BWW Interviews: NY Casting Director Bob Cline about IN THE HEIGHTS

BWW Interviews: NY Casting Director Bob Cline about IN THE HEIGHTS

New York Casting Director Bob Cline is back in New Jersey as he often is directing a show for a theater company. This time, it is at M.O.C. Musicals doing the amazing show "In The Heights". We caught up with Bob during tech week to talk about the show.

BWW: So glad you could take the time to talk to Broadway World about this show. "In The Heights" took NY by storm when it first appeared five years ago. What made M.O.C. Musicals chose this for their spring show?

Bob Cline: Well, I've been lucky enough to have worked with them for awhile and Gonzalo Valencia has been my music director on the last four or five shows. This shows means the world to both of us. And as good as I am with coming up with the right words...my love for this piece is huge and hard to describe. His parents immigrated here with him when he was 8 years old, almost exactly like the lead character in our piece. So his fervor is nearly palpable. But for me (one of the whitest people must people know), I believe it is a perfect show, with so much heart, that is moves me to some type of tears nearly every track on the CD. It has introduced me to emotions that were somewhat foreign to me. So, I guess you could say that we begged for them to choose this one, and sold it to them at the closing night party for last year's "Sweet Charity" when everyone in the room stood around a piano and sang thru the score.

BWW: What has been your approach directing the piece?

BC: Well, there are not huge long books scenes or anything, so I really see this whole piece as a dance (although, I'm aware of how gross that sound). It is just constantly moving and evolving with the pace of New York and Washington Heights. These are all good people pushing thru, plowing thru, escaping thru, embracing thru, celebrating thru life.

BWW: Do you have a favorite moment or song in the show?

BC: All of them! Sorry. But it changes every night.

BWW: M.O.C. seems to use both local actors as well as those professionals working on a career that come out from NY (many of which that want to specifically work with you). Do you feel this makes for a unique experience for actors and audience?

BC: I love my careers. Casting, directing, and teaching. I feel lucky to get to do them all. But teaching is my favorite. And I think that's how I approach directing. We are all learning from each other every minute. At auditions for shows I'm dirtying in the area, I can usually tell the ones that just want the to finally learn their name for my casting projects. I don't mind. That's kind of smart. If we work together in a show, I know you forever. But there are people that I've worked on shows with that I still couldn't recommend for a job. If that's what you're asking. (Smiles)

BWW: I'd never expect you to cast me in a tour - even though you have directed me! (Laughs) NJ audiences have seen your work from Chatham, Montclair, Morristown, Bloomfield - just to name a few towns you've directed with both plays and musicals. Do you view it differently when working on one or the other?

BC: I think I just love telling stories. Whether it be the heightened reality of a musical or the naturalism of a play, or a joke at a bar...haha

BWW: You've been directing for many years and created quite a reputation in New Jersey as a director, but there is much more to Bob Cline. Teacher, casting director...and some even saw you back on stage a few years back in a 4th Wall Theatre show. How do you juggle it all?

BC: I love it all and feel lucky to do what I love. I'm glad I've never required a lot of sleep. And Jägermeister helps. (Smiles again.)

BWW: A few years ago you directed "White Lies" off-Broadway with Betty Buckley, Tuc Watkins, Peter Scolari and Christy Carlson Romano. What was that experience like?

BC: Such a wonderful play written by Ben Andron. I am so proud of that experience. A comedy based on a lie about cancer isn't the easiest sell and I am not sure they knew how - but people still come up to me to say how much they enjoyed the show and the ride: that's exactly what that was...a wild ride.

BWW: In addition to teaching at Pace University, there is also a Master Class offered through Broadway Artists Alliance. What type of things can actors learn in your master class?

BC: I teach a bunch of different types of Master Classes...I always aim it as "taking the next step". What do you want out of this business and what's the next step for you to take to get it? How can I help you? I can easily work on new audition material, boost confidence, as well as a definition of type. Those sort of things. I've been teaching privately thru the actor's loft in NYC since 1997. Wow. Ouch. I'm old.

BWW: It doesn't appear as if you ever slow down or will be any time soon. What is coming up down the road for Mr. Cline?

BC: Every year, I just seem to get busier and busier...with a lot more of the same...but as long as I get to create theater and watch the growth in performers that I have my heart wrapped up in, I'll always be happy. I was lucky to work a lot as an actor when I got to NYC and I learned (inside of a curtain call) that although I was glad I knew what that applause felt like at an end of show...I didn't crave that. I Know what that tremendous gift feels like and I'd rather stand in the back and watch the people that I love lose themselves in something I've helped to create and feel this emotion with them from back there. Huh, everything I do is a pathway to help people feel this feeling. I've never really thought about it like that...but I guess that's why I'm happy. I had great mentors - this is the least I can be doing...after all they gave me.

BWW: Having worked with you, I can say you are a great mentor for many as well. Check out Bob's work at M.O.C. in Bloomfield, NJ when "In the Heights" runs for two weekends at the Westminster Arts Center on the corner of Franklin & Fremont Streets. Opening Friday, April 19th. For more information, please go to www.mocmusicals.org


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