BWW Interviews: James Snyder in Goodspeed's CAROUSEL
There's a moment in the current production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's CAROUSEL at Connecticut's Goodspeed Opera House where James Snyder steps onto the dock which is constructed over the orchestra pit to deliver Billy Bigelow's famous "Soliloquy" that absolutely electrifies the audience. Snyder's strong stage presence and powerful singing voice had enraptured the crowd for most of the first act. Now he was virtually in their laps singing of his character's concerns regarding impeding fatherhood. The moment has them sharing his outpouring of emotion.
As Snyder sang the final notes of the seven minute number, the audience burst into enraptured applause and shouts of "bravo" could be heard throughout the quaint house. The cheering continued while Snyder stood on the dock holding his position and savoring his well-deserved ovation. Ted Chapin, President and Executive Director of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Estate caught a rehearsal of this production and later told Snyder that he was "caught up in the emotion" that Snyder put into the number; especially the end. He said, "I've never seen an emotional Billy Bigelow like that." He's right. In Snyder's hands, the role and the "Soliloquy" are extremely emotional. As far as the singing; Snyder is quick to credit his voice teacher,Edward Sayegh, for helping him to discover the legitimate baritone that was hiding under a rock tenor.
After the performance, it was a pleasure to have dinner with the young actor at the nearby Gelston House. Several diners came up to him to compliment him on his performance and he remained gracious even when one woman expressed her unjustified displeasure with several aspects of the production, claiming that she knows what she's talking about because her son dances with one of the country's most prestigious ballet companies. It was as though that accomplishment gave her the credentials to critique everything she sees on any stage. Snyder charmingly smiles and exchanges pleasantries with the lady but it's obvious that her comments bother him. He even brings it up during the meal. "Really, how can she say something like that? It was so unfounded." It was. Still, Snyder showed great class in dealing with the situation. "Grace," he said. "You always have to handle these things with grace."
James Snyder is used to unjust criticism. He made his Broadway debut in the musical CRY-BABY that received a critical drubbing and ran a scant four months, including previews. It had been well received at La Jolla, but those audiences are different from the New York crowds. It wasn't just the professional critics who were unkind to the show but the messages about it on the internet were absolutely vile. "We found out that opposing producers were paying people to post negative comments about the show while we were still in previews." The more savvy frequenter of Broadway websites noticed that many of the negative tirades about CRY-BABY came from people who had joined the sites on the very day they posted their arrant displeasure with the show. Their screen names seemed to fade into oblivion once CRY-BABY closed.
It was during rehearsals for the Encores! production of Harold Rome's FANNY that Snyder first spoke to Broadway World. His performance in that production garnered him some stellar reviews, with Charles Isherwood of the New York Times saying that he "possessed a gorgeous singing voice" and Andy Propst of Theatermania saying "James Snyder delivers a powerhouse performance" –just to mention a few. As Marius, Snyder delivered vocally impressive renditions of "Restless Heart" and the ever-beguiling title song. As an actor, he created a character who was romantically brooding and audiences loved him. Looking back on FANNY, Snyder says, "It was such a big experience. To be able to stand in front of an orchestra like that and be swept up in the size of the story, to work with people like George Hearn, to get to sing from the depths of my newly found legit voice, it all reminded me of why I love musical theater." One can only hope that some day a complete studio recording of the score becomes available because the 1954 original cast album was severely truncated to fit on to the black vinyl discs that were used at that time. It would be even nicer if Snyder was able to reprise his role in such a project.