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Jerome Goes Down Maine with My Fair Lady

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It's back to Maine for me as the Ogunquit Playhouse presents the Lerner-Loewe classic musical, , which boasts an amazingly talented cast including Tony Award Winner Jefferson Mays, Nancy Dussault, John Schuck and the subject of my interview, Tony Award Nominee for Me and My Girl, Tim Jerome.

Jerome has had a long career performing on and off Broadway and on the big screen. He had just finished up the national tour of the production of My Fair Lady. On Broadway, he most recently portrayed Professor Porter in Disney's Tarzan. Just prior to that he played one of the two theatre managers in Broadway's longest running musical, Phantom of the Opera. As an actor, Tim has concentrated on developing characters in new musicals. He appeared in the original Broadway casts of Grand Hotel, The Moony Shapiro Songbook, and The Rothschilds and was nominated for the Drama Desk and Tony Awards for his performance in Me and My Girl. He was featured in 's production of La Boheme in the roles of Alcindoro and Benoit. Also on Broadway, Tim performed leading roles in Beauty and the Beast, Cats, The Magic Show, Lost in Yonkers, and Man of La Mancha.

He is also the founder of the National Music Theatre Network, which is repsonsible for the ever popular New York Musical Theatre Festival, first presented in 2004 and was the winner of the 2004 Jujamcyn Award.

I spoke to Jerome during the run of the show recently about his time in Oguinquit playing such a wonderful character.

TJ:  So, you're doing My Fair Lady at the Ogunquit Playhouse. Didn't you just finish the national tour of the show?

JEROME:  Yes, I did. Ten months.  It was the national company of the Cameron Mackintosh production that originated in the UK.  That was a very exciting experience for me. Twenty six cities, a brilliant cast and an extraordinary physical production. I was a very happy camper throughout that tour.

TJ:  What were some of the cities that you visited?

JEROME:  Well, we were in LA, Chicago, Boston, Orlando and Toronto. We were in some interesting cities that I had never been to before like Milwaukee, and Greenville. I always enjoy going back to Minneapolis and Indianapolis...those are really great cities. We did Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, which were fun. And I had never been to Tempe, Arizona... we had a warm reception there and I mean that in terms of the weather. We didn't do any of the southern tier except for Florida. And we had a lovely stop in Seattle, which was very nice. I had never been there before.

TJ:  When you get to the different stops, do you get to do any type of sightseeing?

JEROME:  Yeah, there was a fair amount of time to do sightseeing and I did some. I didn't do as much as many of the other people did. I was fairly conservative and stayed close to home. And I also have this project to meet and talk to local theatre professionals, both in the community theatre and the professional area and in the college area, to talk them about what was going on locally in terms of the development of new works. So, I did that as much as possible and made some new friends and contacts.

TJ:  Had you been to Ogunquit before?

JEROME:  This is my first time to Ogunquit.

TJ:  And what do you think?

JEROME:  It's a beautiful town. It's got a typically gorgeous Maine seacoast and lovely shops. The weather's been pretty good, generally, overall and I have no complaints. It's been a beautiful visit for me. A wonderful production as well! I am very happy about all the elements that have taken me away from my home.

TJ:  Great to hear it. How did you get involved with this production?

JEROME:  The director of the production is Shaun Kerrison, who was our director for the Mackintosh production, and he asked me to do it here. He is one of those directors that are so appealing to an actor like myself, who likes to do a lot of collaboration on stage business and interpretation. I was very curious to see what he and I could come up with in a very different size house with a very different physical level production and a lot of new people. It was really my desire to work with him again that tipped it over.

TJ:  And speaking of the cast, you've got Jefferson Mays and Nancy Dussault?

JEROME:  That's right. And Gail Bennett, who is a superb young Eliza, who plays my kid.  And a very charming ensemble.

TJ:  And the role you're playing is Eliza's father?

JEROME:  That's right. Alfred P Doolittle.

TJ:  You must love that role!

JEROME:  It might actually be my favorite role of all the classical musical theatre that I have had a chance to do. It's extremely textured and deep, probably arising out of the original Shaw, Pygmalion. There's so much to play with and so much to expose of an extremely interesting character and personality from a fascinating time in British history and probably our history as well. It exposes a time around the turn of the 20th century, early 1900's, when people behaved differently because society was structured differently. And you can see more of the raw impulses from people of that era. Raw impulses relating to how they survive in the world...it's a difficult world to survive in. And how they relate to other people...the attitudes towards women being key among that. And the attitudes towards people of different economic classes.

TJ:  Was it tough to adjust from the bigger production to the smaller venue in Ogunquit?

JEROME:  I'd have to say yes. If I was coming at it without having come out of the big production, I might not have had the problems I'd had. I had to unlearn things and that was an actual discreet step in the process. A lot of the physical movements were on opposite sides of the stage and almost mirror reversals of what we were doing on the road. And that was very confusing actually as it turned out and I would just lose my way every once in a while. Little by little, even into performance, some of those concerns were set aside.

Of course, the people are different. I had Christopher Casenove on the road and I have Jefferson Mays here. It's night and day. Not that I am making any value judgment, but they are very different interpretations of the role. I have more to do with Jefferson as Higgins than pretty much anyone else on stage, so I have to kind of forget what I was doing with Christopher. Really re-understand the scenes, in terms of what I was getting from Jefferson.

TJ:  You get to sing one of my favorite numbers, Get Me To The Church On Time. The audience must go wild.

JEROME:  Yeah! They like that quite a lot. We can't quite do what we did in the Cameron Macintosh production. I am in this production carried off stage passed out. In the other production, it was very cinematic. Here, we come as close to that as we can with a lot of wonderful choreography.

Thanks very much to Tim Jerome for his insightful look into the show. And you still have time to catch which is playing thorugh September 6 at the Ogunquit Playhouse, 10 Main Street, Ogunquit, Maine. For tickets, call (207) 646-5511 or visit the box office at the theatre.



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