BWW Interview: Terrence Mann Talks Stepping Into FINDING NEVERLAND; Upcoming TUCK EVERLASTING
Three time Tony nominee Terrence Mann (PIPPIN, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST) currently stars in the dual role of "Charles Frohman" and "Captain Hook" in the hit Broadway musical Finding Neverland, the story of how playwright J.M. Barrie found the courage to become the writer - and the man he always knew he could be.
Directed by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus (PIPPIN, HAIR), the show features music and lyrics by Gary Barlow (Take That) and Grammy winner Eliot Kennedy, book by Olivier Award nominee James Graham, and choreography by Emmy Award-winner Mia Michaels
Today, the Broadway vet chats exclusively with BWW and explains why joining FINDING NEVERLAND was like "jumping onto a speeding train". The actor also gives us a preview of his next exciting project, the stage adaptation of TUCK EVERLASTING, heading to Broadway next April.
Watching you on stage in FINDING NEVERLAND, it seemed like the role of Captain Hook was tailor-made for you.
Oh, I love doing it, to play Frohman and to play Hook. In fact I had a chance to play Hook in "Peter Pan" earlier this summer at the Connecticut Reperatory Theater.
Yes, I would think it is very unusual to play the same character back-to-back in two different shows.
Well the one in Connecticut, I was really modeling that Hook on the Cyril Ritchard version, in other words, sort of a selfish guy, who can be scary at any given moment, that kind of thing. But after talking with folks about this take on the role in FINDING NEVERLAND, which was very different, I decided to make him more of a Blackbeard pirate, more intimidating, more mean and just more like a back alley kind of guy, just for the sake of having a kind of dangerous presence. I really thought it would help add to the terror of the whole situation. So it is a departure from what you normally see in a musical theater production of "Peter Pan", but for our intents and purposes and in this context, I thought it was more exciting for me to do it this way.
As an actor, what are some of the challenges you face in switching back and fourth between a real life character, Charles Frohman, and the fictional Hook?
Well the harder thing for me was to get a handle on how I was going to play Frohman. And that honestly took me a couple weeks until I finally settled into being comfortable in my own skin when playing him. Because I had done the research on it and learned that Charles Frohman was this little, short, cuddly sort of Buddah guy, really affable and wonderful and an incredible businessman. So I kept saying to myself, well you got to let that go and find your own way in and do your own version of him.
And something helpful that Diane Paulus gave me was that he was a real father figure to Barrie, and just taking those kind of characteristics and relationship notions that go along with that really helped. As did the fact that I already knew Matthew [Morrison], I've known him since 2001 when we did "Rocky Horror" together. And I very clearly remember chatting with him one day backstage back then about being in the business and what it takes to stay in the business, literally having this philosophical conversation with him. And he was saying, 'look, I'm just getting started here. What do you think? What should I do?' So, I kind of drew on that, remembering that conversation of me being an old jaded actor, sitting around saying 'ehh, good luck son,' and then sort of wrapping my arm around him as a father would. But also, being stern with him, you know, telling him he had to get his work done, and that there was a discipline about it. And at the end of the day, I think Frohman just loves this guy Barrie, much like a father would love a son.
You mentioned Diane Paulus. I imagine it must be wonderful to reunite with her after the great experience you shared on PIPPIN?
Yes, it's wonderful. She's the smartest person in the room and that's all you ever want in a director. And she also is so open to interpretation and anything you want to bring to the character, she's always up to try anything. And at the end of the day, what is great about her is her filter and her ability to flush out what's really going to fit together in this jigsaw puzzle called a musical - it's really at the genius level. So you just don't worry. You try this, and then you go over here and you try that and you can go from one extreme to the other and you just trust that she's going to figure out, 'let's do this, let's do this and let's do this.'
One of the messages of FINDING NEVERLAND is that you should never forget how to reconnect with your inner child, and it seemed to me that finally happens for Charles Frohman in that wonderful number 'Play.'
Well I think Frohman wouldn't be trying to produce all these plays and wouldn't love reading through all these scripts and being in the room with all these actors unless his inner child was already engaged.
So I think his inner child, much like Barrie's inner child, is always there, but he can't wear his on the outside because he has to play the role of producer. But by the time we get to that number 'Play,' Frohman hears "you've forgotten that inner voice, you've forgotten how to play", that's the epiphany, that's him saying, 'I get it, I can let that part of me out now.' And that's what inspires and charges his entire cast. So yes, to your point, he does open up during that number. And I have such a good time playing it. You know I didn't want to go outside the box at first, but I got a note saying, do whatever you want, do your thing up there, so it's gotten to be a lot of fun!
What are some of the difficulties in stepping into a starring role of a show that has been running for some time?
Well going into a role, or replacing another actor is really, really hard and a little terrifying, just in terms of the fact that you have about ten days of rehearsal. And even though the whole staff of FINDING NEVERLAND was so gracious and I always felt so well taken care of, it's still like jumping onto a moving train.
They've been doing this show for six months, so rhythms and tempos and bits and pieces and nuances and blocking, you have to try to fit yourself into all that. There are a lot of moving parts, so learning it in a rehearsal room was wonderful, and watching the show two, three, four times was wonderful, but at some point nothing prepares you for when you step on that stage in costume with the cast and the tempo that they'e moving at, with an orchestra that you've never heard before. It's a big old adrenaline rush, and not really the good kind! [laughing] It's more like 'WHAT'S GOING ON!' Terrifying, I was terrified. But, I couldn't have been more taken care of up there by everybody, so I felt very secure, even though I was kind of like, 'What's next? What's next? What's next?'
Well it's very surprising to hear that because from the audience's perspective, it seemed absolutely seamless, as if you had been doing the role since the opening.
Well thank you very much.
You have another very exciting project on the horizon, TUCK EVERLASTING, coming to Broadway this spring. What can you tell us about the character you will be playing?
Well it's based on the Natalie Babbitt children's book of the same name and I play the Man in the Yellow Suit, and it
tells the story of a family who drinks this special water that allows them to live forever. And my character, when he was a small boy, saw the older son Miles get shot, but then be able to get up and walk away, and he was fascinated by that and it left such an impression on him that he decided to make it his life's work to find out how that happened and who these people are. So he keeps traveling and following the country legend of these folks that live forever and he ultimately wants to find them and then drink the water himself and then turn the whole thing into a huge sideshow or sort of carnival freak show kind of thing. So it's an evil, mean motive at the end of the day. I'm just a really bad guy.
Which I'm sure is a lot of fun for you.
It is fun and actually with all the bad guys I have ever played, I always try to find something likable about them and something that I can latch on to and appreciate, since I have to be in their shoes eight times a week. So I'm working on that right now for this character.
The story just seems like such a natural fit to be adapted to the stage.
Yes, I agree. It has that sort of fable quality and also a whimsicality to it. And it's really about life and death, much like what goes on in FINDING NEVERLAND, that theme of how you deal with death, at least from a child's perspective. Because when kids are young, there's a whole world of fantasy which helps them deal with death. They have a veil that they can kind of walk back and forth between, whereas when we get older, that veil turns into a pretty hard door and fantasy goes away and death is just a terrifying specter that we must deal with. And in TUCK EVERLASTING, it poses the question so poetically and so tantalizingly - if you can drink this, and you could live forever, would you? Could you? And we see through a child's eyes the whole idea of what living and dying is, that it's a cycle, and at the end of the play that question must be answered, if you could live forever, would you?
So interesting! Well best of luck with the rest of your run in FINDING NEVERLAND, as well as all your exciting projects ahead.
Thank you. It's truly an embarrassment of riches right now!
About Terrence Mann: A three time Tony nominee, Terrence Mann's credits include work on the Broadway stage, in film and television, as a director, composer and artistic director. Last season, Terry won the Outer Critics Circle Award and was nominated for a Tony for his portrayal of King Charlemagne in the hit musical Pippin, also directed by Diane Paulus. He originated the roles of the Beast in Beauty and the Beast (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle nominations), Inspector Javert inLes Miserables (Tony nomination), Rum Tum Tugger in Cats and Chauvelin in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Other Broadway credits include The Addams Family (Mal Bienekie), Lennon (Ensemble), The Rocky Horror Show (Frank 'N' Furter), Getting Away With Murder (Greg), A Christmas Carol (Scrooge), Rags (Saul),Barnum (Ringmaster, matinee Barnum on tour), Jerome Robbin's Broadway (Narrator) and Jekyll and Hyde (title roles, pre-Broadway workshop). Off-Broadway and regional credits include Tuck Everlasting (the Alliance Theatre), The Studio (South Coast Repertory), 1776, Assassins and Promises, Promises. Terry can currently be seen as Mr. Whispers in the Netflix series SENSE8, created by the groundbreaking Lana and Andy Wachowski. He also played the series regular role of "Bob" on the Sci-Fi Channel's The Dresden Files. Additional film and television appearances include Critters, A Chorus Line, Big Top Pee Wee, Solar Babies, " Love Monkey," "Law and Order," "Mrs. Santa Claus," "American Revolution," "One Life to Live" and "As the World Turns" (Emmy Nomination). Off stage and camera, he was the Director/Composer for the musical adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, and is founding Artistic Director of the Carolina Arts Festival. He also served as Artistic Director of the North Carolina Theatre for 10 years. He now holds the endowed chair of Musical Theatre at Western Carolina University.
Finding Neverland follows playwright J.M. Barrie as he summons the courage to become the writer - and the man - he yearns to be. Barrie finds the inspiration he's been missing when he meets the beautiful widow Sylvia and her four young sons: Jack, George, Michael and Peter. Delighted by the boys' hilarious escapades, Barrie conjures the magical world of Neverland and writes a play unlike any the high-society London theatergoers have ever seen. It's a tremendous risk, but as Barrie himself has discovered- when you believe, you can fly. Directed by Tony Award® winner Diane Paulus (Pippin, Hair),with music and lyrics by Gary Barlow (Take That) and Grammy® winner Eliot Kennedy, book by Olivier Award nominee James Graham, and choreography by Emmy Award®-winner Mia Michaels("So You Think You Can Dance," Cirque du Soleil's Delirium), this new musical, packed with mesmerizing visuals, irresistible songs and plenty of laughs, is a timeless story about the power of imagination... and spectacular proof that you never really have to grow up.
In addition to Terrence Mann, Finding Neverland features a cast of Broadway's best led by Matthew Morrison ("Glee," South Pacific),Laura Michelle Kelly (Mary Poppins) with Carolee Carmello (Parade), Teal Wicks, Casey Butler, Alex Dreier, Jackson Demott Hill, Noah Hinsdale,Christopher Paul Richards, Eli Tokash and Courtney Balan, Kristy Cates,Dana Costello, Colin Cunliffe, Rory Donovan, Chris Dwan, Francesca Granell, Kevin Kern, Josh Lamon, Nick McGough,Mary Page Nance, Emma Pfaeffle, Jonathan Ritter, Tyley Ross, Julius Anthony Rubio, Paul Slade Smith,Jaime Verazin, Ryan Worsing and Amy Yakima. The production features scenic design by Tony Award®-winner Scott Pask (Pippin, Book of Mormon), lighting design by Tony Award®-winner Kenneth Posner(The Coast of Utopia, Pippin), costume design by Suttirat Larlarb (Of Mice and Men), sound design by Tony Award®-nominee Jonathan Deans (Pippin, La Cage aux Folles) and the casting is by Telsey + Company.
Finding Neverland is produced by Weinstein Live Entertainment, The Madison Square Garden Company, Len Blavatnik, Ron Burkle, Radenko Milakovicand Bryan Cranston in association with Jason Blum, Broadway Across America, Stephen Bronfman, Rodgin Cohen, Michael Cohl, Jean Doumanian, Chad Dubea, Rick Gerson, Jeremiah J. Harris, Sh. Mohammed Y. El Khereiji, Terry Allen Kramer, Howard Milstein, Dalip Pathak, Steve Rattner, Jimmy Sommers, Peter Stavola, Marvin Peart, and The American Repertory Theater. The production is Executive Produced by Barry and Fran Weissler, Alecia Parker, and Victoria Parker
TUCK EVERLASTING photo by Greg Mooney
FINDING NEVERLAND photo: Twitter
PIPPIN photo by Michael J. Lutch