PC: That's probably really surreal.
RC: Yeah, that was really a lot of fun just to hang out with those guys. That was so great to do that whole movie.
PC: I'm so glad that it was shot in black and white, as well. It's a really interesting, striking movie.
RC: I know! Woody is such a cool director. It's really wonderful.
PC: What has been your favorite Shakespeare role so far? I know you've done ANTONY & CLEOPATRA, MACBETH, JULIUS CAESER, and, now, OTHELLO. You did Claudius, but what about Hamlet in HAMLET himself?
RC: I've never done Hamlet, but I think at some point I may be able to do it - if the concept is right. Some people might think I'm too old for it at this point, but I don't know. I haven't been able to sink my teeth too much into Iago just yet, but it is such a brilliant role. Certainly, Macbeth was a brilliant role and I would love to do that again. I just love doing Shakespeare. It is incredible stuff and I can do it over and over again and discover new things to it every time.
PC: You can say that again. It seems like PERICLES and, especially, TIMON OF ATHENS are particularly applicable to the times and coming back into favor now.
RC: Yeah! TIMON has been very popular over the last year and a half.
PC: I did a whole series on the production at the Public last year starring Richard Thomas. It has so much to say to today.
RC: It's so timely, too.
PC: And, it's a sort of a meta-KING LEAR, as well. A companion piece.
RC: Oh, yeah - to some extent. Exactly.
PC: What do you think of THE WINTER'S TALE?
RC: You know, there are a couple of plays that meld into each other for me and that is one of them. I have only seen it once and I've never done it, so I can't talk about it too much.
PC: So, what's next for you?
RC: Well, I am doing to be recording my first album.
PC: Congratulations! That is such great news.
RC: Thank you! I am very excited about that. My plan is to go into the studio in October when I am done with OTHELLO.
PC: What can we expect?
RC: It will an album of my STANDARD LOVE show. So, it will be all standards - which is something that I discovered a newfound love for and I really adore that music so much. So, my first album will be that material. I don't know when it will be out yet, so I can't say. That's my next project and we'll see what the next show is that is in the works after that. Things can change on a dime in this business, as you well know!
PC: Definitely. Are you going to be returning to WHITE COLLAR on USA?
RC: I don't know, but I would love to! I had a great time working on that. I would love to do more TV and film. Fingers crossed.
PC: USA is a great network - NECESSARY ROUGHNESS is a fantastic show that we've done a whole series on here. They have a lot of faith in their shows and that is encouraging to see.
RC: Yeah, it was great to do and a really great group of people to work with and I would love to be back on the show again. Definitely.
PC: The essence of theatre is collaboration so how you do you define collaboration? A give and take or something else?
RC: I see it as both - but, definitely, a give and take. I love it when a director has a certain idea as to what they want to do with a certain role and a certain show. And, I love it when I come in with my own idea, as well, and, together, we end up with something completely different. You know, I listen to his or her idea as my director and they listen to mine and then it's like, "Hey, that's great! How about this?" And, I love, you know, coming up with different ideas right there and creating something new - as opposed to, like, "This is the way I want you do it," or, "This is the way I want to do it." I mean, I don't think I've ever walked into a role saying, "This is the way I want to do it." Ever. And, I don't think any director has done that to me, either. I've hit some walls, occasionally, of course, but for the most part it has been a very collaborative process for me and that's what makes it really exciting.
PC: It doesn't get more exciting that three brand new original musicals on the burners! How lucky can you get?
RC: There is nothing better! There is nothing better than creating something and having no blueprint in front of you and you just become the blueprint. So, it is really exciting for me right now and I love creating new work.
PC: It comes through in your performances, as well. I can't wait for your solo album - AND THE WORLD GOES ROUND is one of the great cast albums, of course, as well.
RC: Right? That's great to hear. But, with the solo album, it's been a long time coming! A long, long time. It's high time for me to record my own solo CD, I think, so I am so excited about doing that now.
PC: Your website is very comprehensive, as well, I have to say, and you should be commended for that.
RC: Thanks! It is a work in progress and, hopefully, it gets better.
PC: This was so great, Bob. Thank you so much! Good luck on Monday!
RC: Thank you so much, Pat. This was really great! Bye now.
From This Author Pat Cerasaro