BWW Interview: Hilarity Awaits You in THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG
We were lucky enough to get to speak with Chris French who plays Jonathan Harris in The Play That Goes Wrong opening at Clowes Memorial Hall February 25th. He had plenty to say about what makes this show something special and why it's a fun departure from the musicals most patrons are used to from Broadway Across America.
Chris came upon the show first as an audience member. He "took [himself] on a little date to go see it" in New York City, where he resides. After the show, he knew it would be a dream of his to be a part of a production of it at some point in his career. Luckily, that opportunity came in the form of an Equity open casting call that led to him joining the touring production. He was thrilled to get to be a part of the show that made him say, "I hadn't laughed that hard...ever."
He also had something to say about the ways in which the play can appeal to audiences who enjoy musicals. To him, "it has a certain musicality to it" and has layering harmonies and moments for people to shine in solos. He says, "It reads like a musical because it comes in waves." So for any tentative theatergoers, hesitate no more. This play will still give you that familiar feeling.
THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG obviously has lots of moments that go wrong, so we wanted to know if there have ever been any unplanned mistakes that happened alongside the intentional mistakes. Chris was ready with an anecdote of one of the cast's preview nights when his character has to kick open a door. "I kick the door open, and I did, and the door just went flying off." Ever the professionals, this mishap went off as though it were part of the show. A cast member's friend who'd seen the show before didn't even notice. It did earn Chris a fun nickname, however: The Hulk.
This of course led to conversation about what role improvisation plays in the production. The inside scoop is that there are some site-specific improvisations, so keep a lookout, Indianapolis. Beyond that, improvisation has to stay minor because the play is "very physical" and would be too dangerous to improvise on a larger scale. If something does go wrong, ""We have to just continue going on like everything's right," while the audience is none the wiser.
When asked how he keeps the show fresh and fun after touring so long, Chris replied that the act of touring is actually why it stays fresh. "Different cities have a tendency to laugh more at different parts than others," so "Every night is opening night." This is fitting because, within the play itself, it is opening night for the characters. To remember this before taking the stage, Chris shares that cast members wish each other "happy opening." "Getting to replicate that excitement every night is really, really fun for all of us."
After all this fun, we had to know what's next for Chris French, and he said he would love to do more productions like this. When watching the production during auditions, he said, "I think I actually laughed louder and harder because I needed it more," and he enjoys seeing what that level of humor brings to others. "You don't think about making a difference with this kind of theater, but you really are." But ultimately, Chris is up for anything. The diversity and the range of theater is part of what he loves most about his work. His two dream roles show that open-mindedness: Algernon in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST and Sweeney Todd in SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET.
To catch this dynamic gentleman in one of his dream roles, be sure to get your tickets for The Play That Goes Wrong before it leaves Indy on March 1st.