This coming weekend, singer, actor, dancer, choreographer, director, and voiceover artist Mark William, who has played such iconic venues as Feinstein’s/54 Below and The McKittrick Hotel, returns to The Green Room 42 for one night only on Saturday, September 25, at 7 pm, with his new show Mark William: Back with a Beat. Critically acclaimed for his smooth vocals and suave stylings, the NYC-based multi-hyphenate has garnered a devoted fan base, including the very enthusiastic and supportive Broadway legend Chita Rivera, by putting his signature youthful spin on mid-century crooner classics, timeless hits from the Great American Songbook, and favorite Broadway showtunes, to keep those revered musical traditions alive for a new generation.
With his “fifteen minutes of fame” rapidly multiplying, the young artist garnered two 2019 BroadwayWorld Awards – Best Debut Act and Best Independent Recording for his solo debut album Come Croon with Me on the Yellowsound Label, featuring songs from his popular cabaret concert. And the new post-pandemic act, directed by Preston and Richard Ridge, with musical direction by Clint Edwards, promises more time-honored selections performed with his rich bass/baritone and debonair moves that will leave the audience swooning.
I had the chance to catch up with Mark during rehearsal week for some quick questions about the upcoming show, his background, and his personal favorites.
- What’s the most fabulous thing about The Green Room 42?
Mark: I think the best thing about The Green Room is the vibe there. It’s hip and modern but stays classy as well. A lot of similar venues feel one of two ways: like they’re trying way too hard; or like they’re not trying hard enough. For me, The Green Room hits the sweet spot right in the middle.
- What’s your favorite drink or menu item?
I’m a big fan of the Italiana Flatbread. Everything I’ve had there is great, but the greasy deliciousness of the bacon, sausage, and pepperoni with gooey cheese is to die for.
- If you had a cocktail named after you, what would be in it?
I don’t drink alcohol, so my cocktail would be a mocktail. Or maybe a Marktail! It would definitely be something fruity. My favorite food in the world is rhubarb pie, which might make a really fun inspiration for a drink, so let’s go with that. Something with the delectable sour/sweet flavor of rhubarb pie.
- What exercise has kept you in shape during the pandemic?
At first, I had a stagnant period, but once I accepted that this break was going to be a long one, I began taking ballet class twice a week, teaching tap class once a week, and working with a personal trainer. I’m so grateful that I was able to do all that because it was easy just to sit in a chair and play on my iPad all day. I needed to give myself things to do and places to be. It was all extremely helpful, not only physically, but mentally as well.
- What’s your biggest motivation?
I’d say my biggest motivation is to make my loved ones proud of me. I know I’ve been blessed with talent, but I also know that this is a tough business and it can be nerve-wracking to see your child/brother/etc. choose such a difficult path. When I get to do what I love and see the pride on the faces of my family, I know that the moments of struggle are all worth it. I’m incredibly fortunate to have such a great support system and I always want to be sure I’m living up to that.
- What’s your all-time favorite song to perform?
How can I pick just one? Every song that I sing has something special and wonderful about it. I think the song I perform that fits me to a T is “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” by Jerry Herman. The pure joy and exuberance of that number are just beautiful to live in. I think grandmothers are always a good gauge and my grandma’s favorite to hear me sing is another Herman tune, “I Won’t Send Roses.” The brilliance of Jerry’s lyrics, a man saying I love you when he is incapable of forming those words, is breathtaking. And the one song I refuse to sing until I feel I can sing it with complete honesty to someone is “That’s All” by Alan Brandt and Bob Haymes. There’s something about it that hits me very deeply and in exactly the right way. It’s admitting that, when it gets right down to it, the greatest gift you can give is yourself and that is everything.
- Who’s your all-time favorite crooner?
Again with the favorites?! I’m bad at these. The guy who taught me how to croon was Sinatra, so I have to give him a lot of credit. There are things about so many of them that I love. Nat King Cole has such a unique voice and a fascinating way of shaping certain words. John Gary has a very rich tone and utilizes his falsetto beautifully. But if I had to pick one guy overall, I’d say Steve Lawrence. He’s just so solid and natural, no matter what recording you listen to. And he did what I love to do, which is play with different styles and genres and make them my own. He’s usually the voice in my head when I’m figuring out a new arrangement with my musical director Clint Edwards.
- What’s the most memorable reaction you’ve ever gotten from an audience member?
One of my earliest supporters in the business was Mary Cossette, whose husband Pierre created the Grammy Awards and was a huge producer. They worked with Andy Williams for many years and, after seeing me for the first time, Mary came up to me with tears in her eyes and said that no one had sung “Moon River” as well since Andy and that he would have loved my rendition. That meant so much coming from Mary, who was actually there and knew Andy so well. Those are the moments you know you’re really doing something right.
- What three words would you use to describe yourself?
Adaptable. Driven. Loyal.
- At what age did you first know you had the voice and singing would be your future?
I was singing before I could speak, honestly. I grew up in a very musical household, so the awareness of having a voice came quite early. It was probably in early high school that I knew singing would be a major part of my future. It wasn’t until college that I really thought performing full-time might be an option. And I didn’t decide to take the plunge fully and move to New York until shortly before I graduated. But once I arrived here and got a taste of this life, I knew I was in it for the long haul.
- Who has been your biggest personal inspiration?
My parents, definitely. My mom is a professional pianist and music teacher and has always been known for excellence in what she does. I’ve always been proud to be known as Teresa’s son. And my dad was just the picture of a loving hard-working husband and father. He taught me to take care of those I love and not to let unimportant things cause me grief. They both have given me such incredible examples to follow and their love and support inspire me through every step of my life.
- Which Broadway show are you most looking forward to seeing this season?
I’m a person who loves to see everything I possibly can, so this past year-and-a-half has been rough. I ended up seeing a lot more television since I didn’t have theater to fill that need. But I’m so excited to be filling my calendar again! I’d say my most eagerly anticipated shows are The Music Man, Company, and Mrs. Doubtfire.
- Is there a show or role you’d most like to perform?
Again, there are so many! I’m a bass, so the roles I can play in contemporary shows are few and far between. For some reason composers have decided we don’t exist. But we do! Write for young basses! Roles I’d love to play now would be Patrick in Mame and Bert in Mary Poppins. Once I’ve matured enough I hope to play all the great men like Harold Hill and Emile DeBeque. But I have a feeling basses are due for a resurgence in popularity. There are gonna be some awesome new bass roles soon – fingers crossed!
- What is it about New York?
That is the question. It’s the energy, which I’m so glad is coming back. It’s the sheer amount of live performance that goes on here every single day. It’s the dichotomy of being out, meeting people, pushing through crowds, and then going home to your apartment where you can just curl up into an introverted ball. It’s the fact that, as big as this city is, as many thousands of people as you may pass in a day, it’s uncanny how often you run into people you know. New York is where it’s at and I love it.
- What do you love most about being back live on stage?
I’m most excited to see and sing for my audience again! I have so many wonderful supporters and friends who come to my shows and I haven’t seen most of them in a year-and-a-half. I think it’s going to be an amazing, cathartic night, especially for those who were with me for my last show on March 6, 2020. For many of them, that was the last performance they saw, so to come back and kind of bookend that with me is going to be really special.
Thanks, Mark, for sharing fifteen minutes with us and for keeping the mid-century classics and style alive for the audiences of today!
Mark William: Back with a Beat plays Saturday, September 25, 7 pm, at The Green Room 42, in the YOTEL, 570 Tenth Avenue, 4th floor, NYC. For tickets, priced at $39-89, call (646) 707-2990, or go online.