BWW Interviews: Brent Barrett Talks Career and CHICAGO
Yesterday, Broadway Across America - Houston's production of Chicago loaded into the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Now, the cast is ready to paint Houston red, shimmy-shake until their garters break, and give us all that jazz. I spoke with Brent Barrett, who plays Chicago's glib Billy Flynn and was last seen in Houston as Captain Hook in the national tour of PETER PAN, about his career and this production of Chicago.
BWW: How did you first get involved in theatre?
Brent Barrett: I did a musical when I was in junior high. It was CALAMITY JANE, and it was the first thing I ever did. I fell in love with it and decided that's what I wanted to do.
BWW: When did you know that performing is what you wanted to do professionally?
Brent Barrett: Well, it really wasn't until I went to college. I grew up in a very small town in Kansas, and I knew nothing about Broadway. I didn't know that you could actually do it as a profession, and sometimes I still wonder. When I got to college I realized this was something that was a possibility. I ended up transferring to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, then went to New York from there, and just continued working.
Brent Barrett: I got a call from the producers, and they asked me if I wanted to come out and do the show. I kind of call Chicago my day job because I've been in and out of it over the last 16 years. I'll come in for a period of time, and then I'll go off and do other things. Then, if I'm not doing anything and they call me and ask if I want to come back in, I'll come back in for a period of time and then go on and do other things. I'm very grateful that Chicago has the life that it has.
BWW: How did you prepare for the iconic role of silver-tongued lawyer Billy Flynn?
Brent Barrett: Oh my goodness! It was 16 years ago. I can't remember. (Laughs)
BWW: And now it's all old hat? (Laughs)
Brent Barrett: It's new and different every night depending on who you're doing it with, what the audience is like, but now, yes, there is a certain familiarity with the role that when I was starting out I was much more nervous than I am now.
BWW: What is your favorite part of playing Billy Flynn?
Brent Barrett: I think it's Billy's assuredness-his confidence about everything he does. He knows what he wants, and he goes and he gets it.
BWW: In your opinion, why should Houston audiences be excited to see this production of Chicago?
Brent Barrett: I think they should be excited to see any production of Chicago! We've got a great cast. I just did an interview earlier with someone who had never seen Chicago. So, I think there are still a lot of people out there that haven't seen it. It's a different experience depending on whom you see in the show, so even if you've seen it before, people come back again and again. The way it's directed, it's kind of like a vaudeville show. Everything is down in one, and it really relies on the strength of the performers. So, even if you've seen it before but you haven't seen these performers, it's going to be a different show.
Brent Barrett: Yes I did! Michelle and I did it on Broadway together.
BWW: Awesome! It'll be cool for Houston to get glimpses of what she got to work with.
BWW: What advice would you offer to someone hoping to make a career as a performer?
Brent Barrett: You really have to want to do it at the expense of everything else. Once you start working, the difficulty is finding a balance between work and having a normal life. I think having that normal life is what keeps you sane through all the difficult times in this business.
CHICAGO, presented by Broadway Across America - Houston, plays Sarofim Hall at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby Street, Houston, 77002 from November 12 - 17, 2013. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit http://houston.broadway.com or call (800) 952-6560.
Photos courtesy of Broadway Across America - Houston.
Brent Barrett as Billy Flynn.