Interview With Tony Award Nominee Tony Yazbeck
Tony nominee Tony Yazbeck is currently starring in the Manhattan Theatre Club's Broadway premiere of Prince of Broadway - A Musical Celebration Of The Career Of Harold Prince - at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.
He earned a Tony nomination for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical" in 2015 for his performance as Gabey in the 2014 Broadway revival of On The Town. He made his Broadway debut in the 1989 revival of Gypsy and has gone on to become a regular in the New York theatre scene, with appearances in Oklahoma!, Never Gonna Dance, A Chorus Line, the 2008 revival of Gypsy, Irving Berlin's White Christmas, Chicago, and Finding Neverland.
We had the opportunity to ask Tony about his latest outing in Prince of Broadway, as well as working with Harold Prince himself:
Thomas Hayden Millward: You’ve been on quite the journey with “Prince of Broadway” so far, including the 2015 world premiere in Japan. What have been some of your personal highlights?
Tony Yazbeck: I have so many beautiful memories and wonderful highlights from my time with Prince of Broadway. From the moment I walked into my first rehearsal over two years ago for the Japan run of the show, I felt so at home with the kind of creative team I was getting to work with. The generosity overflowed in the room. I will never forget how Stroman, Jason and I put together "The Right Girl" in a matter of three consecutive mornings. It was true collaboration and the best way to work when you are creating something from the ground up. Everyone was brewing with ideas and we all listened to each other. Wonderful! I also had a blast in Japan and miss my time there greatly. And now being on Broadway with the show in a more intimate Broadway house has been so rewarding and this cast has so much love for each other. I also just love getting to sing the West Side Story material. That's another dream fully realized for me.
THM: For those who haven’t yet seen the show, could you tell us a bit more about some of those iconic roles/musical numbers you take on?
TY: I play many roles in the show. My favorites are: Tony in West Side Story where I sing "Something's Coming" and "Tonight." Buddy in Follies where I get to sing and tap "The Right Girl." I also play Leo Frank from Parade singing "This Is Not Over Yet." I of course also play many other various parts like Harry in the Company sequence and Che in Evita.
THM: Theatre fans can be very passionate and protective when it comes to those historic and infamous Broadway performances. Is there any pressure to recreate an identical performance or are you free to re-imagine them in your own unique style?
TY: I don't think there is any pressure at all to recreate a performance that was in the original production of these shows. Hal always wanted to see this show with fresh eyes and he let the actor take on the role for himself. I felt very trusted in the rehearsal room to take what I could connect to with these characters and make them my own. As an actor, I always want to make a song my own and give it my own stamp and style. My job is to fully connect with the audience and so I'm constantly thinking of new and fresh ways to do that.
THM: What have been the main advantages and challenges of having Harold Prince himself at the helm of this production, celebrating his illustrious career? And how would you summarise Susan Stroman’s contribution as co-director?
TY: I have loved having Hal as our leader. He is of course a legendary visionary, but he is also quite kind and extremely funny when he is in the room. He has a million stories to tell that will stop you dead in your tracks for a listen and he knows how to challenge you further as an actor. I have really appreciated that. And I just adore working with Stroman. She knows how to make a person really shine through the material to make it their own. She has a million ideas but always wants to hear what your instinct as an actor is right away as well.
THM: Do you remember the first Harold Prince production you ever saw? And which of his productions has had the most profound impact on you as a person and as a performer?
TY: West Side Story changed my life when I was a little kid. I will always remember how that music made me feel. I started to have deep wonder about love and the power it possessed. There was something so dark and yet so wonderful about the story it was telling. As I got older, I always wanted to tell stories through song and dance in a way that truly connected emotionally the way West Side Story did and always will as a timeless piece of theatre.