Interview with Meteor Shower star Jeremy Shamos
We caught up with the Tony Award nominee to chat Steve Martin, Amy Schumer and the most hyped play of the fall...
Jeremy Shamos is a Tony Award nominee and Broadway veteran whose many stage credits include his 2012 Tony-nominated turn in Clybourne Park, as well as Noises Off, The Assembled Parties, Glengarry Glen Ross, Elling, The Rivals, and his Broadway debut in Reckless in 2004. Now, he has fulfilled a dream of working with one of his childhood idols - Hollywood icon Steve Martin - who has written the comedy Meteor Shower, which continues to play to full houses at Broadway's Booth Theatre.
Starring alongside Emmy Award winner Amy Schumer, Tony Award winner Laura Benanti, and Emmy Award winner Keegan-Michael Key, Meteor Shower opened to the biggest box office advance in the history of the Booth Theatre. We caught up with Jeremy to get the backstage lowdown on the deep impact this Meteor Shower has had on the Broadway scene and on his own life...
When I saw the show recently, there was a moment just after Amy had fed Laura a stick of celery using her feet and Laura had a moment when she either couldn’t continue for laughter or she is an expert at clowning…
Every night Amy does feed Laura celery with her feet, but on that particular night, some liquid came out and she said something like: “You’ve got some liquid on your trouble spots.” So, it was partly real and partly improvised.
Is there much ad-libbing between the four of you, in general?
There is some play, but mostly it’s Steve Martin’s script which is hilarious enough. Every once in a while, if something goes wrong, we may lose it a bit. But in general, we get enough audience reaction from Steve’s words.
What are you allowed to tell us about the play itself? I know you were all sworn to secrecy at the start.
Well, it’s surreal but at the same time it’s very real about relationships. Mostly what I’ve been taking away from people who have come to see it that the laughter grows like a snowball rolling down a hill. We still have to figure out our timing with these big laughs. I think what I would say is that while it’s a completely whacky evening, the show is still grounded in the story of this couple and their experience on this one night. You do take a journey with them, it just happens to be an incredibly funny one.
I can’t recall many ultra-modern, absurdist comedies floating around Broadway, so I feel the show is sort of in a lane of its own.
Yes, it’s very unique that something is so absurdist. That’s a good word for it.
I think different audience members may take away a different message or meaning from the play after seeing it, but what do you personally feel that the play is trying to say?
I think the play pokes fun at the fact that society has ideas about what it means to be in a happy couple and I think those ideas need to be challenged. I think the play shows that when you go outside of the routine you’re in as a couple or the way you’ve decided to behave, sometimes a crazier side of yourself is an exciting addition to a relationship.
As an actor, when you join the cast of a production that is already a box office hit, even before the first preview, does it take the pressure off at all?
I guess it does take a bit of the pressure off. I think, at this point, when you’re working with such good people, there’s not so much pressure because you know you’re making something good. When you do get to the first preview, you’re in such good shape that there’s no reason to feel that pressure. But certainly knowing that there was a big pre-sale and that people were excited to see the show helps a lot, especially with a comedy. The fuller the house with any company, the better. It was very encouraging to know that we were going to start playing to full houses and not have to develop the word of mouth.
I think the show is so well-cast. There isn’t a single case of miscasting with the four roles. And you and Laura Benanti are the stage veterans, if you like, whilst Amy Schumer and Keegan-Michael Key are both making their Broadway debuts. Is there any sense of you and Laura taking Amy and Keegan under your wings and mentoring them about Broadway or are they like: “You know what, we’re good. We got this!”
(Laughs) Well, in terms of the actual work and working on the comedy, we’re all in sync with each other. But the only way Laura and I sometimes took them under our wings were with atual things about doing a play. On one of the first nights something went wrong for Amy and she felt terrible, but Laura and I made sure she knew that something goes wrong on Broadway every night. That’s the fun of live theatre. She embraced that really quickly. And then there were some technical things like where you should be at certain times and things like that, but in terms of really mentoring each other, I would never claim to mentor either of those two. They’re so accomplished and they pick things up so quickly.
You have such an extensive Broadway résumé with hits like Clybourne Park, how does this particular production stand out for you?
Well, Steve Martin has been an idol of mine since I was a kid. I used to have his records. People don’t really have comedy records anymore, but I did. So, just working with him – even if that was the only aspect of it – just that alone is pure excitement. I had never worked with [director] Jerry Zaks before, whose work I’ve always admired. I had only done readings with him. So, there’s that too. If someone else had written it, but Jerry was directing, I’d be excited. I love Amy’s work, I love Keegan’s work and I love Laura’s work. We all talk about that most nights before we go on – how lucky we feel and how everything has come together for this really unique and incredible experience. It’s fun to be in a four-person play. Nobody drops the ball and everybody throws it to you in unexpected ways.
Do you have any backstage anecdotes involving your idol Steve Martin?
Sometimes before the show, when he doesn’t want to be out in the audience in public, he hangs around backstage with us, but he’s so respectful of our space – almost too much – that he kinda hides. Every once in a while, we’ll say: “Look! That’s Steve Martin over there!” and he pokes his head out from behind some piece of equipment. But he’s been incredibly encouraging and excited to work on polishing things and add lines. Even now, we’re still talking with him about how something works or might work better. He’s been so collaborative and I think he’s very happy with the production.
I kinda like the image of Steve Martin loitering and lingering around the corridors and looking for a quiet spot, where nobody will talk to him.
(Laughs) Yes! He found this tiny spot where he hides from us, but we discovered that he was there, so we’ve called it his dressing room.
You should put a golden star with his name on it in that little corner.
Meteor Shower Tickets are available now for performances through to January 21, 2018.