Interview with Gregg Edelmann

Interview with Gregg Edelman NYC

Photos by Paul Kolnik

Interview with Gregg Edelman
by Corine Cohen

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Corine Cohen: Hi Greg thanks for taking the time from Wonderful Town to answer some questions. I saw you in Wonderful Town and it was a great show much more then Wonderful. May I ask how you got involved in theater?

Gregg Edelman: I became interested in the theater when I was 2 or 3 because (believe it or not) I used to sit on my Mom's knee and we would listen to the few LPs she owned. We were very poor and she could only afford 3 or 4. We would listen to the same ones (Gypsy, Flower Drum Song, Take Me Along, and later, West Side Story) over and over again. I think I drove my brother crazy. The first show I did was my high school variety show. I sang "Softly As I Leave You". But, the thing is, even at that young age, I knew that the theater was a place that I could call home. I know it sounds corny but our home life was a little bumpy and the backstage at school was a place to get away from all that.

CC: Well I’m sorry it was bumpy but I am glad you found your home in the theater. When did you realize your passion for acting?

GE: My passion for acting grew while I was still in high school. We had a great theater program. Each year the school put on three plays and two musicals. So, by the time I was a Senior, my most fulfilling times were trying to crack the nut of whatever new character I was working on.

CC: That is wonderful! Where did you grow up?

GE: I was born in Chicago and I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, Skokie.

CC: What is the best thing about acting?

GE: The best thing about acting, whether it be a musical, play, comedy, drama, is that moment when you realize that the audience is totally engaged with you.

CC: Well watching you perform I would agree. I loved your work in Into The Woods as the Prince- I loved when you sang Agony. It was fantastic. I also adored your performance in Wonderful Town as Donna Murphy's love interest. What is the worst thing about acting?

GE: For my money, the worst thing about acting is auditioning for parts. I know that one can look at it through rose-colored glasses and say that auditioning is an opportunity to share your work with new directors and authors; to show 'em what you've got, but to me it's a necessary evil of the business.

CC: I can imagine it most be difficult to go to the cattle calls. You have to have a thick skin which I don’t have. But you seem to be doing very well and you are in a hit show right now which is getting rave reviews! That must make it all worthwhile. I have to say Wonderful Town was my favorite revival this year so far. I still have not seen Fiddler on the Roof though. What is your greatest role so far?

GE: I like roles that challenge the image people have of me. So, when people thought I couldn't do comedy, I did "Anything Goes". When people thought I was just a nice guy, I did "1776" and portrayed the South Carolinian, Edward Rutledge.

CC: What is the role you always wanted but never got?

GE: Well, when I don't get a part that I really want, I try to forget about it and move on. There are lots of great parts in the world. However, I was very close to getting the Russian in the original Broadway cast of Chess but I didn't get it. That was a pretty big disappointment. However, my largest would have to be not getting "She Loves Me".

CC: Tell me about Wonderful Town. It is such an incredible show with such a talented cast. What is it like to work with the one and only Donna Murphy. I really loved her performance and i loved yours!

GE: Well, the first thing I have to say about Donna is that we are friends. That is very important. Opening a Broadway show can be very stressful and if you don't just plain like the person you play opposite, you and the show are in big trouble. Beyond that, Donna and I rehearse very much the same way; we try to get all our ducks in a row during the rehearsals, so when we get in front of the audience it is truly time to play. So, those two things together make working with Donna a lot of fun and when you play opposite someone 8 times a week it better be fun.

CC: Well you both have great chemistry and you can tell you are friends. Into the Woods is an incredible show tell me about it. I loved you as the Prince!

GE: Into the Woods" was a unique experience for me. I never saw myself as a Prince. If anything, I saw myself as the Baker. Well, I read for both parts many times and much to my amazement, I was cast as the Prince. Well, a job is a job, so I said to myself, "You'd better start seeing yourself as a Prince!" Well, it went very slow for me until one day, in desperation, I started leaping around in front of a giant rehearsal mirror. Well, never one to walk away from a good cheap laugh, I figured that that leap was a good place to start and the rest of the performance grew out of that.

CC: You were a dreamy Prince and the Song Agony stole the show! It is funny whenever I see a truly horrid show your song “Agony” always pops into my head. What was it like to work with Vanessa Williams?

GE: Funnily enough, Vanessa and I had zero stage time together in "Into the Woods". However, we did connect as parents. Whether you're a star like Vanessa or not, trying to juggle parenthood and the professional life is a high-wire act that is both fabulous and exhausting. We had a lot of war stories to share.

CC: Who do you admire most?

Interview with Gregg Edelman

GE: I admire my mother the most. She raised my brother and I as a divorced woman in the '50's and 60's. I saw how hard it was for her. Even though she slept in the living room of our apartment because she couldn't afford a bedroom of her own, she tried to make a home that would give "her boys" a good start in life. I'm not saying my life was the worst. A lot of families have these hardships. I just know that looking back now, she did a heroic job. I wouldn't be where I am today if my Mother wasn't as brave as she was.

CC: That is very touching! Do you have a mentor?

GE: Yes. My mentor is a wonderful writer,Joe Masteroff. He is a playwright. He has written the books to many musicals including "Cabaret" and "She Loves Me". He has been everything a mentor should be. He fed me when I was hungry and broke and he has always been honest with me.

CC: Do you read any of the critics reviews?

GE: Yes, I do read reviews of my own work. I figure that it is ridiculous to hide from them. I mean, they are out there for the whole world to read. I may as well take a peek. Now granted, when I see a poor notice it doesn't feel good. I hope that everybody will like my work and it is always hard to see that someone hates it. But, in the end, what matters is your own artistic barometer. You must spend your whole life working to fine tune it, better it, so that when all is said and done, you are proud of what you have created. Be it a rave or a pan, that kind of fulfillment can't be found in a critic's column. Well, it is 1:45 AM and I got to get to bed. My kids have school in the morning and My wife has a cold.

CC: Well Wonderful Town is a hit and you and the entire cast did an exceptional job. Thank you very much for your time Gregg.

Corine Dana Cohen, Associate Producer of the Drama Desk Awards, works as a freelance writer.

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