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Tony-Winner Paul Kreppel Talks About 'Therapy'

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Well, the good news is that the THERAPY is ongoing and even more good new is that it has a new patient in the chair.  Currently having a successful open-ended run at Westside Theatre Downstairs (407 West 43rd Street), Steve Solomon's hit comedy, MY MOTHER'S ITALIAN, MY FATHER'S JEWISH & I'M IN THERAPY!, has a new star, Tony Award winner Paul Kreppel.

A 2007 Tony Award winner as the co-conceiver/director/producer of Jay Johnson: The Two and Only!, Paul Kreppel is best known as lounge lizard Sonny Mann in the '80s sitcom "It's a Living." Other TV appearances include "ER" and "That '70s Show!" as Jackie's Dad. His NY acting credits include Joseph Papp's NY Shakespeare Festival productions at The Public, Lincoln Center and Delacorte theatres, as well as Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!; Godspell; The Proposition; and Joseph…Dreamcoat. He has appeared at Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Berkshire Theatre Festival, Studio Arena and Los Angeles' Reprise and Mark Taper Forum.

While MY MOTHER'S ITALIAN, MY FATHER'S JEWISH & I'M IN THERAPY! continues its New York run, creator Steve Solomon is touring the show in cities  throughout the United States.  So, Kreppel gets to put his comedic talents to work and have some fun with the audiences in this very funny one-man show.   So, let's ask Paul some questions about the road to success, the show and his recent win at the Tony Awards!

TJ:  OK, Paul. Are you a native New Yorker? Where did you grow up?

KREPPEL: Kingston, NY, first capital of New York, established by the Dutch in 1642.  92 miles up on the Hudson. A lovely town at the foot of the Catskills.

TJ: Was acting something you always wanted to do?

KREPPEL: I'm really just a clown. I was on stage singing and getting laughs by the time I was three. There are pictures of me standing in front of a mic stand and the mic, all the way down, is about 3 inches over my head. So, performing has always been a part of my life.  I really didn't think about "acting" until high school when I did a Chekov one act called "The Marriage Proposal."  Everyone signed my yearbook to "The Actor" so that did it for me.

TJ: Many people have been inspired by someone to get into this business. Who have been some of your inspirations?

KREPPEL: My earliest inspirations were all brilliant comedic musical performers. Spike Jones, Mickey Katz, Gene Sheldon, Jerry Lewis, Victor Borge, Danny Kaye, Louie Prima and Keely Smith, Darlene and Jonathon Edwards (really Jo Stafford and husband). Even The Banana Man!  Anyone who is unfamiliar with any of these…. YouTube them!

TJ: Did you attend school for acting?

KREPPEL: I was an acting major at Emerson College in Boston. Henry Winkler was like an older brother.  Andrea Martin was there too, Stephen Rowe who is in Frost/Nixon and so many others. It was the late '60's. I was very into the '60's. I have been told I had a great time.

TJ: Great school which produced an amazing crop of talent. How did you get your start in the business?

KREPPEL: While at college in Boston, a friend suggested I audition for a new improv group started by Harvard students, The Proposition. I went to a show that was TOTALLY improvised and sat there sweating and in awe. I was terrified. My audition went pretty well, but they didn't hire me because my hair was too big. It was late '67 or early '68 and I wore a huge Jewfro. About six months later I got a call that they all grew their hair longer and I was in. That show brought me to NY, got me good reviews, an agent and started my career. The other members of the company, Jane Curtin, Munson Hicks, Josh Mostel, Judy Kahan, Fred Grandy and musical directors Danny Troob and John Forster among others all have had wonderful careers. My first NY review described me as having a mop of curly hair.

TJ: What was the first professional gig you got and what was it like for you?

KREPPEL: My first paying jobs were as part of a folk trio while in high school. We would get booked at senior nursing homes. Two guys and a beautiful girl. When we got there we would charm them with Kum By Ya and them scare the hell out of them with Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs protest songs. We never got asked back to the same place twice.

TJ: So, how did you get involved with your current production of MY MOTHER'S ITALIAN….?

KREPPEL: While producing and directing Jay Johnson: The Two and Only! I met Steve Solomon, who wrote and starred in MMIMFJ and we became friends. I also have a long friendship with John Bowab who directed the show. John directed a season of IT'S A LIVING, a TV show I did in the '80's. I also worked with John on the stage, most recently Sunshine Boys with Ed Asner and Harold Gould. John told me they would be casting someone to standby for Steve and take over and he thought I would be great. Steve wasn't so sure… I auditioned and Steve made me jump through every hoop he had. He didn't know whether an actor could do the show. He was interested in hiring another stand up. But, he saw that I could bring my own spin to the show and I think he is now thrilled that the show can have a life with others performing it. And I'm thrilled to be back on the boards in New York. The last show I did here was Hello Muddah back in the mid nineties.

TJ: Can you relate to the character you're playing and his experiences growing up?

KREPPEL: Absolutely. The show is filled with funny anecdotes and jokes that reflect life in the fifties and sixties. The audience reaction is great and anyone who comes from a big family can relate. You don't have to be Jewish to know that chicken soup is good for you.

TJ: Now, it's just you for the whole show. Do you get nervous knowing that the weight of the show is on your shoulders?

KREPPEL: At first you just want to make sure you can get through it without screwing up. There's no one out there to bail you out if you forget where the hell you are. But I have done other one man show's before and because of my improv background I'm pretty confident that I can survive out there no matter what. There's a lot more pressure doing a musical where a whole cast and orchestra is relying on you to dance the right steps and sing the right verse.

TJ: I have seen the show with Steve and loved it. What's your favorite thing about doing this show?

KREPPEL: Playing with each audience. Listening to their reactions and hearing them laugh and sometimes milking those reactions to the max. Their reactions dictate my every move. They are my scene partner and when they are having fun and involved, so am I. Even if they are just a passive audience, it's my job… it's my instinct to seduce them. I have 90 minutes to do it, but it's always a thrill and I love every minute of it. Since it's a one person show, my stage manager calls "PLACE."

TJ:  How long will you be performing in this show?

KREPPEL: That's up to the crowds, but I am scheduled to be here through the summer and into the Fall.

TJ: By the way, congratulations on the Tony Award for THE TWO AND ONLY!  How did you feel when you won?

KREPPEL: What a thrilling night. We ran down to that stage so fast, thank God no one got in the way.

TJ:  Were you surprised when you heard about the nomination? Do you remember where you were when you got the news?

KREPPEL: We knew there was a possibility of a nomination, but because there were only two possible candidates for the category, we had to wait to see if there was going to be a Special Event category at all. The committee could have said no Special Event Award this year, but they decided That Jay and Kiki and Herb but both worthy. I think if either show had not been on Broadway there would have been no award this year. I woke up that morning to watch whether we got a nod and was so thrilled I woke up my girlfriend and creative partner Murphy Cross and immediately called Jay to tell him.

TJ:  Now, It's been awhile since your sitcom, IT'S A LIVING, which was one of my favorite shows, went off the air. Do you keep in touch with your former co-stars?

KREPPEL: Yes, some more than others. Barrie Youngfellow and her husband Sam Freed are dear friends who I speak with and see all the time. I am still in touch with Gail Edwards and I stay in touch with many of the directors, like Jay Sandrich who is also mentioned in THE TWO AND ONLY. I haven't seen Crystal Bernard, Sheryl Lee Ralph or Marion Mercer in awhile and that's too bad, and whenever I see Susan Sullivan I am thrilled. We all had a great time together doing the show. Ann Jillian lives near us in LA so occasionally we see each other at the gas station. That's the difference between New York and LA. In New York you run into friends at Angus, in LA you run into them at Mobil.

TJ:  Do you get stopped on the street at all from people recognizing you as the "Lounge Lizard"?

KREPPEL: Actually, occasionally I do. My kids are always amazed that anyone recognizes me from the show and of course some people know the face but can't place it. Now that I wear glasses I get the occasional "Aren't you the guy from American Pie?" I say, no that's the wonderful Eugene Levy, but thanks for noticing…. I wonder if anyone congratulated him on the Tony?

TJ:  Wouldn't it be nice to have a reunion show, to see where everyone has evolved to over the years?

KREPPEL: We would all love to do that. Of course things have changed and we lost Richard Stahl last year. He was so great as the chef Howard. His scenes playing with the amazing Marion Mercer were priceless.

TJ: Where do you think Sonny would be now?

KREPPEL: Sonny is still making music. It's his life. Rumor has it he's been in Nevada in various small casinos and malls. Or was it North Dakota? But, don't be surprised if he shows up in a New York venue later this year! It was always his dream to play New York… and not just Poughkeepsie!

As a matter of fact, Sonny makes his NYC debut on Sunday and Monday July 15th and 16th at Birdland with his friend Ron Abel.  

TJ:  OK, now we find out a little more about you for our readers in my questions about some of your favorite things. What is your favorite TV show?

KREPPEL: Current? 3 way tie: Boston Legal, Colbert Report, The Daily Show. I just don't seem to watch much TV and these are the only shows I currently watch on a regular basis. But South Park is still absolutely amazing. Old time favorites include The Honeymooners, Burns and Allen.

TJ:  Favorite time of year?

KREPPEL: Fall. The changing of the leaves on the East coast is great.

TJ:  Favorite food?

KREPPEL: Italian and sushi

TJ: That's quite a combination. How about your favorite city in the world.

KREPPEL: The one I'm in. But Boston will always have a special place in my heart.

TJ: And I grew up outside of Boston, so I can understand that. Finally, if you weren't an actor, what would you picture yourself doing as an occupation?

KREPPEL:  I need to stay creative, so, I also direct, produce and love doing arts education with teachers and students alike. But, if I couldn't do any of those, I'm still just a clown at heart.

And there we have it!   You can see the talented Paul Kreppel in Steve Solomon's MY MOTHER'S ITALIAN, MY FATHER'S JEWISH & I'M IN THERAPY!,now playing at the Westside Theatre Downstairs  at 407 West 43rd Street (Between 9th and 10th Avenues). This show is receiving critical acclaim to sold out audiences from New York to Phoenix. It's filled with hilarious stories about Steve's wacky family and the crazy characters that he meets on the road whose sole purpose is to drive him into therapy.... and they have succeeded. Steve creates voices, dialects and sound effects which make the stories and jokes come alive. And there are a few musical surprises along the way.  For tickets, you can call (212) 239-6200 (Outside the NY metro area (800) 432-7250.)  or go to the shows website at http://www.italianjewishtherapy.com.!  So for now, hope you are all enjoying the summer and as always, ciao!  And remember, no matter what, theatre is my life!


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TJ Fitzgerald has been interviewing theatre’s finest talent with BroadwayWorld.com since January 2006. He has been active in the New England Theatre scene both as (read more...)