BWW Interviews: Anything Goes' JEREMY BENTON Takes On The Friday Five...On a Tuesday?
Don't be alarmed, gentle readers: The calendar confirms that today is, indeed, Tuesday, October 23-not a Friday at all. Sorry! However, if you're in the Nashville area and you're lucky enough to have tickets to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for tonight, you're very likely to have a sprightlier spring in your step and the feeling of a Friday in your heart!
For tonight, the national tour of Anything Goes-the Tony Award-winning Roundabout Theatre revival of the Cole Porter musical-docks at Andrew Jackson Hall for an eight-performance run through Sunday, October 28. Starring Rachel York as Reno Sweeney, Fred Applegate as Moonface Martin and Erich Bergen as Billy Crocker, Anything Goes also features several performers with Nashville ties, including Broadway veteran and Tennessee native Chuck Wagner (last seen on a Nashville stage as Horace Vandergelder in Studio Tenn's Hello, Dolly! opposite First Night Award winner Nan Gurley), The Nutty Professor's Kristopher Thompson-Bolden (who spent his summer in Music City as part of the world premiere musical's all singing/all dancing ensemble) and Jeremy Benton, the Springfield-born hoofer who spent much of the summer in Crossville directing and choreographing Christopher McGovern's Backwards in High Heels: The Ginger Rogers Musical for Cumberland County Playhouse.
Benton, who has been called "Broadway's best tap dancer," agreed to take on our legen-wait for it!-dary! Friday Five questions and we had every intention of holding the interview for a Friday morning post, but gosh darn it, we're just so excited about Anything Goes' First Night in Nashville that there's no way we could hold back this opportunity for you to get to know Tennessee's very own song-and-dance man (whose family is right here in Music City, including his little doppelganger-beloved nephew Dexter-who is already collecting hearts years ahead of his own stage debut).
Read on, theaterati…and find out how Jeremy first made it to the stage, what one of his dream roles is and who is the focus of his theatrical/talent crush. Then, you'll probably want to go to www.tpac.org and score some tickets to Anything Goes this week while it's docked in Music City!
What was your first "live onstage" taste of theater? My actual first taste of stage performance was dance, and, in particular, in a children's ballet company. When I was 16, I was talked into auditioning for a musical by a friend that was too nervous to go by herself. Long story short, I got it... she didn't! I got cast as Charlie Dalrymple in Brigadoon, and was nervous beyond belief on opening night. As a side note: don't chug orange juice on an empty stomach if you are nervous and about to perform "Go Home To Bonnie Jean."After the curtain went down that night, I was hooked.
What is your favorite pre-show ritual? I like singing in the shower! The steam helps to warm my voice up, and I like the "calm before the storm" feeling of having that time to myself.
What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? Hmm...so many moments like this in everyone's theatre careers...from the power going off in the theatre during Crazy For You to the infamous "attack of theflying squirrel" during Hello, Dolly! But perhaps one that is the most memorable was debuting on Broadway as Billy Lawlor [in 42nd Street] without any rehearsal. I had just joined the company, and it was very early on in the rehearsal process, getting me up to speed with all of the ensemble tracks I was covering, planning to eventually learn the role of Billy Lawlor over the course of the next two weeks. One night, the actor playing Billy was suddenly injured at the end of Act One, and, as luck would have it, there wasn't another understudy in the building that night. I barely remember making it throughthe big Act Two "42nd Street Ballet," but apparently it was a success. At the curtain call, Shirley Jones, who was playing Dorothy Brock, announced to the audience the situation and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. One of those "is this my life?" moments! But, as she put it to the audience that night, "the show must go on."
What's your dream role? I have gotten to play quite a few dream roles on my "song and dance man" list,and I feel very lucky for that. But a dream role that I'd love the opportunity to play is Max in LEND ME A TENOR.
Who's your theatrical crush? I think I might take the liberty of rephrasing this question: I might spin this to answer whose career and talents I have admired for a long time...and the answer to that would be Neil Patrick Harris. He is the nerd that makes nerdidity sexy and, in a way, is sort of the perfect "everyman." I'd love the chance to play some of the roles he's gotten to play.