BWW Interview: Liam Tobin and the Cast of BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL Open at the Saenger Theatre
Tonight at the Saenger Theatre we will be treated to a week long stay of recent Broadway hit BEAUTIFUL: THE Carole King MUSICAL. Lots of us know Carole King's music, but how many of us know how she became the musical legend that she is today? This show takes us through her young life as a budding artist, and all of the trials and tribulations she faces as she finds her way in the music world. This is not one to miss, folks!
Actor Liam Tobin, who has played many different roles such as Tony in WEST SIDE STORY, Lord Farquaad in SHREK THE MUSICAL, Buddy in ELF, and Gabe in NEXT TO NORMAL has quite a diverse resume and now has this beautiful (pun, obviously, intended) show to his resume. Liam gave me some inside scoop on his path to an acting career as well as what we can expect to learn about Ms. Carole King this week.
So Liam, tell me a little about where you're from and how you came to be working in this theatre business.
I'm from St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada... so the east coast. And, I suppose I got into this business a little later than most. I was in high school, and I had a lot of friends who were doing a community theatre show, and they wouldn't shut up about how fun it was and this happened at rehearsal and that happened at rehearsal. And, I figured, what the hell? I'll audition for the next one. So I did, and it was a community theatre production of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and once I kind of stepped on stage that was kind of it. I realized if you could make a living at this then I didn't really have any other choices.
Is this your first big US tour?
It is, yeah.
What has your experience been like so far?
Oh, it's been great! It's a great show, it's so much fun to be a part of. And, people seem to respond to it really well. It's great to just be a part of the show itself, but it's also really fun to be able to get to see the states in a way that I haven't before. I mean, obviously, I've been to the states before, but not to all of the places we've been to so far. I think it's been like 30-something cities so far in the past year and a half. It's been really cool to check out all of the states, too.
Production-wise, what's the difference between doing a show that is stationary and a show where you have to pick up and move every week?
Oh, that's a great question. Well, obviously when you're sitting down say in Toronto or New York, the set doesn't have to come apart and get put back together in a couple of hours. We have to load out almost every week and put it back together. You've got to meet the new local crew members, meet your new dresser, you've got a new orchestra and you've gotta do a new sound check with that. It's a different house, so it's going to sound different. I've even noticed that, based on where you are, people will laugh at different jokes. We have a joke about New Jersey in the show, and when we're on the east coast obviously it gets a much bigger response. I don't know, there's so many small things that you find that are kind of different and cool in every new place that you go as far as the show is concerned.
So right now you're touring with BEAUTIFUL: THE Carole King MUSICAL, and most of us know who the show is about, but can you tell me anything specific about her story that maybe either you didn't know before you were in the show or that made a particular impression on you?
I think one thing that everybody knows who Carole King is, right? They know her music or at least have some sort of connection to her music. But, what a lot of people don't know is how Carole King became the Carole King that we all know and love. A lot of people don't know that she was a writer for other groups for so long before she came out on her own. She, in fact, never really wanted the spotlight for herself. Her and Gerry, her first husband who I play, they spent years as hit makers for tons of other groups... writing an unbelievable amount of hit songs for other people like "Up on the Roof," "The Locomotion," "Natural Woman," and so many others. It's kind of hard to name them all. So, yeah, I think kind of her story of how she rose to fame by not really trying to, you know what I mean?
Tell me about Carole and Gerry's relationship in the context of this show.
We get to see them meeting in 1959 at Queens College in New York, and they're both students, and they kind of hit it off right away... a little too hard I suppose because they end up getting pregnant, and so they get married very young, but while their professional relationship and the work that they create flourishes very quickly, their romantic relationship gets off to a much rockier start. They have a lot of problems in their marriage just like a lot of people do, but I think the struggle that they have in their relationship kind of fuels a lot of the work that they did in their professional life and kind of in a way maybe helped them do the work that they did. Ultimately, the marriage doesn't really work, and they have to go their separate ways.
Do you feel like there's any added pressure or anything with playing a person who exists as opposed to a fictional character?
Yeah, of course, that's a great question, too, because you never want to do an impersonation of someone because that feels false and you know not really fair. But, you still want to stay true to kind of the spirit of who they were. Gerry is no longer with us, but the other three main characters in the show are still alive, and so you want to stay true to them and not go over the top or anything like that. It is a tough line to toe, but there are a lot of good resources out there. I never got to meet Gerry, unfortunately, before he passed, but our director Marc Bruni had this wonderful little trove of videos that he had of Carole and Gerry working at the piano together, and there's their own little language that they had where Gerry would kind of be like, "No, it's gonna boom boom" or whatever, but somehow Carole knew what he meant and they would kind of figure it out together. So, things like that were really eye opening in terms of how they would work together and communicate and stuff like that. It's definitely a challenge, but a welcomed one. It's really cool.
Is this the type of role that when you started doing theatre that you saw yourself playing, or what did you have in mind as far as where you wanted to go with your acting career?
I don't know, ummm... I suppose... It's hard to say that I really had anything in mind in one way or the other, but I tend to actually gravitate to a lot more of the sillier physical comedy roles like Elf or Lord Farquaad. But, it's really great to sink your teeth into a role that has some meat on it, you know? Gerry's got a lot of things going on. He's a very conflicting guy. I think he really wants to be a good friend, a good father, a good husband, and he tries, but he makes a lot of mistakes along the way, and I think that tears him up inside a lot more and sends him a little further down the rabbit hole. We touch on it in the show, but Gerry had some mental health issues and some substance abuse issues that didn't really help matters along. As an actor, it's actually a wonderful gift to have all of these things that you can work with and inform what's going on during the show, which sometimes you don't always get when you're playing, you know, the typical star-crossed lovers. So, this role is a blessing in that regard.
Is there anything that you're looking forward to as far as bringing this show to New Orleans?
Yeah, the food!
Have you ever been here before?
No, I've never been and I've only heard awesome things from everybody, so we're all really excited to go to New Orleans. I want to get some beignets! I'm really excited to explore the city. I know that New Orleans has so much history, and so many cool things to see, too. I just want to get lost and see what happens.
Here are some rapid fire questions to wrap us up. Are you read?
Favorite Broadway show?
INTO THE WOODS.
The Pillars of the Earth.
A person who inspires you who you are not related to?
Xbox and Domino's.
Come see Liam and the cast of BEAUTIFUL: THE Carole King MUSICAL beginning tonight at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans. Check out www.saengernola.com for tickets and more information. And bring that man some Domino's to the stage door!