Interview with Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song star Michael Urie

Michael Urie

Many will know the insane talent that is Michael Urie from his days as Marc St. James on ABC's "Ugly Betty" and many theatre enthusiasts will know him from his off-Broadway performances that have been showered with accolades and critical acclaim over the years, but now, Mr. Urie can add the (long overdue) moniker of bona fide "Broadway Leading Man" to his evergrowing résumé.

True, he did previously make his Broadway debut in 2012, joining the cast of the Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business WIthout Really Trying, but his current starring role as Arnold Beckoff in a widely heralded revival of Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song is a whole new ball game for the young actor. Not many performers would dare step into the shoes (or stilettos) of the role written, performed and made infamous by Mr. Fierstein himself off-Broadway, on Broadway and in the 1988 movie adaptation, but Mr. Urie has managed to craft his own, unique interpretation of Arnold, a Jewish drag queen longing for all the normalities of life. The production revolves around him, depends on his comic timing and delivery, his ability to draw empathy and his onstage chemistry with his cast, especially co-star Mercedes Ruehl, playing the complicated and nuanced role of Arnold's mother. We certainly wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Urie finds himself in Tony Awards contention come next spring... the passing of Arnold's torch from the hands of Mr. Fierstein truly deserves it.

Michael Urie & Mercedes Ruehl in Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song
(Photo by Matthew Murphy)

We caught up with Mr. Urie at his Opening Night celebrations and here's what he had to say...

Congratulations, Michael! How has the Broadway Opening Night experience been for you so far?

It’s been really great so far. I had no idea what to expect. I had never been in a Broadway show on its opening. I have been in a Broadway show before, but not on opening. And it’s soooo different than just attending an opening. I’ve heard from more people than I do on my Birthday! It’s been a very special day and a special night. My parents are here. Some of my very favorite, famous people are here. Good friends and colleagues. It was a very special night. I will never forget it and I hope we can do the play for a long time. It’s a very special thing and I love every minute of it.

Has it been a bit like a passing of the torch between yourself and Harvey Fierstein? Is that a fair assumption?

[laughs] Yes. He’s given me so much liberty and so much freedom and yet been so available to me and helpful. If I need anything, he’s there. If I ever have a question or ever need advice, he’s always right there. He lets me do my version and I never expected anything different. That’s a gift and the role is a gift. That he has such faith in me is a gift. And he gives me great compliments!

Michael Urie in Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song
(Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Well, he’s always quite the character, isn’t he? Have you any personal anecdotes you could share with us from this collaboration?

If you ever meet Harvey, he will embarrass you. He will embarrass you within minutes. But that’s what makes him so special because he’s willing to be embarrassed himself at any point and demands that from everyone around him. What he said to us at the first day of rehearsal was: “If this play doesn’t embarrass you, then you’re not doing it right…”

And have you been thoroughly embarrassed throughout?

Oh, absolutely! And I first thought: “Oh, he means all the sex stuff…” But it isn’t the sex stuff. It’s the true guts. It’s the heart. It’s the absolute pain the characters go through. That’s what he meant. And that has been very embarrassing. I know that it means a lot to people that we are willing to go there, all of us in the cast. And he was willing to go there, when he wrote it.

Michael Urie in Interview
(Photo by Austin Yang)

Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song Tickets are available now for performances through to February 24, 2019.