BWW Interview: Daniel Wisniewski Talks 'All out Love,' Wealth, and Technicolor in Aurora Theatre's MEN WITH MONEY
The time is the '50s. The place is Manhattan. And it's in Technicolor.
The time is the '50s. The place is Manhattan. And it's in Technicolor.
Aurora Theatre's latest venture is a brand new musical told through the familiar lens of the golden age of Broadway, a la Frank Loesser, complete with bright colors, snappy dialogue, and of course a search for wealth and love. Making his Aurora debut, Daniel Wisniewski sat down with BroadwayWorld to share his perspective on this simultaneously age-old and completely fresh tale. Below, check out what the actor, playing "Hot Dog," has to say about his interesting name, the incredibly specific setting, the urgent relevance of the piece, and more!
So what can you tell us about MEN WITH MONEY?
MEN WITH MONEY is a fun romantic musical comedy set in "Technicolor 1950s Manhattan" and follows the story of three roommates, Louis, Sonny, and Max, two of whom are gay, one is straight, as they decide to marry rich and all of the adventures that ensue with that. And my character is named Hot Dog. He's sort of the foil/possible romantic interest for Louis. He is a foil to Louis's ideas that beauty comes from all these wonderful things you get when you're rich. There's a whole song he sings about how he enjoys the simplicities of selling hot dogs in the park to random strangers. It's a nice little balance there. He helps keep Louis's feet on the ground in that way, I think. It's a lot of fun, and it really is just a sweet storyline. Sean [Doherty], the guy who plays Louis, is wonderful to work with, and it's a pleasure doing those scenes with him.
And can you talk a little about the interesting character names?
I was actually talking to Bill Nelson, the writer, about that, and I found it kind of funny, because I asked, "Do we ever know Hot Dog's name? Do we ever learn any of the other characters' names?" and he said, "No, actually I wrote it so that the only characters who get full names are the three roommates, and everybody else goes by a nickname."
So I think it's a little nod to the '50s in that way because a lot of characters you'll see in older musicals have that sort of thing going, the nicknames thing versus the real names thing. I think it helps to bring them into the world a little bit easier. It's a fun way to bring people in and sort of realize, you're supposed to be having fun; it's not a super serious drama. So then when the dramatic moments do happen it sort of takes you by surprise!
So you mentioned getting to chat with the writer. What has it been like working on a brand new show?
What I'd say about this process that I've enjoyed so much is that the writers are very malleable. Joseph [Trefler] and Bill [Nelson], the composer and the writer respectively, are very easy to work with. If you ask for a note, they'll give you a note. They're very easy to talk to, I've found. And especially with this process where some things might not be so easy to figure out, like motivations or character things, it's comforting to know that you can just ask them, "What's the intention?"
For some pieces, you never really know what the intention is, or if you're confused about it, you can't just call the playwright and say, "Hey, what did you mean by this line?" so it's been nice to be able to go out to lunch with them or whatever and say, "Oh, by the way, in this scene..." and just have an honest answer. And they're just really down-to-earth, nice guys, which I really appreciate.
That sounds wonderful! So you kind of mentioned that it's this '50s Technicolor, and there are the nicknames, but what other aspects of the show contribute to this tone?
The music is very influenced by classic Broadway shows like GUYS AND DOLLS or HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING. There's a classic Broadway sound in there, so when you hear it, you know this is a musical, the stereotypical idea of what a musical sounds like, done in such a way that it's new, it's jazzy, not dated or stale, but it looks familiar and comforting in that way.
And then the costume design brings everybody back to that style. You've got the colorful suits, fun black and white dresses, a lot of colors flashing across the stage and the set itself. It's actually cool because in the script it literally says, "1952. TechnicolorTM New York" with the trademark.
As a theatre nerd, I'm so ready for this! What about the dialogue? Does it contribute to the tone as well?
Yeah, actually. I find that the way it's written, and the way we've been acting it is a very fast-paced, 1950s style of "say-your-line-say-your-line-punchline-done." It's very snappy, very back-and-forth-back-and-forth. The punchline comes in, and then the serious moment comes in, and you're just like, "Wow! It's hitting me all at once!"
I love that Aurora is getting to do this! It sounds like a really fun show.
Oh I am too! I remember when they sent me an audition for it. I'm a New York-based actor, so they sent me the sides to read, and I was reading through it with my friend, and I was like, "I really want to get this job!" This show has it, the special it, that something. It needed to be done, I felt. And I'm very happy that I get to be a part of it being done for its world premiere.
That's so cool! So what do you feel like that "it" is?
Personally, I feel that this show's "it" is that it says something that needs to be said, that is relevant in this day in time. Especially relevant. I find that what drew me to it the most is that it's a piece where it has people who are fully what they are. There's no real fighting for, "This is who I am," it's just accepted.
And it encourages you to just be yourself and be with someone who loves you for you and fills you with this desire to love all out. There's this 11th hour song that Sean gets to sing, called "All Out Love," which is amazing, and it's going to be a tear-jerker song every night because it's just so good.
In a day and age where it's so easy to be divided, and people might be keen on dividing others, it sort of just brings everyone together and says, "Look, we all want to love people who love us all out." We all feel that all out love, and that's something that can bring everyone together. It celebrates similarities of everyone, because in that way, we're all the same. We're all human. And it's very encouraging to just go after what you love no matter what because it's worth it, because it's love.
I love your perspective on that! It sounds really exciting and refreshing in a way.
It really is. And like I was saying before about this show feeling familiar, I think that this message coming in that sort of familiar look will get people to really listen to it more than if it fights for its place or hits people over the head. Some other shows risk isolating people because they just fight for their place. But this show is like, "No, people don't need to fight anymore. You are who you are. We just accept that."
It says so much without speaking, you know what I mean? It says it by being. It argues its case by just speaking the truth. And with my character, Hot Dog, it's not a gay romance, it's a romance about two men who happen to be gay. And that is such a fine difference, nowadays. They're characters. They're people. And that's just such a small part of who they are, but there's more to them. And I think that's what's beautiful about the show. You explore the facets of everybody just as people.
Daniel Wisniewski is a New York based actor and is incredibly excited to be making his Aurora debut! Born in Philadelphia and later receiving his BFA in Musical Theatre from Ithaca College, his recent credits include the Asian tour of Gone with the Wind (Ensemble/Rhett alternate), A Steady Rain (Joey u/s) with the Walnut Street Theatre, and Richard III (Richard III) with Ithaca Shakespeare Company. He would like to thank his family, friends, and Faith for their continued love and support. Follow him on Instagram @danielwisniewski33 and check out his website at danielwisniewskiactor.com
Men With Money has just been extended at the Aurora Theatre to play through April 14. Tickets are currently on sale; single ticket prices start at $30 and may be purchased online at bit.ly/MenWithMoneyTickets or by calling the Box Office at 678-226-6222. For more information on this production or other programming, please visit auroratheatre.com.