Interview – John Treacy Egan
Bruce Kimmel: Hello, John Treacy Egan and welcome to our Unseemly Interview Section! After your interview we’ll be serving cheese slices and ham chunks so keep your appetite whetted You’re currently in the biggest hit Broadway has seen since heaven-knows-when – The Producers, playing the role of Franz. Tell us how that came about.
John Treacy Egan: Well Bruce I did the unthinkable…I went to an open call! It was on a Saturday, and I when I signed up two days before the audition I was number 327, but when they passed out the numbers on Saturday morning, I was 83! Guess, a lot of people decided to sleep in…lucky for me. I was cast in the tour as one of the character men (Peter Marinos track actually) and I was going to cover MAX and FRANZ. When Henry Goodman was replaced by Brad Oscar, I was called to come in and cover those two leads for three months “until I had to leave for the tour”, but they still hadn’t recast FRANZ yet. I was taught the role in a week, and went on for 3 shows, after the first show I was told that Mel Brooks and Susan Stroman were both there. When I came to the theater on Tuesday, I was called to the office. There one of the stage managers handed me the phone, it was Susan Stroman, and she offered me the role of FRANZ and the understudy for MAX and ROGER DEBRIS! It ‘s been such an amazing experience.
BK: You’re also standing by for Max – have you had to go on yet, or does Brad Oscar hog every performance? How much rehearsal are you given for Max?
JTE: I haven’t gone on for MAX…yet, actually I’m still sort of learning my way. It ‘s such an enormous, high-energy role I’ll take all the time that I can get. And as for Brad being “a hog”, there’s not a more generous person in the world…he and I have been friends ever since the pre-Broadway Jekyll & Hyde tour, and I must say getting to work with a great friend is the best part of the gig. Brad never missed any opportunity to tell people we were friends and that they should “keep me” in New York, and it’s been extra special having him to hang with. (sorry, no dirt here…except, he does get a little grouchy when the Washington Redskins lose.)
BK: When you go into a hit like The Producers, who puts you in the show? Is it the stage manager, or does Stroman come back and supervise? Has Mel Brooks been back since the new company took over?
JTE: I had the great privilege of meeting Anne Bancroft the other night, (sorry, had to name drop), so exciting, what a stunning graceful lady! Anyway, yes Mel comes to the show from time to time, a legend and a nice man, go figure? I was put into the show by many people – Stage managers, Dance Captain, our Artistic Director, Conductor, Assistant Conductor and Stro’s Assistant, The Amazing Warren Carlisle. And as a company we get notes from all of these sources..including Mel and Stro. It’s a very well maintained show.
BK: You appeared for some years in Mr. Frank Wildhorn’s Jekyll and Hyde, both on the road and on Broadway, working with our very own Christianne Noll (I produced two of her solo albums). Now, The Producers and Jekyll and Hyde are about as far apart as you can get in the musical theater canon. How did you get involved in Jekyll and Hyde and how is it different in playing the two types of shows?
JTE: I got Jekyll & Hyde as a replacement on the pre-Broadway tour, but the funny thing was that I got the audition through Christine Pedi (Forbidden Broadway Diva), who recommended me to Frank Wildhorn after she recorded the Double CD Jekyll & Hyde concept disc. She and I were both on the west coast (I was OLD DEUTERONOMY in CATS and she was in FORBIDDEN HOLLYWOOD) when they were auditioning for the Houston/Seattle version of the show . I was going to audition, but was not able to because of show conflicts, 6 months later they were auditioning for the tour and I couldn’t get an audition by the casting director, so Christine called Frank’s Assistant and said that Frank would really like my voice, could she get me an audition? She called me and said I had an audition! The tour was basically cast by then, but the coolest thing was a week later Dave Clemens (he was Frank’s Vocal Director at the time) called me to say that they were so pleased with my audition that they would be keeping me in mind for future replacements. You never get that, it was so uplifting to hear that kind of feedback long after the audition. 6 months later, I was on that tour. By the way, Christianne’s CDs are incredible… she’s so talented.
BK: You’re on the cast album of Jekyll and Hyde. I’ve produced many cast albums and they’re always a pain in the butt cheeks because the time constraints are so horrendous. But I believe that because Mr. Frank Wildhorn wields great and magnificent power that the Jekyll and Hyde recording actually didn’t have to do it in one long day. Tell us about the recording experience.
JTE: It was a lot of fun, and stressful too… we (the ensemble) recorded in one day. Many of the solos were done on different days. All in all, a great experience.
BK: You’re also on the DVD of Jekyll and Hyde – I believe this was taped towards the end of the run, when Mr. David Hasselhoff was doing the show. Did he have rabid drooling Baywatch/ Knightrider fans hanging around all the time? Are there any weird or funny stories from when he was doing the show? For that matter, are there any weird or funny stories from your Jekyll and Hyde days with or without the Hasselhoff?
JTE: David is a great guy… very generous, and extremely hard worker. He wanted our show to be great, unfortunately for him, we were on the wind down. But we ran almost four years, that was amazing considering every (yes, I pretty sure every) review killed us! We outlasted all our competition that year including Juan Darien!!! What was that about? They really wanted us dead. Anyway, Sebastian Bach…the coolest guy ever, we all loved him. He had such a great energy, it infected the cast, crew and audience with “let’s have a great time!” so we did!
He bought the lab when the show closed. He also used to bite the tops of roses off and spit them at the crowd during curtain calls…his trademark.
BK: You were also in the highly enjoyable and zany revue, When Pigs Fly. Tell us a little bit about how that show came about. How long did you do the show? Any weird or funny stories – we do like the dish and the dirt here at haineshisway.com so hold nothing back.
JTE: Being a part of Pigs was so incredible. I had first worked with Mark Waldrop, Dick Gallagher, and Howard Crabtree on a show they wrote called WHATNOT (starring Jennifer Smith of THE PRODUCERS), It was my first job in New York city, it ran 10 weeks off-Broadway with Musical Theatreworks. Some of the material from that show and an act We later did called When Pigs Fly! (at the Duplex) became part of Howard Crabtree’s Whoop Dee Doo! This success spawned another version of When Pigs Fly! that ran at The Douglas Fairbanks theater for 2 years. I was with the show for 6 months, before starting rehearsals for Jekyll & Hyde on Broadway I would laugh so much backstage between the 7 o’clock show and the 10 o’clock show with the other guys (Stanley Bojarski, Michael West, David Pevsner ,and Jay Rogers) that I would loose my voice constantly…it was hazardous! We would try and crack each other up so much…but the audience loved it! Sort of a tribute to the Carol Burnett show. Howard was a special friend, I would visit him and his partner Danny at their farm in New Hope PA. We spent many of Howard’s last days down there helping to complete costumes and props, with Howard overseeing everything from his bed. He was so light hearted…always full of laughter. He was a genius, I mean he made me into a gorgeous showgirl…with a waist!!! Brilliant.
BK: John Treacy Egan, tell us a bit about your past? Where did you grow up – go to school – and what made you decide to be a performer?
JTE: Always! Used to put on shows in my garage growing up, first it was singing to Jackson Five and Fifth Dimension records, then full scale productions (remember the movie musical LOST HORIZON…you should have seen the stage version at 33 Byron Lane!), I was always interested in puppetry, Jim Henson was one of my idols. Worked with a troupe for three years out of college. The first Broadway show I’d ever seen was THE MAGIC SHOW, by Stephen Schwartz (one of my favorite composers…loved your Schwartz album by the way, if you do a follow up…I’m available to do The Hardest Part of Love from CHILDREN OF EDEN…too cheeky?!), From that show I was hooked on theater! Performed in High School (became a local celebrity as Snoopy, with the lower school after my High School production of YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN), then Community Theater, and Studied Classical Music at SUNY Purchase where I graduated.
BK: Getting back to The Producers, you’re working with our very good friend, Mr. Patrick Brady. Very few non-theater people understand the interaction between conductor and cast. Can you give us a little insight into the process of working with a musical director on Broadway?
JTE: Patrick is amazing. He is really great to work with, along with Phil Reno, you feel you are in capable hands when you’re onstage.
BK: Our dear readers are always interested in the eating habits of performers. What is your favorite restaurant in New York? Your favorite place to just hang and grab a snack? What is your favorite cake?
JTE: You are cracking me up! My eating habits are crap. I’m a character man, so I don’t have to fit into tights or leather pants (just liederhosen!) One of my favorite restaurants in N.Y. is The Westbank Cafe on 42nd St. They’ve kinda nouveau cuisined – up the menu a bit, and I prefered the old menu , but it’s still great. Also anyplace that serves Pizza!
BK: The Producers, by this time, is a well-oiled machine. Do you find the audience reaction is consistent from night to night, or do you get the occasional audience that resists the charms of the show?
JTE: Stating the obvious…every audience is different. The matinee crowds are usually wilder than the evening shows. I imagine the reason for this is that the matinee audiences are in general a little bit older, and since this show really is more of a throw back type musical, they seem to “get it” and respond bigger. Some nights the place is wild and some more subdued, but every night they stand!
BK: Tell us, John Treacy Egan, what CDs are currently in your player? Do you have time to go to the movies and if so, what have you seen and liked recently?
JTE: I’m such a pop-culturist, so it’s always something current with a few standard choices… this week it’s COLDPLAY and ANASTACIA, with a little JOSH GROBIN for the quieter moments. URINETOWN is what I’ve been listening to show-wise lately. I love the movies and try to go on my day off, I’ll even squeeze one in between shows if there’s time. Just saw the new AUSTIN POWERS and loved it! He’s so insane.
BK: Is there one role in a classic musical that you’d love to do if it were revived and if so, what’s the role and why would you like to do it?
JTE: Good question… What I would like to do, and what I would be cast in is a different story. I would love to play Anatoly in CHESS again (did a small semi-professional production years ago). I also would love the chance to play Jean Valjean someday. Time will tell.
BK: I’m always interested to find out what performers think of the reading/workshop process. Because it’s evolved into something so different from what Michael Bennett started all those years ago. Do you feel it’s gotten to be too much? Do you feel it’s beneficial? I mean, The Producers basically had one workshop (if they even called it that) and then it did what musicals of old did, it went out-of-town, did a tryout, made a few changes and then came into New York. Similar new shows have had years of workshops, great buzz, and then they open and tank. What is right and what is wrong with the way things are done today?
JTE: That word of mouth thing is so strange isn’t it? You hear good/ bad/ good/ bad until the show finally shows up. I heard BATBOY was great in the workshop, my first day as swing (second preview), I saw it and thought it was dreadful, three weeks of previews later, it was great! It’s amazing how that can be. I’ve done very little reading/workshops, but the ones I have done were pretty much readings, a chance to hear the piece out loud. I think it’s very beneficial for the authors, but what usually happens is that you, as an actor don’t get paid very much, for the amount of work it sometimes involves and you are usually not guaranteed a spot if the show moves on. I worked on a production of THE THREE MUSKETEERS in San Jose for six weeks, after three weeks an audiences was brought in and were asked to give their comments.. With this particular show audiences wanted to see things that the authors didn’t want to write. The audiences wanted to see what they thought the THE THREE MUSKETEERS was, the authors wanted to stick very close to the novel. The show eventually had a full scale production, and critically it was the same as what the first audiences felt. Do you write a crowd pleaser or what you think is an artistic piece…finding the happy medium is the key. I think you gotta workshop.
BK: Wasn’t the last question endless? I fell asleep three times while I was asking it. So, how long do you think you’ll stay with The Producers? Do you have anything lined up, like concerts or cabaret engagements?
JTE: My contract with THE PRODUCERS is until next May. In the meantime I’m working on a CD (who isn’t!), and I’ve written an act called RUDOLPH UNPLUGGED, that I did last year around the holidays that I may be bringing back this year…in the meantime voice lessons, auditions, and good clean livin’!
BK: Well, we’d like to thank you, John Treacy Egan for joining our Unseemly Interview Section and we hope you’ve had fun. Are there any closing words you’d like our Dear Readers to have? And don’t forget, there’s cheese slices and ham chunks for you, and then we’re going to dance the Hora and maybe even sing The Name Game. Isn’t that exciting? Isn’t that just too too?
JTE: Thanks Bruce, for pulling me out from under that german helmut and giving me a say!