#LiveatFive with Walter Bobbie of SAINT JOAN #LiveatFive with Walter Bobbie of SAINT JOAN

–Hello everyone! Welcome to’s Live at 5:00 it’s Tuesday May 15th I’m Beth Stevens. –And I’m Paul Wontorek.
–And we are here with social media maven Caitlyn Gallip –Hi everyone! –And Mr. Walter
Bobbie is here. –Walter Bobbie is here from Saint Joan –Yes director turned actor –Still director he just
–Does it all and he’s here and we’re not wearing the same
shirt in different shades of blue but we kind of are. We checked it’s not the same shirt.
–Before we get to Mr. Bobbie we’re going to do our top five — –All right so it’s award season did you know that? You
probably knew that if you watch live at 5:00 every day. So we got the Helen Hayes
Award winners today. –Right so Helen Hayes is the Washington DC, fancy Washington DC, right –Every city
Many major cities have their own awards –It’s not we
don’t cover them all like we do the Helen Hayes though.
–For some reason the Helen Hayes is I mean it’s very Broadway adjacent, and especially of note
this year is that Mean Girls won and of course Mean Girls was nominated for a
bunch of Tony’s and Audience Choice Awards And it won outstanding
visiting production. Of course it played there last fall just visiting though and
then Dennis Jones won a Helen Hayes Award for choreographing Crazy for You
that’s signature theater and Louis Salgado who was in In The Heights one
also for Direction choreography of in the heights at gala Hispanic theatre. And
if you look at the site will tell you all the winners –All right it’s also award season did you know? Because frozen is going on tour and we’re very excited
about it. –I don’t know what that has to do with
awards but thank Caitlyn –What she’s saying is because we talked about this yesterday all the shows announced their tours now because it helps get Tony votes. –That’s correct.
–That’s what she means Beth –Anyway
surprising absolutely no one Frozen is going on tour it will launch its North
American touring production in the fall of 2019. So just you gotta wait a little
while. It’s kicking off this is always fun it’s kicking off in Schenectady
t and I said it’s and I can spell it too
–They always go to Schenectady because the theater there’s like really big and they can properly tech it –Fix everythingthey get it right and then it will officially open in LA. Hollywood at the Pantages Theatre in LA. Tour cities,
casting, all of that will be announced later. So if you’re auditioning, get ready.
There’s gonna be an Elsa on the road
— Learn the songs, cast album just came out –Exactly all
right speaking of really great casting we just
got complete casting for GYPSY at the Muni –So we’re kind of obsessed with Beth Leavel
–Totally obsessed –Here at the we love. And Beth of course is playing Rose in Gypsy which is epic aka Mama Rose at the Muni. And we’ve been talking feel
like we always talk about things happening at the MUNI that would
make us wish we were in St. Louis –And we’ve never been there.
–But we’re not we I’ve never been
there either but I want them to do like a
remember I said they should do a New York concert of MUNI highlights at the
end of the summer –So we can get a little piece.
–Anyway so Beth Leavel is not the only good casting in this
show Adam Heller who’s fantastic is playing
her be Juliette Middle who I don’t know is Louise, Haley Pachune dainty June and
oh Ann Harada is Elektra Allen Harvey’s Mazeppa and Jennifer Cody is playing the dual roles of Tessie Tura and Miss Cratchet. And I saw
her play these roles in Cape Cod last summer and she’s worth the flight to St.
Louis alone. Anyway it’s playing from July 27th to August 2nd –Gotta go see
that alright this is leading odds and ends today but
Neil Patrick Harris and a bunch of other fancy people are celebrating the 20th
anniversary of The Laramie Project. –Right so the Laramie Project. I can’t
believe it’s been 20 years but this honors the life and legacy of Matthew
Shepard, who was killed in Laramie Wyoming. And it’s kind of amazing. It’s
gonna be on Monday September 24th at the Gerald Lynch theater at John Jay College
listen to who’s doing this: Neil Patrick Harris, Mary-Louise Parker Billy Porter
and then original members of The Laramie Project company and this Tectonic
Theater Project and that’s the founder and director of
that is Moises Kaufman who will be directing again –And they created it as a theater
group by doing interviews together. Didn’t they go to
–Documentary style telling Matthew Shepard
story right very moving and and very important. I’m excited for that. –Yeah me too
— All right and last but certainly not least we have new casting in Dear Evan Hansen tonight
–Yes so congratulations Alex Boniello. You have taken over the role Connor Murphy I don’t know if you knew that but
you are. You got the theater because you’re in it now. Of course Mike Faist
left the production
— Tony nominee Mike — Tony nominee Mike Faist. I didn’t
want to put the pressure on Alex but you had to add the Tony nominee –Right there
— Of course Connor Murphy very mysterious important role in the show Anyway of course Alex was recently and
Cruel Intentions. He made probably debut as Moritz in the –The deaf west Michael Arden production of Spring Awakening. He was also in the film’s This American Life
Jessica TV show Jessica Jones and Happy-ish Anyway congratulations. Have a first
good show good first show have a good first show. –Take your time really Paul. –That’s my cue.
–That’s your cue it’s been wonderful seeing you but we are going to
be right back with Mr. Walter Bobbie and Caitlyn tell us more about Walter Bobbie –Let’s do it if you don’t already know
Walter Bobby is both an actor and a director of plays and musicals whose
recent directing and credits include Bright Star we love Bright Star here and
Venus in Fur also love that his acting career began in the original cast of
GREASE and spans Shaw’s Getting Married at the Circle in the Square Theatre to
nicely nicely nicely in Guys and Dolls he is formerly the artistic director of
the City Centers Encores and Mr. Bobbie directed the international hit Chicago
right next door and he is the board member of the stage directors and
choreographers Society and a recipient of Drama Desk Outer Critics
Circle and Tony Awards. Send in your questions if you have them. Please do, and
please welcome Beth and Walter. –Hello Walter
–Hi Beth. How are you?
–I am honored to talk to you talk to you I’m a huge fan of yours and
you’re back on stage at MTC doing Saint Joan okay Caitlyn just told everyone who
you are but that doesn’t even like doesn’t mean
cup of service of it so tell us about returning to the stage it’s been
20-something years since you were rocking the boat yeah
— Well 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls Jerry’s Zaks directed Nathan and Faith Prince and I
had the privilege of playing sit nicely nicely Johnson and yes and
during that time I really some wonderful directing opportunities came to me and
actually Jerry in the middle of that great success, gave me a leave of absence
to do a directing gig that came my way,, and so I knew that I wasn’t sort of an
out-of-work actor who wanted a direct I really wanted to –You took a leave of absence for a few weeks you directed –I took
a yes I was offered an opportunity to do a Grand Night for Singing, which is
Rodgers and Hammerstein revue at Rainbow and Stars –And and you left this gigantic
— Well I Jerry gave me a three-week leave of
absence, because Jerry, you know I’ve known Jerry since Grease. We were both
actors yeah so we’ve known each other since early 70s. And I think he knew how
important this was to me. And he gave me –As an actor turned director –As an actor turned director. And these
opportunities it’s hard to reidentify yourself, the business gets used to who
you are. And Jerry very generously gave me a leave of absence
for some reason every major critic came to that review and said oh he’s a
director. And suddenly I was the artistic director of Wncores and Jerry Zaks was
starred in my first production Fiorello and so it happened. When it when my directing
career happened, although it was long for for a while, it happened in New York with
the very best people and it was a very privileged evolution I think for me –So
what made you want to get back on stage as an actor –I’ve been thinking in recent
years. Gee, I’d like to try it again to see what it’s like. And I let casting
directors know that. I’m not dying to get back, but if something came up and out of
the blue Dan Sullivan and Lynn Meadow called, me which is a very good
combination, very good call, with Shaw’s Saint Joan.
So it wasn’t… you know some other things have come along the way, but I wasn’t
gonna move my schedule to do them. This was it was perfect timing. Sublime I look I read the cast list, headed by Condola Rashad. And I’ve
directed some of the actors in the show, I’ve worked with both of the designers
Jade Greenwood and Scott Pask, so and I’ve had great success at. Last time actually
was on stage was in David Ives’ Polish Joke at Manhattan Theatre Club –Wow
and then you directed Venus in Fur –I’ve directed a lot with David but
we that was a wonderful John Rando called,
and they had lost somebody, and I was free, and I came down and had a ball! But I haven’t done a play since then.
–So tell me about stepping on stage again in those red robes you get
to wear in the beautiful costume. –I wanted to see if I could do it again, and
I thought if Dan Sullivan thinks I can, I should, I should say yes to this
opportunity. It seemed to me great. And I love Shaw, and it was an opportunity to
do a really muscular play, filled with ideas, and wit, with an extraordinary cast.
Everywhere you look on that stage… and most of my stuff is with Patrick Paige,
Bob Stanton, and my dear new friend Jack Davenport,
–Who’s making his debut. –He’s making his debut
–Of couse he’s been on stage a lot in the UK
–Yes so it seemed it seemed a gift. –That’s wonderful. And your back. It feels good to have you doing a different kind of role — –Yes it does I I think I
wouldn’t have done it if it was a musical for some reason, but this seemed
like a great opportunity to see if I can memorize again –Right that’s a big task and you know –It is a big task in Shaw –The text is good if it’s Shaw so you have no problem with that. Let’s talk about you’re
at the beginning of your interest in theater. So I read that you didn’t see a
lot of theater growing up in Scranton Pennsylvania.
What is what sparked your interest? –You know, I was a group in Scranton and
then we moved to New Jersey. And I remember that my dad
got me a hi-fi stereo for…I was in the eighth grade for Christmas. And along
with it three albums . One of them was Oklahoma. And I had no idea why I played
it over and over. It was the soundtrack, wasn’t the original cast album. And I
played it over and over and over and I just thought what is this? And I started
to get more cast albums. And I found myself really you know you put three
different toys on the floor and you watch which one the child picks up, and I
picked them. And then when I was in college, I came to New York to see the
World’s Fair. And while I was in town, I saw two Broadway shows in one day. I saw
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and I practically had to
hold myself in the chair I was excited and then I saw the Glass Menagerie with Maureen
Stapleton –Well that’s a range right there –And I just went this is it. You
know as I was a business and then English philosophy major in college, but that day I just went that’s what I want to do and I’m gonna go to
New York naively and do that. And then I went to graduate school in
theater at Catholic University of America. And I came to New York and I
just started auditioning –So having been at Catholic University of America and
being in Saint Joan tell me how that matches up if anything? –Well I know how
to wear the gown I’ll tell you that! Also I went to a Jesuit school, so putting on a
cassock, a gown, anything. In fact the last time I did Shaw, I did an optically
good show, a play called Getting Married at Circle in the Square back in 1980, I
believe. And I was also a cleric in that so I’m either you know in a plaid suit
singing and dancing orcleric. That’s my range. –Those are the two headshots you offer up
–Or a greaser. It’s an odd career Grom the mooning champ of
Rydell High to the Bishop of Beauvais in medieval France, it’s quite a range.
— I mean really that’s amazing –Now of course everyone who talks to you
has to talk about Chicago. It’s monster hit, has been out over 20 years
now. We’re right next door in Chicago. We watch them line up for it
every day. Why do you think it’s such a big hit? Because the original production
was not –I think I remember I was reading I was the artistic director at the time
and I was reading of Encores, yes, and I was reading about what I wanted to
do in the next season, and watching the OJ trial at the same time, and going oh
my god this feels like you know –Getting away with murder! –Yeah it felt it felt newly-minted.
And I think what Fosse and Kander and Ebb originally wrote as an indictment of
the American of America basically and turned into a documentary. And so I felt
that it it felt fresh to me and it felt current. And I think that’s the enduring
interesting part of the show is it it is not only a seductive toe-tapper with a
glorious score, but it’s about something, and it’s about you know the abuse of
celebrity in America. It’s about getting away with murder, basically, one of our
favorite topics in a topic that internationally has it’s worked
everywhere. –It resonates everywhere
–Yes because people get away with murder
–Plus it’s very sexy Yeah because Fosse and those William Ivey Long barely there costumes –Yes
we got rid of all that stuff cuz William Ivey I said I want you to dress
everybody. I said let’s celebrate dancers because Fosse loved dancers. He was the
first one to make dancers sing and carry all the lines if you know back in
the 60s, there was a singing chorus, there was a dancing chorus. In a Fossa show you
had to be able to do everything.=And I said let’s just put them
dress them as dances and put them in for these two favorite colors, which are
black and flesh. [laughs]
–And he ran with that and did a superb job –And they never leave the stage. They never leave the stage, they
never dress up like lawyers or journalist or –Which, if you look at you know footage of the original production they’re out there in –Yes, we just we just took
everything away, and and I just and and and all of us, John Lee Baty, we just took everything away. And what was left was was plenty –And you’ve had Bebe Neuwirth in
three different roles
–I’ve had Bebe Neuwirth in three different roles. And now we have a Ruthie Henshall in three different roles –I really think that these ladies could do Billy Flynn just
consider it, think about it –There was a there was a moment where we thought of putting a rather famous celebrity in in the role of Billy Flynn.
And Fred Ebb wrote a lyric called we want Billy from a chorus of men singing to a
female Billy that’s hilarious I have it in my files. –We’re gonna take some questions from
from you guys
–Yes we are now because I know you have a lot of them so let’s
–All right Abby wants to know how has directing changed your perspective
as an actor? –You know I don’t…the interesting thing is once I say that I’m
going to act, I forget about directing. Once I say I’m you know Dan Sullivan’s
in charge –You don’t have a director’s mind –No. I let it go. I think it’s important to
let it go and also there’s so much your job as a director is very wide. You have
to deal with the with the themes, the the the setting, the costumes, the lighting
and it’s a very big job but your job as an actor is narrow but deep. And your
job is to dive and to trust everything else is going on. I remember when I was
doing Polish Joke I David Ives and John Rando are friends of mine, the writer and
the director. I wouldn’t even go to lunch with them. I said you have to go and talk
about me and talk about what I’m doing you know you I just I let it go.
And I learned that actually from Jerry. Jerry was a four time Tony award-winning
director, and when he did Fiorello for me, he dropped all of that. And I remember
after the first day of the rehearsal, he said, you’re gonna be okay It’s wonderful –Both of you have that
facility to be a director, and then be an actor and then go back to directing
it’s not something everyone can do. –No. I you know I’m very privileged
in that regard. And that people have in the business have allowed at a very
very high level I have to say –Did Jerry give you any advice when you started to direct because he had directed before you did –No, I think I’ve had the good fortune to work with very good directors as an
actor so I was always in class, you know with Jerry Gutierrez. So Jerry’s Zaks, or
Dan Sullivan, I mean the list is quite extraordinary. –So you’re taking notes –I was, I was I was watching. I mean one of my first jobs in the city was the
understudy of the Grass Harp with Barbra Cook. And there was Ellis Rabb. And I was
understudying, so all I could do is watch this master of American directing, and
acting. So I’ve always been in class without having to pay for it –Very lucky. Can we talk about something that might be a sore spot? –what? –Your Broadway debut. –Oh it’s not a sore spot. I –Your Broadway debut closed on opening night.
–It is the only theater poster I have. I have I
don’t –It is called Fred Merrywell
–It’s called Frank Merrywell It opened and closed in one night. And it’s the only theater poster I… I did a ton of..
not terrible, not terrible, but unsuccessful shows back in the 70s.
And I remember walking into my apartment one night and seeing it. It looked like Joe
Allen’s wall and I just took them all off the wall, and I threw them in the
garbage. I thought I don’t want to celebrate..I kept getting jobs, but
my first Broadway show was called Frank Merriwell, and it lasted one night, and I
was not in fact my first off-broadway show was called Drat. Me and Bonnie
Franklin, the late dear Bonnie Franklin, in a show produced by Barn
Woodward, who were at the same time you know doing Sweeney Todd and anyway
and it closed in one night in fact the producers came to me Wednesday before we opened, and they said we’re gonna close the show on opening and it’s not your
fault. And they offered me another job that night, so I
closed Drat and I became the understudy for for the Grass Harp a day
later. –This doesn’t happen that often
anymore –Doesn’t happen that often anymore, no. –But you know I’m sorry go on.
We have more questions. I just –We have great questions. Elise wants to know what is the most challenging part about being in Saint Joan –The most challenging part?
I find it all very invigorating. The challenge for me was memorizing the
script, so that I could get to Shaw’s ideas. There’s no way to act, you
know, Shakespeare or any kind of muscular language that you you can’t really get
to what the play is about, what the ideas are, until you have ownership of the
words. You can do contemporary play and improvise your way through, but when you
get lost, if you have a sentence that goes on and on endlessly with
subordinate clauses, and God knows what, and you go you’re good and you go I know
there’s a verb coming up here somewhere… But unless you have ownership of that,
you can’t begin to deal with the the very vigorous debate that happens
between most, especially Jack Davenport and myself, and the ideas that Shaw is
bringing into incredible collision in this play. So I think the big hurdle for
me, not having memorized a dense text in a while, was getting past that, so that I
could actually get to my acting. And and as I like to say listen better,
you know, or listen faster as opposed to thinking of what I have to say next. –All
right David wants to know if you have a dream role to perform and a dream script
to direct? –Excellent questions
–You know my dream role, and I’m sorry I never went
somewhere, I should have just gone to you know… anywhere at some point and just
gotten Music Man out of my system. That was one of those albums when I got
it I just I destroyed it. Putting the needle back on Trouble, you know just
trying to memorize that. And did. my dream, I don’t, I don’t know what I
think the the dream project for me is what I is always been what I need to
learn next. I’ve had the opportunity to it’s just like doing this. It’s so
unusual. I couldn’t have imagined something like Bright Star coming into
my life. And the idea of spending several years with Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. Even though the show wasn’t a commercial success, creatively and as a piece of
development, it was so deeply satisfying. So that’s what I’m looking for is
the next… There’s a lot of stuff out there a lot of stuff that comes my way
that doesn’t really interest me. And frankly at my age, I try to
choose wisely because, especially with new musicals, it’s three or four years.
You have to say you mean it for quite some time –Is there an actor you’d like to direct? –Oh there’s so many.
Oh there are so many actors that I love and admire, and actors I’ve worked with
before that I’d love to work with again you know. I want to work with the the
entire cast of Saint Joan, and I want to direct yeah all of them they’re all so
good I’m so happy that I have directed you know John Glover and Adam
Chanler who was splendid. We did a concert of Zorba at Encores a few years ago. He’s a superb actor and and a good fellow. So it’s hard to name
names because I’m surrounded by such great talent all the time. So to say
who’s my favorite, who’s the best, In fact, you know what
happened to me? I always wanted to direct and people said oh you should direct and then when Encores came to me and offered me the first show, I
called all those people because I had been that my my good fortune was when
they offered me a Fiorello, I had been working in the Broadway theatre for 25
years so I opened the phone book and I called Phil Bosco and Donna
McKechnie I called everybody and I said would you
show up for me? And they did. So I was blessed with having a phonebook that was
25 years old on Broadway, and a career so that when the opportunity to direct came
my way, I was working, I was ready and I was
working with the very best… I was working with William Ivey Long. You know
Johnny Beatty and and I was I was showcasing –Does the original cast of
–We’re still in touch You know, I think that any of those
companies would I bet –That’s such a special show for so many people –What
— That’s true that original cast in general will there’s something special about them –Yeah and there’s something about you know I bet the entire original cast of
Natasha and Pierre will never lose track of each other. –Half of they all got their equity cards together you know? And when you’re in a show where everybody’s a peer. There are no senior
actors, there’s no stars, you’re a gang. And we’re still in touch with each other.
I mean I was at Tom Moore, the director’s lake house with Jim Canning last summer
wife, and Adrienne Barbeau came over all –All the Greasers are together –Yeah dinner
with Barry Bostwick when I was out in LA. You can’t lose there’s something you
bond in a way. I bet all the Godspell people know Godspell know where
they are, In the Heights, I’m sure all together young people together we’re all
the same age where none of us are stars and we’re in it this giant hit no one’s
calling you and asking you to direct them in something now what are they
calling you and asking you to direct them in something my job but I’ve called
them okay we have time for one more question Kaitlin all right last question
you have such great stories any plans to write them down in a biography or
autobiography oh I don’t think so but if I do it’ll be called I wish I had
moisturised moisturise I don’t know I I make little
notes in my head I enjoyed I enjoyed passing things along stories along I
don’t know if I write anything well you’ve already thought appetite also I
think yeah that was a joke thank you for coming
thanks for inviting me see st. Joan at the Samuel Freeman theatre starring can
deliver shots markable young wonderful condolence shot
Tony nominee Jodie nominate fourth time child about four of them god oh it’s
wonderful and all right thank you all so much for watching live at five today as
always you can listen to this wonderful interview as well as all of our others
on the live at five podcast just go to Apple search live at five you’ll find us
I’m join us tomorrow as we are joined by another amazing guest you

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