It didn’t surprise me when Edward Staudenmayer stopped the show with his outrageous performance of “The Gypsy in Me” (with Rachel York) in Anything Goes at The Kennedy Center. I have been a big fan of Ed’s since I first saw him in Forbidden Broadway, and I am thrilled to have had this chance to catch up with him.
Joel: What do you like the most about the character you play – Lord Evelyn Oakleigh and how do you relate to him – anything Edward-like about him?
Ed: I think the things that I like most about Lord Evelyn Oakleigh is the way that he is always trying to please others, he’s so polite. And the way he is always out to have fun, be it with having “Hot Pants” for Shuffleboard, his tireless efforts to understand American expressions, or his eagerness to confess his sins from the “Rice Patty” during Reno’s Evangelical Nightclub Revival. I think I’m a pretty polite guy, and I am certainly always about having a good time. The other thing I like about playing Evelyn is that it’s a pretty easy role. I don’t do all that much. The others work so hard, tap dancing their butts off, then at the end I get this great number and I get to stand center stage kissing the gorgeous blonde as the curtain comes down. I feel very grateful.
You get to sing the showstopper ‘The Gypsy in Me’ in the second act and you stop the show (in a good way). There’s a lot of dancing and vamping in the number and it’s quite physically challenging.
How long did it take you to learn the song and all ‘the moves’ and what is the most challenging and the most fun about performing that number with Rachel York? What impresses you most about her performance as Reno Sweeney? Any Gypsy in you?
It took us a few days to learn the entire number. Kathleen Marshall was so inspiring and also so patient. She didn’t want to overwhelm us. Not to mention that Ms. York had the herculean task of learning all her enormous numbers. I’d say the most challenging part is when we get to our operatic singing about 3/4 into the number. It was hard to build up the stamina for that section. The most fun part is all the silly ballroom dancing – we do Tango, Paso Doble, etc. I was such a fan of Dancing With Stars and that number makes me feel like I’m on the show. And I can’t tell you how fun it is to get to do the number, and the entire show, with Rachel York. She is such a pro – always so in the moment. In the number, we are challenging each other with our sexiness; trying to out-vamp each other. I’m amazed we are always able to keep it so fresh and new. It’s not too difficult falling in love with Rachel York eight times a week. She really has it all: so talented, beautiful voice, sexy dancer, brilliant actress, hilarious comedian, and she is basically a supermodel in the looks department. I have a bit of a crush. Yes, there is definitely a bit of Gypsy in me. Maybe too much at times. That was the biggest direction I got while rehearsing. “Ed you are letting too much Gypsy out. Bank It! Put it in the bank till the number at the end!” Great direction. It has served me well.
There are some brilliant and funny lyrics in the song. Which lyrics are your favorite and what lyrics from songs others sing in the show do you feel show the brilliance of Cole Porter’s genius?
My song “Gypsy in Me” has so many adorable lyrics about my Great Great Grandmother being tipsy and running off with gypsies, etc. But I think one of the silliest in my number is “While a Haunting Guitar, Not too near, Not too Far! Gaily humms away, Strums away a Titulating Tune.” It’s very fun to play. Mr. Porter was clever and cheeky, and peppered his work full of double entendre. I for sure love, “When every night the set that’s smart is intruding in nudist parties in studios, Anything Goes!” Also, “This verse you started seems to be the Tin Pan-tithesis of Melody.” And don’t get me started on “Blow Gabriel Blow.”
I saw you in Forbidden Broadway dozens of times and you were hysterical. How did the Forbidden Broadway experience help you in molding your performance as Lord Evelyn and help you perform other comic roles like the White Rabbit in Wonderland and Gaston in Beauty and the Beast?
I have a hard time not laughing at Les Miz, or Phantom, or Grand Hotel because the Forbidden Broadway parodies always revisit me when I am watching a production. Have you had that at Anything Goes or any other show you have performed in?
Thank you. Forbidden Broadway has been a Godsend to me. It was the greatest training ground to hone one’s comic skills. One of the most important things I learned at Forbidden Broadway was play it for real. You are an actor really in the show you are spoofing. I am Jean Valjean praying to God. I just happen to be singing Gerrard Allesandrini’s sophomoric lyrics. “God it’s high. This songs to high.” You have to totally commit to the real intentions in the Broadway show to make his parody work. It taught me to fully commit. To believe in everything you are saying. I hear Gerrard’s lyrics all the time at Anything Goes. Especially the old Patti Lupone/Anything Goes lyrics where he spoofs her diction. “Like a like a like a like a like a like a like a like a like a, Just like Eva Peron.” I, too, have had a hard time listening to the classic Broadway musical cannon and not hear Gerrard’s crazy lyrics in my head. It was especially difficult for me when I was doing a few “Broadway’s Leading Men” concerts with the Baltimore Symphony. I was doing all the greats. Man of La Mancha, South Pacific, La Cage, Music Man, Les Miz. I had the hardest time memorizing the correct lyrics because all the ridiculous Allesandrini lyrics kept coming out. I think Cole Porter would have appreciated Gerrard Allesandrini with his hilarious use of double entendre – and the man is VERY cheeky. I had the privilege to work recently with Gerrard on one of his latest, a take on Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. Needless to say Gerrard has now ruined Christmas. I cannot hear that glorious ballet anymore without giggling. It is “Sugar Plum” brilliance!
Why do you think Anything Goes is still so popular 80 years later after it opened on Broadway?
Number one: it’s Cole Porter. He has been the true constant throughout the show’s history. The book has not. Everybody knows and loves these songs and are often surprised that all of these hits are in this one show. But, I have a lot of scene work and it is great fun. John Weidman and Timothy Crouse have done a really good job updating the book. It’s just a mad cap farce on the high seas. I live for farce. My favorite. This production is especially funny thanks to Ms. Marshall’s spot on direction and, if I do say so myself, her brilliant casting. In Chicago I remember reading a review saying how terrific it was to see a cast full of such wonderful character actors. That they just don’t get many shows with that caliber talent in all the roles touring through their town. A big Bravo to the Roundabout Theatre Company for sending out such a top notch production. I’m really proud to be a part of it.
How has your Kennedy Center experience been and where does the show go to next?
After we close in DC we do a week in Schenectady, then five glorious weeks in Toronto. I’m so excited. I love Canada, especially in the summer. This is my third time to play The Kennedy Center. I have always thought that this venue is the absolute best in the country. What a showplace. Just as Washington, D.C. is a showplace to be proud of for our entire country. Everything about it is top notch, the dressers (especially my dresser Cath), the crew, the staff. We are playing where they have The Kennedy Center Honors. I can’t tell you how excited the cast was when we first walked out on stage for our sound check. You could see that everyone was thrilled to be there. It is a great honor to perform here. During our first performance all the actors were buzzing around backstage about the great response we were getting from the audience as well. Actors kept saying, “They are so smart! They are catching everything.” Needless to say, we are in HEAVEN here. Hope I can come back again!!