From 'Mamma Mia!' to Mozart: David Beach Tackles an 'Opus'
You may have seen David Beach as John Cullum's assistant McQueen in the Tony-nominated musical Urinetown or the Tony-nominated musical Mamma Mia! as Harry Bright. Now, he's traded in his spandex outfit for a tuxedo as a member of the Lazaro String Quartet in Michael Hollinger's smart, moving and funny drama Opus presented by Primary Stages at the intimate 59E59 Theater Complex. The play has received rave reviews from its premiere at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia (winning the 2006 Barrymore Award for Outstanding New Play), at the Everyman Theatre's presentation in Baltimore last year. Opus will return to the Washington Stage Guild in DC (where it played last April) for an "encore presentation" from Sept 6 - 30.
Having seen the production in Baltimore, I am happy to report I wasn't disappointed in the New York premiere, directed by Barrymore Award Winning director, Terrence J. Nolan. I interviewed David Beach who plays the First Violinist in the Quartet like football quarterback...
CS: Can you give some background of your early years?
DB: I hail from Columbus, Ohio. All my siblings took music lessons at an early age. I started piano at age 6, took organ lessons in the 4th grade and three years later I was playing to three different churches: Christian Science, Methodist, and Catholic. I went to music camp at Interlochen in Michigan as a piano composition major but found that I really enjoyed watching theater. The following year I returned as a theater major and was in Kiss Me Kate, Carousel, and some operettas like H.M.S. Pinafore.
CS: Where did you go to school?
DB: I majored in English literature at Dartmouth. Because it was so small, it was easy to whatever you wanted to do. I did Shakespeare, wrote a play, directed an operetta and was in the musical The Boys from Syracuse.
CS: How did you spend your summers in college?
DB: I did Circle in the Square in New York and summer stock in Cape Cod. Then I was able to get a grant from Dartmouth and did an apprenticeship at the Actors Theatre of Louisville.
CS: What direction did you go after graduation from Dartmouth?
DB: Once again, Dartmouth helped me. I got a Fellowship from the school to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts for one year. I did a whole lot of Shakespeare.
CS: After London, what was your next stop?
DB: I came back to NYC, did a lot of auditioning and finally got my Equity Card thanks to Theatreworks USA. We drove around the country in a van. I did Young Sherlock Holmes. What a great experience. Then it was regional theater like the Walnut Street in Philadelphia, Virginia Stage Co. in Norfolk, and the Alabama Shakespeare Co.
CS: When did you make your Broadway debut?
DB: It was Moon Over Buffalo with Phil Bosco and Carol Burnett. I understudied Dennis Ryan. I was the first understudy to go on.
CS: What was it like to work with such a superstar like Carol Burnett?
DB: She was great…so easy to act with her. No doubt she was one of the most generous actors I've ever worked with. To her, it was all about the "company". She is so great at what she does.
CS: How did you get involved in Urinetown, the Musical?
DB: I had been working both coasts. I did a pilot for PBS, movies for HBO and Disney, and an episode of "Dharma and Gregg". A friend from my Theaterworks USA experience, Laura Stanczyk (she was Ma Lincoln and I was Pa Lincoln) had become a casting director. She called me about Urinetown. (She's the reason to do children's shows.) It was off-Broadway and my agent told me not to do it, but I loved the script. It was a huge decision. I played McQueen, John Cullum's assistant so all my scenes were with him. Off-Broadway we were ALL in one dressing room with a sheet down the middle and one bathroom. When we moved to Broadway, Cullum felt lonely in his own dressing room.
CS: Did you perform on the Tony Awards telecast?
DB: They chose to do "Run Freedom Run" featuring Hunter Foster. Normally, I would not be in that number, but they included everyone. I was a little nervous standing on a platform.
CS: Another nominee for Best Musical that year happened to be Mamma Mia!...
DB: I did not know much about Mamma Mia! at that time. I do remember when Urinetown closed, I wrote the skit for the Easter Bonnet Competition (which raises money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids). Officer Lockstock was asked by Little Sally: "What did the cast do when the show closed"? He replied, "Some went on unemployment, some would try TV and some would try joining the cast of Mamma Mia!. Little Sally replied: "You mean get out of acting all together?" That quote would follow me.
CS: So, how did you get involved with Mamma Mia!?