BWW Interviews: Stacey Todd Holt, Leo Bloom in THE PRODUCERS at Atlanta's Fox Theatre, January 25 - 31
As an actor, there is nothing like playing a leading role in a hit Broadway musical. Add to that having the chance to perform the role in front of a hometown audience, filled with family and friends, and you have the story of Stacey Todd Holt, who will play Leo Bloom, the budding theatrical producer in Mel Brooks' hit musical, The Producers when it plays the Fabulous Fox Theatre January 25 - 31, produced by Theater of the Stars. I had the chance to talk to Stacey about his Atlanta roots, his long-time professional relationship with Susan Stroman and what exactly made him "Want to be a Producer".
BWW: Can we start by hearing a little bit about how you got started in the theatre? You are an Atlanta native, correct?
I am an Atlanta native, outside of Atlanta, actually, Fairburn. I began when I was younger with a small dance company there. My best friend was taking dance classes and her Mom asked me to come along. It was a tap class and I was fascinated by it, so I just had to do it. That was with Doris Russell who was an original Rockette. That led to getting involved with a theatre company in Fairburn called the Southside Theatre Guild. They were doing House at Pooh Corner and were looking for someone the actual age of Christopher Robin, so Ms. Russell told me I should audition, and I got the bug from that. From there, I continued dance classes and it wasn't until high school at Woodward Academy, when I met Linda Wise, who had just come from Rockdale County, that I really knew what I wanted to do. I had heard about Linda and I went to the Governor's Honors Program where she was on faculty. I remember going up to her and saying "You're coming to my school and I am very excited!" That started a whole new world for me, as far as really pursuing theatre in college and I think she saw that and steered me where I could make that decision myself. I chose a four-year conservatory program in St. Louis (Webster) and at my senior showcase I got good bites and headed to New York.
And you have performed at The Fox before, correct?
I came through with the first national tour of Crazy For You. I have played The Fox in St. Louis a few more times than the one in Atlanta, though. At the time I played The Fox in Atlanta with Crazy For You I was a swing, and never really scheduled to be on, but the company knew it was my hometown so they swung me out and I got to choose the ensemble person I wanted to go on for. It was almost like the Fox sold out that night. My Mom arranged to get tickets for everyone she knew for that one night!
And this production of The Producers is not your first, right? You were in the show on Broadway?
I was. I did it for 6½ years on Broadway. I was a swing and then I covered the roles of Leo Bloom and Carmen Ghia as an understudy. I was also Matthew Broderick's stand-in for the movie which ended up being a truly amazing experience. The stand-in for Nathan and I were beneficial to the camera people and others -we would watch the scene setup and they would set up the camera shots with us. We would end up doing a full shoot in a lot of cases. They would call all the extras down or the co-stars and we would do the full scene with them to cut down on the number of takes with Matthew and Nathan. For me it was the closest way I could ever be cast in a major motion picture! There was one number, "I Want to Be a Producer" that in the movie is like an MGM fantasy sequence. Stroman wanted to achieve it in one take, so to get to do something like that was a highlight for my career.
Did you ever get to work directly with Mel Brooks?
He was around, and there were times when you stayed out of the way, and others where if you could you try to pick up on any information you jumped at the chance. He is a very passionate man in terms of his work and he's a genius in many ways when it comes to timing and wording of a sentence, if you add one extra word it will destroy the joke or the rhythm of the line. The man has everything memorized in his head so if you add anything he will not be happy - he doesn't want you to kill the joke! That is why Nathan was so brilliant. He understands comedy and timing so well.
So you have worked with Susan Stroman many times as well?
I was so fortunate that my first Broadway show was her first as choreographer. I saw how she worked with her dancing, all of it is done from an acting approach, everything character driven. She wants to see individual people. As an actor who also dances, it is such a great approach for me. She is a very loyal person, so she asked me to come with her for her next project, which was Big, and we have developed this close working relationship and friendship.
So, what is it about The Producers that originally drew you to the show? Was it getting to work with Susan again? The material?
I was doing Contact at the time, and it was right after 9/11. There was someone in the ensemble of The Producers who panicked after the attacks and left New York. Stroman called me and asked me to join the company, which was about 9 months after it opened, and stayed through the end of the run. I had been doing Contact for three years, and it was a killer, physcially, so I was thrilled to go to The Producers. It was a massive hit, and I knew it would be there for awhile. I saw it on opening night and loved it, so it was an easy decision.
What do you like most about playing Leo?
I think a little bit of everything. During my time at the St. James as the understudy, I went on with every single actor who ever played Max on Broadway except Nathan Lane, and they were all completely different. I had to tweak my performance each time with what they wanted to do in terms of the relationship. Because in the end it is really all about the relationship between Leo and Max. There are three actors who I consider my "blue blanket", including the Max I learned the role with and Michael McCormick who is in this production with me. These are actors with whom I have a much closer relationship. You really have to do crazy things together on stage, so having that familiarity is important. It's like all the old comic duos - you know when someone is going to breathe, what the next move is. But it is also about being comfortable with trying new things together as well and going with it.
Do you relate to Leo in any particular way?
Yes, there is definitely a little bit of Leo in me. When you get to the courtroom scene you really see how these two men affect each other and how Max pulls Leo out of his shell and how Leo grounds Max, and I really relate to that connection.
And speaking of The Producers, what do you think it is about the show that brings audiences back to see it again and again?
I think the obvious is that you have Mel Brooks fans who come and know every single line. But if you are not familiar with Mel Brooks, the show has this quality, this punch in the gut comedy. Sometimes you cant beieve they said or did that. It hits you so hard that you laugh three seconds after where the laugh should be. It's hilarious every night to hear that. There are some moments where something happens and you can say in your mind, "Yep, folks, I just said that" and then you hear laughter. I also believe that production-wise it is about the inventive choreography from Stroman.
For people who have seen The Producers before, what can they expect from this specific production?
Of course, the show changes slightly based on the theatres. Also, Michael and I try new things, little tweaks as we go along. The structure is still the same as the Broadway production, but there are a few fresh changes that we have added. I think my portrayal is slightly different than all the guys I saw do Leo in New York. The great part of understudying is you get to see so many that you see what works and what doesn't. You can put it all together and do it how you would do it. I believe comedy out of honesty is much more real, so even though this is a crazy Mel Brooks piece, you have to remember that it is really about these two guys changing each other.
What about other musicals or plays? Do you have a dream role you would like to play one day? What's next for you beyond this show?
Actually, I do. New pieces speak a thousand words. As much as there are roles out there I love, being involved with new pieces, there is nothing else like it. You are the person collaborating to create it. I start this spring, working with Casey Nicholaw doing a production of Tuck Everlasting. He asked me to be associate choreographer and we start in March then go to Boston in May and June. If all goes well we go to New York in late summer. It is really a magical story. So beautiful and touching.
Anything else you would like readers to know about you or this production?
I am excited about doing the show again, but for me it is such a homecoming. I lost my father about five years ago, so to be home with my family, who are all very supportive is going to be great. A lot of them have never seen me perform and many of them are coming to see this. To be able to do what I do and to bring my two families together, my theatre family and my real family, is just great.
THE PRODUCERS will play the Fabulous Fox Theatre from January 25 - 31, 2013. Eight performances are as follows: Friday, January 25 at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, January 26 at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Sunday, January 27 at 1:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.; Tuesday, January 29 at 8:00 p.m.; Wednesday, January 30 at 8:00 p.m and Thursday, January 31 at 8:00 p.m.
Tickets range from $25 - $65 and are on sale now at www.FoxATLTix.com or by calling 855-ATL-TIXX (855-285-8499). Special group rates for 10 or more are available by calling 404-881-2000, emailing email@example.com or online at www.foxtheatre.org/groupsales.aspx. Half-price tickets are available for the Tuesday and Wednesday performances by using the code "AJC".
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