BWW Interview: Billy Harrigan Tighe as J.M. Barrie in FINDING NEVERLAND on Tour
People know the old story of PETER PAN and how he fought with the pirates and took care of the Lost Boys. But, did you know that a lot of the inspiration for PETER PAN came from author J.M Barrie's relationship with a family Barrie knew. Music and lyrics were written by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy and based on the book by James Graham. As FINDING NEVERLAND prepares to make a stop in San Antonio, Texas, BWW chatted with Billy Harrigan Tighe who plays J.M. Barrie. Tighe shared with us the inspiration he received in portraying J.M. Barrie and what he continues to learn as he tours with FINDING NEVERLAND.
What are some of the earliest memories you have of performing?
I started performing on stage in high school so for me, they're all still rather vivid. But for me, I also grew up as a kid in the choir. I don't remember my first concert performance or choral performance but music and being a part of the arts in some capacity is something that I've always known. Theater in high school was absolutely where I discovered my passion and my desires to do this for the rest of my life. And that may sound corny and cheap but, the first time I stepped out onstage and felt an audience give in a way that they can, it was so infectious in the way that it entirely changed my life. That's when it started creeping into my brain that this is something I could do all the time and that maybe there was a way that if I was good enough I could keep doing this and keep finding my way onto a stage and finding my way into a community of actors. (So), I went to the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music or CCM and I studied musical theater.
You've played some really great characters over the years including Elder Price in THE BOOK OF MORMON and Fiyero in WICKED. But, what are some roles you've played that have stood out the most?
I recently just did a production of a new show which was a first for me called BACK HOME AGAIN. It was a John Denver piece out in Walnut Creek, California. It's a show that they are in try-outs and trying to help it come to life and made a new musical. I've never been a part of playing a role from an origins standpoint so, for me, it was a really great opportunity because most of what I've up until this point, even though I've gotten some fantastic roles, has been adding my own spin to things or re-creating something somebody has already done inside a very strict and specific show. It was really nice to start from the ground up and get to create something with the director in the room and everyone there. The script writer (was) doing changes as we go and to feel like your artistic input is being fulfilled in the piece itself.
Now you are in FINDING NEVERLAND and playing J.M. Barrie, how has that been for you?
J.M. Barrie's been great. For me, it's been a real artist awakening experience. I've gotten to reevaluate everything I ever knew about PETER PAN and about the story that everyone knows. Also, bring all those meanings and metaphors from J.M. Barrie's piece into my own life. Everybody knows so much about PETER PAN; the classic adventure story. And that's what I focused on as a kid, the swords and the fighting. But then as an adult to see it as a piece about growing up and about life, about death and about the ever ticking clock that goes on with life and about trying to find youth and find enthusiasm for living your life as an adventurer and not counting the days down but always looking forward. So I think that's been a really artistically gratifying thing to sort of find these messages in my own life and then apply them to the character in the show.
What are some things you've learned about yourself that correlate to J.M. Barrie?
I think that after doing a show like THE BOOK OF MORMON or WICKED, these big Broadway blockbuster productions, there's a lot that goes on with that in terms of stress and being a principle or a lead in those shows and I think that I had gotten in my own way a lot of the time due to stress and wanting to do my best work and not knowing eight times a week if it was going to be as good as I wanted it to be. Constantly being in this sort of this circle of can I do it? Can it be what it's supposed to be? And not really enjoying my work or my art. What's been so wonderful part of this show, it is as difficult as any of the other shows, but the entire point of the show to enjoy what you're doing in life and enjoy your passions and that's for me is I became an adult even in an industry where you're dressing up and playing, I still somehow managed to have all the regular stresses that a normal adult would have. This show has really allowed me to re-invest my passion into my work and remember that it's supposed to be fun. And it really has (been). It's entirely changed my mindset to how I approach my work and how I approach working with the cast. It's really been a great pleasure to be a part of this show.
Do you think you will carry this mindset over with you to other roles now?
I sure hope so because it's a lot more fun this way.
Tell us a little more about how you got this role and when you started in FINDING NEVERLAND.
I started back in February so I'm still relatively new to the company but I auditioned back in November and we had just one long day of auditions. I came in in the morning and I sang and did some of the scenes for the team and then they asked me to come back later in the day for a dance audition and I came back in and danced for the team. Then we had work sessions with Diane Paulus and Fred Lassen, the music supervisor. Then we had one final audition for the remainder of us who were still there and the entire creative team and the producers as well. (We) put some stuff on tape for anyone who wasn't available to come in and I found out a few days later.
Have you enjoyed being able to travel the country?
I have. This is actually my sixth national tour, so for me, it's always great to be out and seeing places. But, this is the first tour that I've ever been on that's touring a lot of places that I haven't been before. That's been really exciting. You get used to, especially with travelling in the WICKED tour or something like that, and there's only certain theaters they're capable of fitting into. So you get used to hitting a lot of those big theaters. This show is big as well but we're actually playing a lot of towns that I've never been to which is great.
FINDING NEVERLAND plays from May 2-7, 2017 at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, Texas. Go to their website and order your tickets soon. You won't want to miss it.