Everything's Going Right for THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG's Evan Alexander Smith
"Two hours of uncompromising joy" is how Evan Alexander Smith describes the critically acclaimed The Play That Goes Wrong, the West End and Broadway comedy hit which just recently embarked on its first national tour of the USA, bringing its unique amalgam of theatrical artistry, uproarious humor and full-out laughter to audiences all over the country.
For Smith, the actor who plays Chris in the national tour that brings the show to Nashville's Tennessee Performing Arts Center next Tuesday for an eight-performance stand at Andrew Jackson Hall, The Play That Goes Wrong - which might also be described as the progeny of Monty Python and Sherlock Holmes if they "got busy," so to speak, and had a baby - offers a "dream scenario" during every performance:
"It's super energizing," he says during a telephone interview from Lexington, Kentucky, where the company was ensconced for its first week of performances. "It's a dream scenario for any actor - whether you're performing with other actors or in front of an audience, you have to listen and respond to what's happening onstage."
There's also the added energy that comes from every audience - each performance is unique in that respect, of course - who might be considered the missing link so important is their contribution to the dynamic in the theater every night.
"The audience really is the final character in our show," Smith intones. "So every performance is different depending on their reactions - but I don't want to give too much away."
And no matter if you're four years old - or even 104 years old for that matter, Smith maintains - you're sure to find much to love about The Play That Goes Wrong.
Part of the show's popularity, what makes it connect so vigorously with audiences, is that there are "no politics, no deep message" in The Play That Goes Wrong. Instead, audiences are invited to go along with the cast on a "hilarious ride" and to enjoy themselves in a wholly unique, decidedly theatrical way.
For the cast, the challenges of entertaining new guests at each performance helps keep the show new and fresh for them. After all, in a constantly evolving production they must remain sharply focused at every moment, amazingly adept at their responses to what transpires in every new theater in which they set up shop for a week in city after city.
As daunting as that may sound, Smith and his castmates revel in the spontaneity of each performance, which makes The Play That Goes Wrong so challenging.
"We had the benefit of getting to rehearse the show on the set on Broadway [where The Play Those Goes Wrong is performed at the Lyceum Theatre} and we've benefitted from that," he suggests. "The show is highly choreographed, so we know how to respond to moments that don't go as planned."
In fact, moments that don't go as planned provides the very plot, if not the heart, of a production called The Play That Goes Wrong. Plus there's the added fillip that "the audience doesn't necessarily know when something goes wrong..." to ensure a different performance every single time.
"My most interesting moments come out of talking with our audience," Smith says. "A few of us have the opportunity to talk to the audience as they arrive and to speak with people in character. Some of those interactions are great fun and people don't know what to expect."
In fact, it's the unexpected parts of the performance that ensure The Play That Goes Wrong could play performance after performance with no show quite like the one before it or the one that follows.
The key to all that unbridled hilarity, according to Smith, is "listening": "It's the listening that is so much fun," he says. "I'm learning every night just by listening to our audiences."
For Evan Alexander Smith, being cast in The Play That Goes Wrong is made even more satisfying by the fact that he's been a fan of the show since he first saw it during its opening week on Broadway. "I was in a bad mood and had been working all day," he recalls. "I went with a friend and just had the time of my life, it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen!"
The audition process for the national tour was as unique as the play itself. Actors being considered for roles in the national tour were invited to New York, where they auditioned opposite members of the acclaimed Broadway company, culminating with a final callback at The Lyceum, which Smith calls a throwback to "the golden age of Broadway" and which he describes as a "cool, unique experience."
About Evan Alexander Smith (Chris). Broadway: Amazing Grace. National Tour: Dirty Dancing (Robbie). Selected regional: The Toxic Avenger (Title role, Toronto Company), Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Joseph, Drury Lane Theatre), Baskerville (Cleveland Play House/Cincinnati Playhouse), Ragtime (Younger Brother), Lady Windermere's Fan (Shaw Festival.) More info and complete credits at www.EvanAlexanderSmith.com Twitter/Instagram: @iamevansmith
About The Play That Goes Wrong, the hilarious Tony Award-winning hit Broadway comedy, will make its Nashville debut during one of the tours earliest stops at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Jackson Hall October 9-14.
Co-written by Mischief Theatre company members Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, The Play That Goes Wrong is a riotous comedy about the theatre. The play introduces The 'Cornley University Drama Society' who are attempting to put on a 1920s' murder mystery, but as the title suggests, everything that can go wrong...does, as the accident-prone thespians battle on against all odds to get to their final curtain call.
Entertainment Weekly calls The Play That Goes Wrong "Hilarious! Non-stop pandemonium." The Huffington Post calls it "The funniest play Broadway has ever seen!" And the New York Post says it's "Broadway's funniest and longest-running play! Nothing is as fall down funny. GO."
The Broadway production of The Play That Goes Wrong transferred from the West End, opening at the Lyceum Theatre on April 2, 2017. The show, which was slated to close on Broadway in August of this year, will extend its run due to popular demand through January 6, 2019. The Play That Goes Wrong received a Tony Award for Best Set Design, Broadway.com's Audience Choice Award for Best Play, and the Theater Fans Choice Award for Best Play.
Awarded the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, 2014 Whatsonstage Best New Comedy and 2015 UK Broadway World Best New Play Awards, the Mischief Theatre production of The Play That Goes Wrong is now in its third year in the West End, is currently on a 30-week UK tour, and is playing on six continents. The Producers have avoided Antarctica for fear of a frosty reception.
It is a remarkable rags-to-riches story for a play which started its life at a London fringe venue with only four paying members of the public at the first performance and has gone on to play to an audience of over half a million around the world.
Mischief Theatre, led by Artistic Director Henry Lewis and Company Director Jonathan Sayer, was founded in 2008 by a group of graduates of The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and began as an improvised comedy group. Mischief Theatre performs across the UK and internationally with improvised and original scripted work.
The Play That Goes Wrong is produced on Broadway by Kevin McCollum, J.J. Abrams, Kenny Wax, Stage Presence Ltd., Catherine Schreiber, Ken Davenport, Double Gemini Productions / deRoy-Brunish, Damian Arnold / TC Beech, Greenleaf Productions / Bard-Roth, Martian Entertainment / Jack Lane / John Yonover, and Lucas McMahon.
For more about The Play That Goes Wrong, go to the show's website: www.broadwaygoeswrong.com/tour.php
production photos from the national tour of The Play That Goes Wrong by Jeremy Daniel