Expose Yourself for All the World to See

I used to worry, at this point in our process, whether I have made all the right choices. It's a little hard to tell right now, because the cake just isn't baked yet. But I learned a number of years ago I was worrying over nothing. There really are no right choices. There are only choices. There are only this road we're on and other roads we've left to others. We just go where the show takes us. If I've picked a great show for us to produce -- and I have -- it'll take us somewhere great.

You gotta just trust it.

And I have some remarkably kick-ass traveling companions on this journey with me. Luckily for me, my traveling companions have courage, heart, and brains. And an unerring sense of comedy, and a buttload of fearlessness.

I love actors. I love watching them create. I love helping them find that key that unlocks everything for them. I was a performer in high school and college, and I'm glad I've had that experience so I understand the process, the fear, the vulnerability of an actor onstage. But now, I couldn't do what the New Line actors do. I couldn't be that fearless, that open, that willing to jump off the cliff and hope you'll fly.

I'm really lucky. I get to work on many of the greatest works of the musical theatre ever written, and I get to do it with the most extraordinary theatre artists. Let me brag on this cast a little...

Zak Farmer is one of the two funniest people I've ever worked with -- and believe me, I've worked some incredibly funny people. The word that first comes to mind when I think of Zak is subversive. He lives to violate the social contract, to offend, to disorient, to leave you speechless. He's the Lenny Bruce and George Carlin of New Line. But he's not just funny. He can play anything from fiercely interior drama to the driest irony to the wackiest farce, and he can sing pretty much any style of music. You never know where he's gonna land with a character, but it will always be interesting, it will always make sense, and it will always be full of complexity and layers. I love working with this guy. He's been in seventeen New Line shows since summer of 2007 when he first joined us for Urinetown.

Nick Kelly is the other of the two funniest people I've ever worked with. Nick is like Robin Williams, literally overflowing all the time with ideas, really good ideas. Because of the sheer volume, I have to reject some of them, but that doesn't stop Nick. He always has thirty more waiting. I know I can give him pretty minimalist staging and then just let him play. I think working with Nick must be what working with people like Bert Lahr and Jonathan Winters was like. Overwhelming but really entertaining.

Joel Hackbarth is this incredibly sweet, decent, low-profile guy who we've got cussing like a drunken sailor with Tourette's in this show. I mentioned in my last post how hilarious it is to see this nice, unassuming guy singing lyrics like, "When you're fucking a whore, after downing a case, and you shit on her face..." It's funny no matter what, but it's even funnier if you know Joel. And I think he enjoys the obscenities more than he'd let on...

Kimi Short is the current New Line champion, having appeared in nineteen New Line shows, going back to Songs for a New World in 1998. Kimi's a trip -- one of the odder members of our odd family -- but she has a voice from God (she just played Diana in Next to Normal for us), and she's also great at both serious drama and quirky comedy. Watching Kimi and Zak sing the drunken love ballad "Chaser of My Heart" in this show makes me laugh like an idiot every time. It's tough to hold your own opposite a master comedian like Zak, but Kimi's got the comedy chops to do it.

Marcy Wiegert has done only three shows with us, but she's so a part of New Line that it feels like it's more than that. She's a consummate professional, a strong actor, and a powerhouse singer with a belt most women would die for. She sang the sweet lament "Frank Mills" in New Line's Hair and also belted out "Watch Your Ass" and "A Whole Lot Worse" in Cry-Baby. Merman may be dead, but she left her voice to Marcy. Wait till you see her as a singing and dancing bottle of beer in Bukowsical.

Chrissy Young is a relative newcomer to New Line, but she's become part of the family. In real life, she's this quiet, unassuming woman, but onstage she can be as rowdy and raunchy as the rest of the New Liners. Her portrayals of the depressive, suicidal writer Sylvia Plath and the horrifically abusive grade school teacher in Bukowsical are really dark but really funny.

Ryan Foizey joined us last season when we gave him the lead in Cry-Baby, which he was perfect for, finding that delicate balance between sincerity and irony that marks every John Waters story. Ryan has also been a record store customer in High Fidelity and the mysterious son Gabe in Next to Normal for New Line. He also plays guitar and trumpet, and directs, and he's just started his own theatre company, Theatre Lab. He's a busy boy.

Chris Strawhun is the baby of the cast, currently getting a graduate degree in theater at Lindenwood. Chris started off with us in the ensemble of Evita and then graduated to a Whiffle in Cry-Baby, and we were all impressed at how far he came in that short period of time. He just played Nathan Detroit at Lindenwood, and though this is his first larger role with New Line, we think he's ready. And he's really doing a great job.

With most of our shows, we aim for a cast that's half newcomers and half New Line veterans. This time, everyone in the cast has worked with us before. That's true partly because no one had ever heard of Bukowsical so we didn't have a large turnout at auditions, but also because this is such a tricky piece of theatre, and I know I can trust all these people -- to follow the road I've laid out for us, to "play" together to find all those wonderful moments that make a show like this come alive, and also to be utterly and completely fearless. If there's one thing New Line shows require, it's fearlessness.

We open Bukowsical next week, and I'm sleeping great. No worries here. The show is hilarious, it moves like a freight train, and it gets quirkier and more interesting every night. I really trust the people into whose hands I've put this very special, very unconventional musical.

I can't wait to share it with you.

Long Live the Musical!