Roundabout Theatre Company’s Tony award-winning production of CABARET will make its Philadelphia premiere at the Academy of Music [204 S. Broad Street], April 4-9, 2017. Cast members Laura Sheehy (Frenchie, Gorilla) and Ryan DeNardo (Hans, Rudy) spoke with Phindie about the upcoming production. Tickets at: kimmelcenter.org.
Debra Danese:I see from your credits that you have both performed in prior productions of CABARET. How did you both get involved in this production? How does it differ from the ones you have previously done?
Ryan DeNardo: I did a regional production of the show at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in Florida. I played a different role, but it was directed by B.T. McNicholl who helmed this tour and has been involved with the show for quite some time. Having auditioned and been called back for the 2014 Broadway revival, I was on file and they offered me the tour when there was an opening in the cast.
Laura Sheehy: I was in the original revival and to get into that production, I learned to play saxophone and clarinet just to audition. To my delight after a year of annoying all of my neighbors trying to learn the saxophone, I got into the Broadway production. Being an alum of this show from its original production is how I got offered to join the tour. I also did the Maltz Jupiter production that Ryan referred to.
DD:You are married! How did you meet?
RD: As a matter of fact, we met doing that regional production together in Jupiter, FL. At the time, I was based out of NYC and Laura was living in Los Angeles.
LS: We met doing the production together in Jupiter, FL. We both played the saxophone solos in the entr’acte.
DD:How is it working together as a married couple? Have you done so before and, if so, in what capacity?
RD: It’s such a gift. We have great moments together in the show, plus we’re seeing many interesting cities and venues throughout the country. If we weren’t together, none of this would be nearly as fun.
LS: It’s wonderful! I feel so lucky to get to see the country, do this incredible show, AND travel with my husband. I literally could not ask for a better job!
DD: What have been your favorite roles to play? Why?
RD: One of my best experiences so far was playing Danny Zuko in a regional production of Grease. It’s fun having a role where your main responsibility is to strut. However, I recently performed the role of Cliff Bradshaw, the romantic lead and one of my understudy tracks in Cabaret. I did two shows and it was a great experience. Our cast is extremely supportive and it makes what we do that much more rewarding.
LS: This one because I use so many different skills and find the show to be incredibly satisfying. I also loved dancing in sketches on Saturday Night Live and working as an aerialist for Rhianna and on the Country Music Awards. Those were career highlights. I danced with Florence and the Machine on Saturday Night Live as well. Guess I can’t pick just one!
DD:What is your favorite line or moment in the show?
RD: I love the Act II number “If You Could See Her.” It’s playful and funny, features a dancing gorilla (played by Laura), and poignantly delivers what I consider the thesis of our whole show: “why can’t the world live and let live?”
LS: I love jamming with the band in the entr’acte—it’s a great ensemble moment and very thrilling for someone who is not originally a musician. I also love doing Mein Herr.
Lately, with the horrifying political landscape that is unfolding before us, the line that resonates most with me is when the character Cliff says, “If you’re not against all this, you’re for it, or you might as well be.” I find that frighteningly true, especially now.
DD: You both sing, dance, act and play an instrument onstage. Which of these comes easiest? How did your individual backgrounds prepare you for these multifaceted roles?
RD: I studied musical theatre at Ithaca College, so singing and acting are more my forte than dance. However, I grew up playing musical instruments in many capacities, so that’s kind of my secret weapon. I play several featured saxophone moments in the show, which is an instrument I studied privately in high school and still play in a band and for recording artists in NYC.
LS: Dancing! I have been dancing since I was a child. I also studied acting, so that applies here too. The instruments were the greatest challenge at first for me, playing a full orchestral score on two instruments I barely played.
DD: Ryan, being a Downingtown native, what are you looking forward to doing when you are back in the area next month?
RD: Seeing my parents and our family dog, Rosie. We’re taking a couple extra nights to stay with them before heading to the next tour stop in Naples, Florida. I’m looking forward to catching them up on our many adventures. Also, a trip to Wawa is definitely on the agenda.
DD: Were you involved in the arts as a student at Downingtown West High School?
RD: Very involved. As a matter of fact, there wasn’t much offered that I didn’t try. I did the school musicals. I sang in the vocal ensemble, men’s choir, and studied voice with Matt McCloskey. I played the alto sax in symphonic band, marching band, and jazz band. I played double bass in the orchestra. I studied music theory. I even had a brief stint as the school mascot, D-Dog.
It was at DWHS that I found myself in the arts. I’m forever grateful to both the teachers who saw my potential and encouraged me to pursue the dream and the friends I made through those activities. I’m still chasing the dream, I still have a lot of those friends, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
DD: What three words would you use to best describe this production of Cabaret?
RD: vaudevillian, provocative, cautionary
LS: edgy, dark, cinematic.
[Academy of Music 240 S. Broad Street] April 4-9, 2017; kimmelcenter.org.