BWW Interviews - ANYTHING GOES' Adam Perry Talks 'My Week With Marilyn'
Adam Perry's life may be described as ‘surreal' these days. The talented performer from a small town in Tennessee is currently dancing up a storm in the Tony Award Winning revival of ANYTHING GOES. He works side by side with stage and screen legend Joel Grey, whose daughter Jennifer starred in the movie that first inspired him to pursue a career in theater. And if that isn't ‘surreal' enough, next Wednesday he will appear up on the silver screen, dancing alongside actress Michelle Williams in the highly anticipated film biopic, ‘My Week With Marilyn'.
BWW had a chance to catch up with Adam Perry in the middle of his hectic schedule to talk about all the exciting opportunities that have recently come his way.
I was lucky enough to see ‘Anything Goes' the other night and thought it was fabulous. The audience reaction was incredible - the applause went on and on. How does it feel when you get that kind of response?
It's really thrilling. It's probably the coolest thing that can happen. To be in front of all those people screaming and cheering and clapping - it's so incredibly special. It gives you such a rush.
Your resume includes such impressive productions as 'Promises Promises' and 'A Chorus Line'. What was your Broadway debut?
‘Wicked' was my Broadway debut. It's so funny because when I first came to New York after college I had won the lottery to ‘Wicked' and saw it in the front row. I just was totally in awe of the cast and I loved the dancing in the show. I just thought the ensemble dancers were so cool - they had these funky haircuts and these funky clothes and they were doing this really contemporary choreography and I was like ‘they are the coolest people ever. I will never be that cool.' And then later on down the line I ended up becoming one of those people - it was literally a dream come true!
Who would you say were some of your earliest influences as far as dancing?
You know I come from a very small town in Tennessee and I didn't start dancing until I was 20 years old. I started dancing very late. There were only a few studios in the area I was from and they were kind of far away. There wasn't a Drama Department in my high school or anything like that so I didn't really start studying until I got into college. And it's funny with the Marilyn Monroe movie happening because when I was younger my only exposure to dance was really through the movies. I remember ‘Dirty Dancing' - I wanted to be just like Patrick Swayze. I had the movie on VHS tape and I would try to do all the moves from the movie in my living room. I just loved him so much. I would also say Gene Kelly was one of the people who influenced me. But no, I didn't have a lot of experience in theater when I was younger - it was all TV and film where I saw dance and musical theater.
I know! I know! Exactly. I told Joel that. I haven't had a chance to meet his daughter but I told him that ‘Dirty Dancing' is one of the reasons why I am a dancer now - it's because of that movie!
Stephanie had a couple weeks rehearsal and we had basically only one extra rehearsal where we just came in and we ran the show with her. I have a lot of interaction with her because I have to lift her a lot in the dances. She has just honestly done an amazing job. She really is just such a trooper and such a hard worker and always just stays cool, calm and collected. She's like, ‘Oh I know I'm gonna get it' when she made mistakes. She wouldn't beat herself up over it - she'd make a joke about it and move on. It's been kind of a seamless transition. She's really done a great job in moving into the role.
Kathleen Marshall, (the Tony Award winning choreographer for ‘Anything Goes') was responsible for the choreography in "My Week With Marilyn'. Is that how you became involved in the project?
Yes. Basically what happened was I was on my way to a Wednesday matinee, just walking to the theater and I got a phone call from Kathleen Marshall herself saying ‘I'm working on this film project. I'd love to have you in the studio with me with Michelle Williams to help me figure this number out. We're going to have two guys in the room. We're filming the number in London so we're not sure exactly if we can bring the two of you yet because there may be some sort of rules about hiring local dancers. So we're not necessarily sure that you are going to be in the movie but we would love you to work with us as a pre-production kind of thing. ‘ So it was really a very cool opportunity, working in the studio with Michelle Williams on this film project. I mean that's totally cool.
So what eventually happened? Did you get the chance to go to London?
What happened was after a couple of weeks of rehearsal they said, ‘we're going to try to take the two of you'. Of course we were beside ourselves! It was my first time to Europe - I'd never been across the Atlantic. I was ecstatic about it. We had to work out all those kinks of getting out of the show for a week. Kathleen Marshall was so wonderful about all of it. I was just so flattered and honored that she chose me and that she took me to London with her and I got to film this amazing movie. It was an incredible experience. In London, I had a little free time so I got to explore the city.
The movie opens with Michelle Williams as Marilyn, yourself and one other male performer dancing to the classic song "Heat Wave'. Was the choreography copied from an actual Monroe performance or was it all new, original choreography?
It's not based on an actual thing that she did specifically but she did sing these songs at different times. I think they just pulled these numbers from different movies that Marilyn did and made their own simple but very sexy version of it, and then set it in this smoky, jazz club kind of place.
I had the chance to interview Michelle Williams for the movie and asked her how she learned to perform the choreography of that number as Marilyn Monroe. She said she found the key to it was to turn off the critical part of her mind and not think about the steps so much - let it come naturally.
Yes, Michelle wasn't in her head about it. She wasn't analyzing herself as she was doing it. In the rehearsal process the three of us, me, the other dancer Sean, and Michelle developed a very special bond. We all three just loved each other. In the beginning it was just learning the steps and making her feel comfortable because it's a very hot and sexy number. I definitely would say that from the very first day that she was learning the steps, she was learning the steps as Marilyn. There was a feel she had about the way she was learning it and you could tell she was already trying to get into character which is what I think makes her so brilliant and what makes her performance brilliant.
I was wondering, how you think Marilyn Monroe would have been perceived today if she were trying to make it as an actress. Do you think she would be taken seriously?
Wow that is a really interesting question. It's almost impossible to imagine it because it was in such a different time when sex was looked at in a very different way. There's a part of me that wants to say that people would be in awe of her and the way she was and then there's another part of me that thinks people would think that she's like a Kardashian. My gut reaction though is that her way about her was so special that it's timeless. No matter when, or what era or what time it is, that kind of subtlety that she had is just a timeless thing - it would always be as effective.
How would you compare this film experience to doing live theater?
It's interesting. There's such a rush with live theater because you're in front of all these people and you're performing on the spot. But when you're doing film, you do it over and over and over. But I actually really loved the experience. Honestly I've caught the bug I think. I want to do tons more TV and film. I was really into the photography of the whole thing - the angles of the camera and the lighting and what shots are coming up next. It's so funny because a lot of the time after we would do a take, I would have my ear wide open listening to the director of photography and Kathleen Marshall and all these people standing around talking about ‘well we should get this shot from here'. I'd have my ears open because I wanted to take in all that stuff. I wanted to hear all those things because I find it really fascinating. I want to do a lot more of that in the future.
The experience of being on that shoot was probably the most unique and amazing experience I've had as a dancer. I have to say that Michelle Williams, in that costume and in that blond hair, and red lips and being on this giant sound stage with all these lights and smoke and the band, it felt transportive, like I totally felt I was in the 1950's and that I was actually on set with Marilyn Monroe doing a number. It gives me chills just talking about it because it just was so cool. Just the way she looked, she looked so much like her that I just felt completely transported. And that's one of the reasons why I went into theater, because I love the idea that you can relive different eras of time.
And interestingly, ‘Anything Goes' takes place in another era as well.
Yes, the 1930's. It's a very cool experience.
Well it's funny because I did the revival of ‘A Chorus Line' for a very short time at the end of the run. I played Don. And Kelly was the original ‘Sheila' and won the Supporting Actress Tony Award for it. So when Kelly came into the show I really wanted to talk to her about it but a part of me didn't want to bother her because I'm sure everyone asks her about that all the time. One day I just started busting out choreography from the show in front of her and she absolutely loved it. She ended up talking about it and she was just so gracious about sharing her stories and talking about the whole experience. It was really awesome. Me and Joel, we like to cut up a lot backstage. We have a lot of fun. He's adorable and I adore him. It's been a lot of fun.
Have you had a chance to see any shows currently playing on Broadway? Do you have a favorite?
I saw ‘Book of Mormon' (laughing) I absolutely loved it. It was hysterical. I was pretty shocked but I loved it. It was amazing.
I also just finished up a workshop of a new musical called ‘Yank'. We just did a presentation this morning. It's a new revised version of the show. I kind of want to say that that is my new favorite show now. The story is a story that's never been told on a Broadway stage. The music is so gorgeous. It was a very special experience.
So is the hope that it will eventually come to Broadway?
Well it played at the York off- Broadway a couple of years back. They kind of did some revisions to it and they've been working on it and I'm assuming that the goal is ultimately Broadway but we'll see. But I absolute loved the show. The music, the book is great. It moves me to tears almost every performance. Joe Zelnick wrote the music and David Zelnick wrote the book and lyrics. Just stunningly beautiful. And Bobby Steggert and Santino Fontana are incredible. I hope it has a life in the spring or fall or whenever on Broadway. Everyone who came to the presentation was incredibly moved so we'll see what happens.
So what was it like to see yourself on the big screen in ‘My Week With Marilyn"?
I haven't even seen it yet! I can't wait to go to a big movie theater with all my friends on Thanksgiving and see it. I'm just so thrilled to see myself on screen - it's going to be surreal. It's been a dream of mine since I was a little kid to do movies.