BWW Interviews: Paper Mill Playhouse's John Treacy Egan Talks LEND ME A TENOR and More
Paper Mill Playhouse is busy preparing for their production of LEND ME A TENOR by Ken Ludwig and BWW was pleased to chat with actor John Treacy Egan who has been cast as Tito Merelli. We talked about the show as well as his Broadway career in productions such as THE PRODUCERS, SISTER ACT, and JEKYLL & HYDE.
BWW: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, John Tracey Egan. Having seen the original Broadway production of LEND ME A TENOR and numerous productions, I can only imagine what it has been like to work on this show.
JTE: It has been awesome! I get to play this overblown, Italian tenor. (Remove 'Italian' and that is just me.) We come to work and we laugh constantly. Don Stephenson is an amazing leader/director. He is funny and warm as we spend our final weeks now fine-tuning the piece.
BWW: And the talented Judy Blazer as your wife...
JTE: She is hilarious and loving and so great to fight with.
BWW: I'm excited that you really get to show off your singing chops as Tito (not to mention your comic ones too). Have you ever considered doing opera?
JTE: Music is part of my everyday life, but I was intimidated by opera. I appreciated it, but was always one to sing the score of RENT instead of LA BOHEME.
BWW: I personally believe Paper Mill is among the best regional theatres around. What has your experience been like working with them?
JTE: This is my first time working there, though I have seen previous shows. A great team, a beautiful space to perform in, and we rehearse in New York sharing the hallways with the cast of KINKY BOOTS, MOTWN: THE MUSICAL, MATILDA - it's really wonderful.
BWW: I have to be completely upfront and tell readers I had the chance to work with you in the late 90s when you sang on a demo of an original musical of mine and witnessed firsthand your talent and your kindness.
JTE: And I still have the tape, Gregory. Great music.
BWW: That's very nice of you. But since then, I have loved watching you from afar (as a fan) as your career took off. Numerous Broadway shows, regional theaters, concerts. What made you leave Larchmont, NY and move to New York to pursue performing?
JTE: Ignorance. I figured I was so close and doing local shows 'so why not go to NYC and audition'? Really, I was just this kid from Westchester County singing The 5th Dimension and Jackson 5 in my garage and doing comedy shows at my church when I finally discovered musicals in high school.
BWW: So many people come to NY and not all are going to make it. That first Broadway experience in JEKYLL & HYDE - can you recall the feeling of getting that job?
JTE: It was unbelievable because I didn't get that job in the regular way. My friend Christine Pedi sang on the concept recording and said I needed to audition and told me to go through Frank Wildhorn's secretary. Side story: Christine and I had met in a community theater production of EVITA...playing Che & Eva. (JTE Laughs) Back to J&H: I was cast as a replacement in the National Tour and then got a call about it moving to Broadway. I thought they were just being nice and letting me know the fate of the show when fellow actor Brad Oscar called me and said he thought it meant I was going with it. I called back to check just to make sure.
BWW: Being part of the phenomenon of THE PRODUCERS must have been exciting. What was it like to close the show as Max?
JTE: It was incredible. We all knew we were part of this huge thing and I was lucky enough to be contracted to play three leads. But when it ended, I thought "What Next?" A role like Max Bialystock doesn't roll around the corner every week. It was back to the drawing board to reinvent myself again.
BWW: But you were smart to open up yourself to audition for TV and film too.
JTE: It's such as a fantastic medium...and just look at the TV Names that end up on Broadway. I loved working with one of those names (Raven-Symoné) in SISTER ACT. Plus, it's the gift that keeps on giving when you get a residual check. Those 'Law & Order' checks pay for a latte.
BWW: I love that you never get too far away from music - even singing in an episode of 'Boardwalk Empire' on HBO and recording your CDs. You have such a beautiful voice. How important is music to you?
JTE: Thanks for that. I love to sing. Music is so important to me. I studied classical singing through college - but never sang an aria since then - which is why I'm thrilled to get to sing one in LEND ME A TENOR.
BWW: Whenever anyone mentions your name, I always say you're one of the nicest people in the business. And then I went to your website and saw a link for The Lord's Pantry. Is this non-profit near and dear to your heart?
JTE: Thanks for asking about that. It is. Like Equity Fights AIDS, it is a local organization up in Westchester County that feeds hot meals to homebound AIDS patients. Started by a woman who lost her son to the disease it is still going with the help of others.
BWW: I love when people find a way to 'Pay It Forward', and that's what I feel you have done by linking to it on your website. It caused me to look it up.
JTE: I agree. I really love that part of my life when we collect money at the end of a Broadway show or make the speech for Equity Fights AIDS...meeting the audiences afterwards and hearing their stories about loved ones lost or even attending their first Broadway show; it's all a few minutes out of the day that makes you feel like you've done something so worthwhile.
BWW: Thanks so much for talking to me today and I can't wait to see the show!