While the TV show Smash may not have lived up to its name in the ratings department, the ambitious NBC show about the trials and tribulations of putting on a Broadway musical captured millions of viewers and brought many theater actors a legion of fans away from the Great White Way.
Wesley Taylor played Bobby on the show, a close confident to Ivy (Megan Hilty) and a chorus member of the fictional musical Bombshell. The character was a fan favorite and one who greatly represented what life as a dancer on Broadway was really like behind the scenes.
Taylor himself was no stranger to Broadway. He originated the roles of Franz in Rock of Ages and went on to play Lucas Beineke in The Addams Family opposite Nathan Lane. He still remembers his debut fondly.
“Hands down, it was one of the best nights of my life,” he recounts. “I was with two of my dearest friends, Anna and Dane. I challenge any Broadway show to have a better after party than that one.”
Taylor is now playing the role of The Emcee in Signature’s production of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s Cabaret, which begins previews May 12th. It’s a show he first saw as an 18-year-old freshman in drama school.
“We had to pick a historical character to play and then at the end of that semester, you would (attempt to) emulate that person (costume/dialect/behavior) and get interviewed in front of the class by our teacher,” he says. “So, I picked Bob Fosse. I spent the whole semester watching his interviews and studying his work, so, naturally Cabaret was watched a few times. I think it’s a masterpiece. I loved it then and I love it now.”
To prepare for this role, Taylor revisited some of that earlier research and recently saw the current Broadway revival.
“When I saw Alan Cumming’s performance in the Sam Mendes revival I was knocked over,” Taylor says. “He revolutionized that role in a way that really affected me. It also made me immediately wonder how I would play the part.”
Luckily for him, Taylor sees nothing wrong with stealing from genius, although he feels even if he wanted to copy someone’s performance, subconsciously or not, it would still be different because he’s just Wesley.
“Joel Grey and Alan Cumming were iconic yet polarizing opposite portrayals of the same role,” he says. “I’m stealing a lot of Joel Grey’’s vocal stylings in ‘If You Could See Her’ and lots and lots of Alan Cumming’s uninhibited libido.”
So far Taylor’s biggest challenge has been building up his stamina as director/choreographer Matthew Gardiner has him dancing—a lot.
“I’m someone who thrives off of work and theater is hard work. I also feed off the live experience and immediate gratification,” he says. “Nothing is sweeter to my ears than laughter and applause.”
In addition to his stage work, Taylor is also the co-creator and star of the original Hulu comedy series, It Could Be Worse and the webseries, Billy Green.
“For me, I was in long runs of shows and needed an outlet from the challenge of making material new over and over again. I think after 400 performances of The Addams Family, I caught myself making a mental grocery list during a scene on stage. That terrified me,” he says. “I loved doing Billy Green and It Could Be Worse simply because I got to be in charge of my own work. I also got to collaborate with all my brilliant friends.”
During this production of Cabaret, Taylor will be part of the one-night-only sold-out Broadway performance of Bombshell on June 8 and he’s developing several shows that are “hypothetically” headed to Broadway within the year. Additionally, his short play, Cuckold, was just accepted to the Manhattan Repertory Theatre 2015 One Act Competition.