BWW Interviews: Euan Morton Talks CHESS
Whenever I hear that Euan Morton will be performing somewhere, I do whatever possible to not miss him. It began when I was overwhelmed at his performance in the Broadway production of Taboo where he had the unenviable task of playing the role of rock star "Boy George" who just happened to be in the show. I also enjoyed his performance in the Broadway production of Cyrano De Bergerac with Kevin Kline. When Morton showed up in Baltimore to perform in a cabaret performance last year at Center Stage, I observed a different side of Morton, the real deal,l and I was not disappointed . You too will have an opportunity to see him perform again in a solo performance at Center Stage from Oct. 14 to Oct. 17, 2010.
Morton currently is performing before sell-out crowds at the Signature Theatre in the new and improved production of the musical Chess which has been extended to October 3 due to popular demand. Here is my interview.
How did you get involved with Chess?
I've been very involved with the Signature Theatre. I attended performances in the old garage theater. A friend of mine was an assistant director. I even performed at the gala when the new theater was unveiled. I first heard that Signature would be doing Chess last December. I told Eric Schaeffer (Signature Theatre Artistic Director and Director of the show)"I want this job or I'm burning down your theater."
Have you ever seen a production?
No, but I was very familiar with the music. I've heard it many times which was helpful.
While you were on Broadway, did you ever get a chance to the musical Mamma-Mia!?
No, I didn't. But I've always loved the music of ABBA.
What was the first reading like?
It was in July. There really was no pressure. I knew this was the first time the show was done in years. It was a lot of effort to get the rights. I had never read the book of the play. The cast sang the songs we knew. I had a gut feeling. I knew it was very special. People just love the score. The music resonates with audiences.
Did book writer Richard Nelson make a visit?
He came on August 17, made some changes. He altered the end of Act I. He approved all the changes.
What kind of direction did you get from Schaeffer?
I love working with Eric. He gives a lot of freedom to actors. The flashy set was Eric's idea. I wasinitially worried it would be too big and flashy.
Is this the first time you worked together?
Yes. He has such a fantastic reputation. He does wonders here. From that little garage tot his beautiful new theater. It's not an easy thing to do, I respect and admire his work.
How do you like performing before an audience of only 276 and does it affect your performance?
Yes, indeed, it affects your performance. The audience is right there, only five feet away. They are like another character in the play. It's kind of exciting. I like the intimacy of it, I love it.
What was the influence of orchestrator David Holcenberg?
David spent a lot of time working with us on the music, making sure it was wonderful. The orchestrations are just wonderful. The musicians sound terrific. You could never tell there were only ten. I've worked with him before with Liz McCartney.
How long did you have to work with the orchestra?
They joined us for the last two and a half days. It was a lot of fun. They are terrific.
What was it like working with Jill Paice on your duets?
She's a joy to work with. She's so down to earth. She's fantastic. I admit I was a little nervous coming directly from the Broadway Sondheim musical.
Do you have a favorite song from the show?
That would be "Anthem" sung at the end of Act I. I've sung it many times in concerts. Before that, I used to sing it in the shower. The score is so fabulous. Each song seems to be better than the one before it. I wish audiences would sing along with us during the bow. It would help.
How was your experience in Sondheim on Sondheim on Broadway just prior to this?
It was great, but I was very nervous working with Steve. We just released the cast album. I made friends with Barbara Cook who came to see Chess. It was great to have her support.
What did you think of the 2007 documentary "Show Business: The Road to Broadway" which featured the Broadway season of Taboo, Caroline or Change, Wicked, and Avenue Q?
It was a very interesting documentary about show business. I was honored to be chosen to be a large part of it. It's difficult to watch though. It was an emotional time for me but I was thrilled to be a part of it. It's a great thing to watch. It was a very special season on Broadway, everything was new, a unique season. It's nice to have it immortalized. I took my parents to view the premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. It was a thrill to have my parents there.
What can one expect at your upcoming week-end concerts at Center Stage?
I'll be performing with pianist Bryan Reeder. I'm not saying anything else. I had a great time the last time at Center Stage. It was a big success and I'm glad they asked me to come back.
Is your CD "NewClear" still available?
Yes. I did it four years ago. You can get it at www.officiallyeuanmorton.com. (By the way, also on the album is fellow cast member Eleasha Gamble who plays Morton's Russian wife Svetlana).
Chess continues at the Signature until Oct. 3. For tickets, call 703-573-7328 or visit www.signature-theatre.org.
To see Morton at Baltimore's Center Stage, call 410-332-0033 or visit www.centerstage.org/cabaret.
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