- A two part interview with actor Lawrence Redmond starring in Jerry Springer: The Opera
- By Joel Markowitz
Part One: Lawrence Redmond on Jerry Springer
Aug 1, 2008 – Who is that actor hiding behind the wig and red glasses pretending to be Jerry Springer? Joel Markowitz schmoozes with two-time Helen Hayes Award winning actor Lawrence Redmond before his descent into Hades at Studio Theatre’s Jerry Springer: The Opera
How did Lawrence prepare to play the host of that infamous TV show? “I went back and watched the show, read his autobiography and re-screened his movie Ringmaster….He’s smarter than most people give him credit for…”
Lawrence is working once again with local favorite Bobby Smith. “Bobby is so good and so focused… you have to be on your game all the time. It’s like playing with Roger Federer and Tiger Woods…”
This actor who has made his mark in musicals, is in an opera and doesn’t sing a note. Strange? “I still have to have some musicianship – I still have to count…It’s count or die! My cues cue the singers and musicians…”
With a 35 member cast, you only imagine how crazy the rehearsals were. “The division of labor was quite smart. Keith [Director Keith Alan Baker] and Matt [Co-director/Choreographer Matt Gardiner] had a great sense of confidence in each other, “You can’t buy it, or make it or fake it. You thrill to that trust in the rehearsal space, and…you say ,”Oh, WOW!”
Unsure whether this show is for you? Lawrence has some cautionary advice: ” There are 8,000 obscenities in this show…If words bother you, you might want to think twice. If you have a sense of humor about religion, come on down.”
Listen to this segment here.
Part Two: Lawrence Redmond on his acting career
Lawrence tells a great Helen Hayes awards story from 1997 when he was performing in about Signature Theatre’s Sunday in The Park with George at Arena Stage.
His first paid acting job at Source Theatre in 1981 was performed at The Vault (think “FUR”). First job. First bad review. He can still quote it verbatim. “Redmond – able actor though he may be – never finds a way to convey the deterioration, age and utter wackiness of the character.”
His one claim to fame: putting the director/writer Tony Award winning team of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Michael Mayer and Dick Scanlan together, when he cast them in a production of West Side Story, which Lawrence directed. “Talk about casting against type!”
Why does he like performing in musicals? “I don’t think of myself as a musical performer. I don’t have that triple threat training… I was never the high school star… I just was the second banana from day one.”
Lawrence’s career has taught him a great deal about musicals and musical composers, as you will hear when he describes the compositional approaches of Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein.
His greatest regret, “that I never got to do a Shaw play directed by Washington Stage Guild’s John MacDonald, (who recently passed away). “John said you just talk. Shaw is in all those characters. Don’t think. Just talk.”
When you are performing in a show that the critics hated, and no one is showing up, how do you hold your head up? “Respect [for the audience] and intestinal fortitude. We all go in and ram our heads against the wall, because we still doggedly think we can make it work…”
Now at a midpoint in his career, Lawrence passes on some advice to young actors.
Listen to this segment here.
At the end of the interview, this kind, talented, generous mensch of an actor leaves to put on makeup, wig and glasses
the notorious Jerry Springer.
Related: our review of Jerry Springer: The Opera