Wisconsin-born actor Barry Anderson will grace the Marcus Center stage this week in the Broadway touring production of Legally Blonde. On Broadway, he portrayed Aaron in the same show.
He has toured nationally in My Fair Lady, Damn Yankees, Where’s Charley? and Honk! Those obsessed with daytime television may also recognize him from a brief appearance on “As The World Turns.” He’s living the dream of many young actors: he’s making a living on stage.
Q: Legally Blonde was obviously an enormously successful movie franchise. Why do you think it was made into a musical, and what sets it apart from the film?
A: There were definitely some skeptics early on. When you watch the movie, there are moments where it seems that characters could (or should) burst into song. The transfer works beautifully. A lot of people have told me that they enjoy the musical better than the film. The story is good, there’s a central character that you root for, and our writers did a great job of adding to the existing story. They beefed up a few of the characters and cut others out to tighten things up. Fans of the movie will recognize all of the main characters and some of the dialogue. In fact, the Bend and Snap is a whole musical number.
Q: On the other side of the fence, what can musical theater fans look forward to if they’re unfamiliar with the film?
A: I tell everybody that it’s got a little something for everybody. It appeals to a broad range of ages. People end up rooting for Elle Woods because she has this huge journey that she goes through. You see her follow a guy to Harvard Law—the only reason she goes there is is to compete with other girls he’s interested in to get him to propose to her. Then she realizes there is more to her than just her Juicy Couture clothing and her looks. She finds out she’s got a brain and she knows how to use it. It’s a good lesson for audiences in general but especially for younger girls. It’s two-and-a-half hours of high energy. The scenes flow seamlessly, and the writing is intelligent and geared toward adults in a savvier audience. Even though it’s dogs and cheerleaders and pop music, it’s other things as well.
Q: How many different characters do you get to play as a member of the ensemble?
A: Wow… it’s really difficult to say. In the first act alone I go from playing a college frat boy to an Admissions Officer at Harvard Law to a student in a law class. Later I show up in a women’s correctional facility jumping rope, then as a bailiff in the courtroom scene…. The ensemble in the show is very busy, which makes the show fly by for us. It keeps things fresh. Also, those of us that understudy go on in the lead roles from time to time. (Barry is the understudy for Emmit.)
A: Theater was something that I always had an interest in as a kid. I did my first show, Peter Pan, when I was 12 through a summer program in Eau Claire. The experience of working on a professional level with adults was an amazing and eye-opening experience for me. After that I did as much theater as I could fit in. During college, I started doing shows during he summer, and that’s where I learned that you could get paid to do it. I thought, well this is something I love to do. I did graduate with a degree in Music Education, which I’m glad to have gotten. After I graduated I did a show in Florida and got hired for a year. I did shows for that company in three different states and just eventually found my way to New York. That’s when I booked the My Fair Lady tour. I just took it upon myself to find as much work as possible. I did get to return to Wisconsin a few years back in a show at the Fireside, and it was nice to be back.
Q: What advice would you give aspiring musical theater talent here in Milwaukee?
A: If it’s what you love to do and there’s nothing you’d rather do more, than by all means pursue it. That is the first step. On the other hand, if you quickly find that you don’t like the business aspect of being a working actor, you can always participate in theater on different levels—community theater, for example. There are those people that find out that this career isn’t for them because there’s just more to it as a vocation. You end up sacrificing a lot, moving away for months at a time. There’s also the rejection on a daily basis. You can go into an audition and give them one-hundred percent of yourself in a 30-second excerpt and then you’re done for the day. If you’re smart, you won’t dwell on it. There are always more auditions. Also, as actors and singers we can never really stop learning the craft of what we do. It’s always a good idea to take a class in auditioning and continually take voice lessons. Get into a dance class. Use the time when you’re not working to keep those skills sharp. You have to know what you do better than everyone else. It can be a challenge to find it, but once you do it will help your confidence and help you learn to give up control over the outcome of those auditions.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: For now, continuing to tour the country. We’ll go from Milwaukee to Appleton, then to Omaha, Cincinatti, Toronto and Virginia.
Legally Blonde will play on the Marcus Center stage from April 13-18. Visit the Marcus Center or call 414-273-7206 for performance schedule and ticket information.