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An Interview with Malcolm Gets

Malcolm Gets, the versatile and energetic star of who will perform a solo concert at Birdland on June 13th, has a rather rare distinction under his belt. "It was my first time on Rosie (O'Donnell)," he elaborates, "when you could still do anything on her show. I was cutting up backstage, imitating Cher--next thing I knew, I was entering wearing a wig--which Rosie did not know about--a few moments later Cher returned to the stage--which neither of us knew about. Suffice to say, it was a blast, and was truly me at my most insane!" Gets, the star of The Apple Tree, Finian's Rainbow, Amour, A New Brain, Hello Again and many other shows, went on to play piano for Cher on the show. Although the pop diva will most likely not be in attendance, Gets will also repeat the ivory-tinkling duties in his cabaret show (along with Larry Yerman), as well as singing a varied program of songs.

The Birdland show is part of the New Season of concerts with top Broadway performers and composers; it will benefit the Songbook Project, of which Gets, a member of its advisory panel, speaks highly. "It promotes the art of live performance, by taking performers like myself into the schools, community centers--venues away from the traditional cabaret rooms of New York--and hopefully find some new fans of more traditional Standard and Popular Music." Standards and popular music will be side by side with showtunes and classical in the concert; Gets will perform songs by everyone from Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim and Charles Strouse to Hoagy Carmichael, Kenny Loggins and even Frederic Chopin.

"My evening will be very personal," he explains, "examining my own introduction to music, mostly through my parents' original cast albums." Gets finds performing solo a very satisfying experience though completely different from playing a role in a show. "For me, the most effective cabaret evenings have been some of the most personal ones, where the performer is comfortable enough to simply be themselves."

Indeed, he hasn't forgotten about the performing-in-a-show thing, and he was showered with accolades for his recent triptych of turns in Encores!' production of The Apple Tree with Kristin Chenoweth, who he affectionately refers to as "some new girl who should go far." In the concert production, he played Adam (of "and Eve" fame), the exotic Captain Sanjar and the groovy Flip, and calls the show, "a blast--great material, fantastic director and an amazing conductor and orchestra." He also speculates about a transfer. "There are rumors of a limited run next spring in Midtown...we'll see."

Gets will also be reprising his role as the leprechaun Og in the Westport County Playhouse's production of Finian's Rainbow, which opens on June 16th. Just as he did in the acclaimed Irish Rep production, he will co-star opposite Melissa Errico. "I've played the part 4 times now--crazy!" he laughs. He sees some similarities between himself and Og-- "To ask if I am mischievous is the understatement of all time. In some ways playing the part just fosters an already too accessible part of me that needs no encouragement. I've slowed down a little--but not that much!"

Gets has also been busy in front of the camera. In the new comedy, Adam and Steve (which opens at Loew's State Theatre in New York on June 11th) he co-stars with writer-director Craig Chester and indie queen Parker Posey. "I'm very happy to be associated with it," he enthuses. Courtney Love also performs in the film, and when asked if he would ever want to do a musical with her, Gets says "How about a musical of The People vs. Larry Flynt? I bet Michael John (LaChiusa) would take a stab!"

In one of his earliest New York appearances--LaChiusa's Hello Again at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse Theatre in 1993, Gets played the character of The Writer, and he also originated the role of children's show songwriter Gordon Schwinn in William Finn's A New Brain at the same theatre in 1998. The articulate Gets seems to have a flair for playing characters who either write or compose. He was Franklin Shepard in the York Theatre's 1994 production of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along. Of Sondheim, he says "I would think Sondheim's influence is large on most young composers...I do wonder though if anyone not writing in a traditional form is assumed to be influenced by Mr. Sondheim. I do know he has had enormous influence on me--seeing Sweeney Todd for the first time with my father is something I'll never forget--my father actually purchased tickets to see the show a second time as we left the theater."

Gets has other thoughts on the current state of Broadway, and when asked about his experiences with the romantic fable Amour, he bemoaned its inability to find an audience. "The experience was all things--wonderful and heartbreaking. It was a wonderful, delicate little show that absolutely deserved a life, but we are living in a very particular era on Broadway. The fact that Light In the Piazza is surviving is a miracle--I loved that show. Perhaps Broadway has always been this way, but it seems as though anything slightly experimental or subtle is not destined to survive right now. Don't get me wrong, I love razmatazz, but I wish there was a place for a variety of shows. Amour will live on in regional productions, I'm sure of it."

As for Gets' musical theatre dream roles, he'd love to offer a different interpretation of Arthur in Camelot. "I never understand why Wort, the "boy king" is always played by Senior Actors--I think he should seem like a man-boy who is struggling to be King and be a husband." Yet he doesn't want to limit himself to revivals either, and says, "I look forward to the shows my friends will write--Michael John, Adam (Guettel), Jason (Robert Brown), Kirsten (Childs)--I love revivals, but there's nothing like creating a new role."

There can be little doubt that Gets will create many new roles in the future. In the meantime, this outspoken, witty and talented performer can be seen at Birdland on June 13th at 7 PM. "It will be interactive with the audience, so warm up!" he says in advance.

For more info, visit www.malcolmgets.com or www.birdlandjazz.com



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