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BWW Exclusive: Original Cast Member William Ryall Checks Back Into GRAND HOTEL

BWW Exclusive: Original Cast Member William Ryall Checks Back Into GRAND HOTELEncores! is back for round two! The second production of this season is Grand Hotel, directed and choreographed by Josh Rhodes, features music direction by Encores! Music Director Rob Berman. Grand Hotel, The Musical will run for seven performances at New York City Center from March 21 - 25.

The show's 1989 Broadway production garnered 12 Tony Award nominations, winning five, including best direction and choreography for Tommy Tune. Big-name cast replacements, including Cyd Charisse and Zina Bethune, helped the show become the first American musical since 1985's Big River to top 1,000 performances on Broadway.

William Ryall has been around for all of it. Not only was he a member of the original 1989 cast, but he will star as Colonel Doctor Otternschlag when the Encores! run begins tonight. We checked in with Ryall to get the scoop on Grand Hotel then and now...

It's been almost 30 years since you brought Grand Hotel to Broadway. Why do you think the audiences need to see this show in 2018?

First and foremost, audiences who are not familiar with Grand Hotel need to see the Encores! Production because this beautiful score (Robert Wright, George Forrest, Maury Yeston) is being played by a full orchestra under the baton of Rob Berman. It is highly unlikely that were the show revived (fingers crossed) it would be with such a full, lush, huge orchestra.

Now as to subject matter - there is something for everyone! Love, loss, lust, deception, intimidation, humor, heart and joy. All of these elements should be just as intriguing and entertaining to a contemporary audience as they were when Grand Hotel opened in 1989. It should also excite today's audience to see the work of a young, up and coming, director/choreographer (Josh Rhodes) who has managed to not only do a masterful job of putting up a complex show with 10 days of rehearsal (like the old days of summer stock), but he has taken an iconic production number (We'll Take A Glass) that was done on the Tony Awards and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (and lives vividly in every show queen's memory) and elevated it and made it surprising and fresh. Kudos as well to Brandon Uranowitz as Otto Kringelein!

Grand Hotel is unique in that most musicals have one or two main characters that propel the story but here we see and follow the lives of pretty much everyone staying or working at the Grand Hotel, Berlin in 1928.

BWW Exclusive: Original Cast Member William Ryall Checks Back Into GRAND HOTEL
The 1989 company of Grand Hotel

Do you think the process has been easier for you (since you are already familiar with the show) or harder (since you are doing it in a new way)?

I would have to hedge a bit and say both! I was involved with the production from its inception in an old ballroom on West 43rd Street to our out of town try-out in Boston, the first year of the Broadway run, the National Tour, a tour of Japan, and a production I directed in San Jose, Ca.. So by this time it's a part of my DNA.

Grand Hotel is unique in that it is almost completely underscored like a movie. The brilliant Wally Harper would sit at the piano and noodle away as scenes were being put together, so much of the dialogue has an accompaniment to it that informs the rhythm of the scenes. The hard part was knowing that rhythm already as this brilliant new cast found their way. I am happy to report that they have aced it! The easy part is that I am playing a role I understudied 29 years ago and I finally got the part! Perseverance!

What is your fondest memory from the original production?

BWW Exclusive: Original Cast Member William Ryall Checks Back Into GRAND HOTELThat's easy. The entire company. We were helmed by the incomparable Tommy Tune and, as he often did, Tommy brought together unique talents on and off the stage and the result was magical. Sadly we have lost many of those beautiful souls. I still see them every time we do the show at City Center.

I also remember fondly the dressing room at the Martin Beck Theatre (currently the Hirschfeld). Our Men's Ensemble dressing room window was just above the marquis and looked out onto West 45th Street. Years earlier I would walk past the Martin Beck at night and see the lights and activity in those dressing rooms and dream that I would one day be there. To open that window on opening night and watch the arriving crowd below is a vivid memory that I'm guessing I share with every actor lucky enough to find themselves in those storied rooms.

You were also in ME AND MY GIRL. Are you excited that a new generation of theatre goers is going to get to see both of these shows this season?

Oh my gosh, YES! Rob Berman called this the "Bill Ryall Season at Encores!" ME AND MY GIRL was my Broadway debut! I had worked really hard for ten years for my first (of 14) Broadway shows and ME AND MY GIRL was the perfect beginning of my career. Robert Lindsay won the Tony Award for playing Bill Snibson in what is one of the most fun (and dare I say it - frothy) musicals. We were such a hit my head was spinning from the celebrities I met that year. Barbra Streisand, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Jackson, Katherine Hepburn... they all loved ME AND MY GIRL! Our dear Robert had an open dressing room policy so we got to meet them all! If you go to Encores! this season it's like GRAND HOTEL is your delicious main course and ME AND MY GIRL is your dessert with sprinkles and sparklers. You want them both!

The star-studded Encores! cast includes Junior Cervila, John Clay III, Natascia Diaz, John Dossett, Irina Dvorovenko, Guadalupe Garcia, Nehal Joshi, James T. Lane, Jamie LaVerdiere, Eric Leviton, Robert Montano, Kevin Pariseau, William Ryall, James Snyder, Brandon Uranowitz, Daniel Yearwood, and Helene Yorke. The ensemble includes Aaron J. Albano, Matt Bauman, Kate Chapman, Sara Esty, Hannah Florence, Richard Gatta, Emily Kelly, Andrew Kruep, Kelly Methven, Harris Milgrim, Adam Roberts, Christopher Trepinski, and Sharrod Williams.

Inspired by Vicki Baum's 1929 novel, Grand Hotel, The Musical intertwines the lives of a cast of eccentric characters through a series of fateful encounters. Whirling through the doors of the opulent Grand Hotel are faded ballerina Elizaveta Grushinskaya (Irina Dvorovenko); the impoverished romantic Baron Felix von Gaigern (James Snyder); fatally ill bookkeeper Otto Kringelein (Brandon Uranowitz); and Flaemmchen (Stephanie Styles), a young secretary who is all too eager to become an American film star. Originally produced under the title At the Grand (1958), with a score by Robert Wrightand George Forrest and book by Luther Davis, the production was revitalized in 1989 by director-choreographer Tommy Tune, with additional music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, for a Tony Award-winning run on Broadway.

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