Bruce Kimmel: Hello, Doug Storm, and welcome to haineshisway.com, which will soon be the most popular site on all the internet. Let's start at the top: Tell us a bit about you as a tad of a lad of a sprig of a youth. Where did you grow up, were you a strange child, you know, a little background on your very own self.
Doug Storm: Was I EVER a strange child. I would love to tell you a bit about it, but lucky for me our judicial system seals records for all juveniles. But I did "make headlines" when I was born in a very small corn town in the Midwest. I was born on Abraham Lincoln's birthday, in Lincoln, Illinois, in Lincoln Memorial hospital. Weird enough? J.P.Dougherty, who was "Thenardier" on the 3rd Nat. of Les Miz when I started out on the road, is also from Lincoln. (J.P. is now the standby for Harvey Firestein in Hairspray) Our mothers used to work together on the community theater board of directors or something like that. Small world.
BK: When did you first begin to discover musical theater. And when did it first hit you that you wanted to be part of it.
DS: Well, my mom was a piano teacher, but she also taught school when I was little. So I got stuck in her Christmas pageants as a toddler. I got up to sing "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" and had never seen a microphone before (I was about 4 or 5). Needless to say as soon as I heard the volume on that sucker it was all over. Never give a 5 year old a feeling of power. I stuck it in my mouth and started roaring like a lion, or some twisted pre-Rob Zombie heavy metal kindergartner. They had to drag me off stage. The crowd went wild. The monster was born in that instant. Children have an uncanny ability to go limp like a protester at an anti-war rally, and I perfected it.
BK: Did you major in theater in college? If not, when did you start to pursue a career with earnest?
DS: I majored in opera in college, but that was a huge mistake. I had been performing professionally since about age 10. My first pro job was at the MUNY in St.Louis in Hans Christian Anderson with Larry Kert who was the original "Tony" in West Side Story. (I feel I have to explain this because most kids now don't go any further back with theater history than who originated what role in Rent.) After that there was a whole bunch of commercials for McDonalds, Parker Brothers, more theater, etc. Although I probably shouldn't mention the McDonalds thing since somebody will more than likely include me in their class action suit saying I made them fat. But it bought me a nice cherry red TransAm with T-tops when I was in high school, so keep on shoveling in the Big Macs, tubbie-- Some kid out there needs a Camaro!
BK: Tell us about your very first musical theater job. Where was it, what was it and how was it?
DS: Wow, I guess I should have read this question before I went ahead and rewrote "War & Peace" in response to the last one,huh? That was my first gig in New York, other than working for the mafia at a dinner theater in Jersey. We got paid in cash and it was more like "lunch theater" for the nursing home set. You'd think that would be sweet, but man those bitties were hollerin' at the stage like it was the Rocky Horror Show: "We can't hear you!" or "Can I get a refill on my tea?"
BK: Okay, so there you are, ready to take Broadway by Storm - how did you get your first break in the big city known as New York, New York?
DS: See question 4 which refers to question 3. But to do the Cliff Notes version: my first New York vocal coach Steve Lutvak pointed me in all the right directions. Without him, I wouldn't have known where to start. And then of course there's Liz Marx, formerly of the former Johnson-Liff casting office, and former Associate Producer Richard Jay-Alexander. Formerly of the former. (Fortunately form follows function.) They made my dream come true: Les Miserables. I am forever in their debt for the career that I have had now for the past almost 10 years. Les Miz was really the only thing on my resume for a while, and it opened every door in town. It may seem tired now, but back then if you had been in Les Miz people knew you could sing your ass off. AND that you could do it eight times a week.
BK: Now, Doug Storm, you have been in quite a few of these newfangled musicals. In fact, you are currently in a new fangled musical with an emphasis on the fang. But we'll get to that in a moment. At what point did you join the Broadway company of Les Miz? How was that experience. Who puts the replacements into the show. Did Trevor Nunn ever pay a visit while you were doing it?
DS: Following up now on question 6! Am I psychic or do I just talk too much? Les Miz was still under 5 years old when I joined. It was fresh. People were still seeing it for the first time, but people were also seeing it for the fiftieth. One town in Minnesota was so happy to have the tour there the mayor gave the key to the city and declared it "Les Miserables week". Everywhere we went with our cast jackets on people stopped us to talk about the show. It was magic. I was a cast-jacket stalker once.
BK: You were also in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Were you in all versions or just some versions. That show will probably go down in musical theater history for being the show that refused to go anywhere and also the show that went through the most metamorphoses. Tell us a bit how that roller coaster ride was.
DS: Pimpernel was my first real "rehearsal process", even though it wasn't quite building a piece from the ground up. The show had been running for not quite a year at that point. (Bill Bowers originated the role of "Leggett" in version one) I was in the original cast of version two, when Robert Longbottom came in with his assistants Tom and Darlene and restructured everything. He really turned it around, man.
BK: You also did Mr. Frank Wildhorn's The Civil War. How involved in everything is Mr. Frank Wildhorn? Does he pretty much ride herd over everything, or does he give the other creative staff their head?
DS: Ah... good military segue from the "General" comment.
BK: Tell us a bit about Mr. Terrence Mann's Romeo and Juliet. Was it different from Mr. William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?
DS: This piece is so kick ass. It is a crime it hasn't gone to Broadway yet. Terry has managed to take the beauty of Shakespeare and put it word for word to music. It's AWESOME! Now if they could get Baz Luhrman to stage it like his film, since he's Mr. Broadway now with La Boheme, THAT would be perfect, Terry and Baz co-directing. Keep your ear to the ground cuz Terry Mann's Romeo & Juliet is gonna run over everything one of these days. I hope I'm old enough to do "Friar Lawrence" when it does. "Tybalt" was cool, bit the role is more like, "Tyd-bit".
BK: All right, you, Doug Storm, have been an actual backup singer for the actual Linda Eder in many venues. What does that entail - obviously you are singing backup, but how much work is it, who directs her act, how active are the backup singers and is Miss Linda Eder nice to sing backup for?
DS: As much work as I have done for Frank on several projects, the only time I got to sing backup for Linda was for her PBS special about 6 years ago, and that is STILL airing. Very little rehearsal. My buddy Dave Clemmons, a former "Jean Valjean" who is now a casting director, was in charge of vocal directing the backup singers. We were all Wildhorn World regulars so it was more like "here's the set, here's where you stand, we'll run through it once and then you can go to the green room and drink wine for 2 hours till we start taping".
Linda is so fantastic. I was at their wedding a few years ago. Here it was her special day, and my little interaction with her then made me feel so special. Entertainment Tonight cameras and people way more important than me were all over the place. But Linda, I'm pretty sure, spoke to every single guest at that wedding. It sure seemed like it. And when she is talking to you her focus is on you. Not like most people who also scan the room at the same time to see who they may be missing. She's the genuine article. If you've never heard her sing live, you've never had an aural orgasm.
BK: Doug Storm, you went to Las Vegas and originated the role of Quasimodo in the US premiere of Notre Dame de Paris. I have the DVD of it, and I must say I watched only the first few minutes and then got tired and went to bed. The next morning, I got up to go to the bathroom and passed out on my way - my head actually went through the wall in my hallway. I was fine (got up too fast was the theory) but forever thereafter I blamed the incident on Notre Dame de Paris. Tell us about the show - did you do it in English? It's a huge production, I gather - will it come to Broadway? Did you gamble away your entire salary?
DS: I'm not a gambler. But I came back from Vegas with no money at all. Let's leave it at that. That place will eat you.
Notre Dame de Paris. Musically beautiful. Fun to look at for a little while. Not enough book to pull off the storytelling. Here's the delicate balance again. Dance of the Vampires was changed too much from its European incarnation while Notre Dame de Paris wasn't changed enough. I pulled teeth with the French director to get them to let me actually ride the bell as "Quasimodo'. If it wasn't done in Paris, they didn't want it. Our American producers' hands were tied. The French felt that it was such an enormous hit in Paris that it shouldn't have to be changed for American audiences. I respect their feelings of artistic integrity, and I adore eccentric personalities, but things always have to be tweaked and fixed. It's hard to differentiate between ego and integrity sometimes. The Frenchies were rightfully proud of their success in Paris. However, Vegas could have been the place to try new things with Notre Dame before bringing it to New York. It was like Cirque du Soleil performing Les Miz. It was so powerful at points, and so musically beautiful, but there's no room for crying and dying in Vegas. All they want there is tits and feathers. I loved it. Our dancers were the most amazing ensemble I've EVER worked with, and that says a lot because every single cast I've ever been in has almost had an entire ensemble of principle quality players.
If Bat Boy's rehearsal process was the most rewarding creative process, then performing in Notre Dame was the most rewarding process of not creating - but being. I learned how to let my gifts go unbridled with that show and to just simply take the ride. Total method acting. I was so into that piece there were nights I don't even remember doing the show. It was also a period of great sadness in my personal life, so to play such a tortured character every night was cathartic and therapeutic. I hope it will have a life again. With the right changes it could be beautiful. I'd like to tackle it again with my own personal changes intact. It'd be one hell of a ride now.
BK: We then get to the cult favorite Bat Boy: The Musical. Were you in it in Los Angeles or did you join the company in New York? You worked with one of our favorite people, Miss Kerry Butler who, by the way, was the very first haineshisway.com Unseemly Interview victim. Tell us about Bat Boy.
DS: Ah, Kerry. I had to fight her off with a stick every night, the little vixen! Hardly. She is quite possibly the nicest actress on Broadway. I have NEVER heard her say a bad word about anyone, and you know how caddy we actors can get.
BK: How did you like working with Mr. Scott Schwartz? Hold nothing back. I sat in his house seats when I saw the show - just an fyi.
DS: It was really awesome. I first met Scott socially the summer of '99 right before the first NY Bat Boy workshop. We never talked work, and I actually didn't know who his dad was until right before I auditioned for him for the workshop. So I sang one of his dad's songs. ("Proud Lady" from The Baker's Wife - which, incidentally, I hear all Equity cards are now being revoked from anyone who uses this song in an audition anymore. Not because it's not good, but the opposite: it's OVERDONE.)
The workshop of Bat Boy was a sort of free-for-all. Nobody really knew yet what the piece was supposed to be, really. It was this great organic swirl of creativity that emanated from everyone. And Scott is the perfect kind of director in that he allowed that individuality to thrive while still maintaining a hold on the reigns and a destination on the distant horizon. Much of Bat Boy's structure and character layering came from that first process. It was probably the most artistically rewarding experience of my life.
Poor Scott had his work cut out for him then once it went into full production. Most of us who had been there from the beginning (wild man, here, being the chief offender) took a little getting used to now being in a real work environment instead of "hey everybody! We've got a tabloid, a theater space, a prop bong, and a little bit of cash to toss around... let's do a play!"
You would have thought people were told to sacrifice their first-born to Caesar when the cast was told "no more ad-libbing". But that sort of control was welcome in Scott's hands. He has a wonderful way of dealing with actors and coddling their spoiled egos, but still getting his point across with everyone coming out feeling great. If I could work with Scott Schwartz on every show I would.
BK: Bat Boy, like other shows, seems to have been a victim of Sept. 11th. Do you think the show would have run had that horrid event not happened, or do you think its demise was inevitable given the off-Broadway climate these days?
DS: Having the inside scoop, I know that there was some serious effort to move Bat Boy uptown. It almost happened. I think it would have given Urinetown a good run for it's money, and that my roommate, and best buddy, Deven May would have a Tony Award sitting on top of the fireplace now.
The failure of any show, or success for that matter, is hinged on a great many things. There are many great pieces of art that never have a life, while there is some real crap that runs for years and years. September 11th, had a great bearing on all theater in the city. It was certainly the nail in the coffin for Bat Boy right as the momentum was on an upswing. A Broadway show has to bolt right out of the gate as soon as it opens. Off-Broadway needs time to cultivate word of mouth and a following. 9/11 happened right as all that was falling into place.
It's hard to feel sorry for losing your silly job playing make-believe though, when somewhere right now over a year later, at this very instant, you know that a little girl or boy is missing their daddy.
BK: All right, Doug Storm, we now must talk about your current show, Dance of the Vampires. There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding this production and we will not shy away from asking strong probing questions which will also be probing strong questions. I gather this production is quite different to the one in Vienna and I understand Mr. Jim Steinman is not so happy about it.
DS: Current show? Wow I did take a while to send these questions back answered, didn't I? I can't comment on the Vienna/Stuttgart productions, as I have only seen video of them. And it is no secret that Jim was disappointed. We all were. Feel free to probe. Everyone got probed in the worst way with this one.
BK: Whose idea was it for the change in tone? How was the creative team to work with. I know John Rando was caring for his mother who ultimately passed away during previews. Was that whole thing difficult?
DS: When theater gets to the level of Broadway, the amount of input from all directions is staggering. Remember there are millions of dollars involved. It's all corporate.
I think Michael got a lot of bad press and was called a "temperamental star" by some asshole newspaper writer at some point. That is so not the case. Sure he had input. He's a big star. His name is above the title. His name alone is a commodity. And he's worked in this industry and paid his dues far before non-theater people across America were listening to him do Phantom of the Opera. He should have input in his projects.
And Rando's mother passing and the time of illness prior to the passing were of course devastating. But as I said answering about Bat Boy, a show's success or failure depends on many things. The change in tone came from many places. Vampires needed more time to settle and figure out what it was, really.
Picture Emeril, the Iron Chef, Martha Stewart, and Julia Childs all trying to cook Thanksgiving dinner on an Easy-Bake Oven. So many talents, so many ideas, so little time. Vamps should have played out of town first to iron out the kinks. Same thing happened with Pimpernel. Shows like Billy Joel's Movin' Out get slaughtered out of town and then end up with lines around the block once they get here.
On paper it was the perfect team. Huge star. Fresh Tony-winning director. Legendary rock composer. All the elements were there. But diving right into such an undertaking with no room for experimentation was wrong. It was trying to put together a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle while using a Yatzee timer.
Big lessons are often expensive in all aspects of life, take my ex-wife for example...
BK: Let's talk about the Internet for a moment. I'm of the opinion that the Internet has become a very unhealthy thing for musical theater. You've got all these know-it-alls (most of them barely out of high school) offering their "reviews" of shows and people are taking them seriously! I mean, it's madness really. That, and people from the production sending people online to say good things, and it's just out of control and ridiculous. What do you think about all that, how does it affect company morale?
DS: Your website doesn't seem unhealthy for musical theater.
The people online who were gloating over the failure of Dance of the Vampires, even before it opened, are pitiful losers, and inconsiderate of the fact that there are people needing that job to support their families. Nobody in any company I've ever worked for cares what those people say.Why somebody would think it's normal to be bitchy and bitter and overly critical of shows and personal performances is beyond me. Anonymity online should not negate kindness and acceptance. It's like a contest to see who can have the wittiest slam. I see regular journalists playing that one-up game too.
In an industry where alternative lifestyles prevail, you would think that most people discussing theater wouId be more accepting of shows outside their taste. I want every show to succeed. I want every theater on Broadway to be full of shows, whether they are my taste or not. I want there to be a job for every single one of my friends. I've even got a few enemies I'd pay full price to see perform.
But the internet as a whole is a cesspool of rumor and negativity, so lets concentrate on the positive.
THEREFORE - if there had been the internet that we have today, I think I would have found my direction much sooner in life. I would have known there were other kids out there into the same things I was into. Giving reviews online is great, to a point. The sense of community can be fantastic.
So if the internet gets the word out to middle America about theater, and sells tickets for the tours, or even for the community production of The Fantastics in my blessed Corntown, Illinois, GREAT.
Lead singer Paul Stanley came to see Notre Dame de Paris. (Bat Boy's Kaitlyn Hopkins was a bridesmaid at his wedding.) The next night we sat in his personal house seats for the very last Vegas KISS concert with the original four members in full classic KISS make-up. I lost it. My first rock & roll album ever was KISS:DESTROYER. At seven-years-old I'd alternate between that and John Williams' score for Star Wars. French horns and electric guitars, what a marriage. Anyway, we talked at dinner, after the concert, about how they really brought theatrics to the stage (characters, the make-up, choreography). We talked about Paul's experience playing "The Phantom" in Toronto, and many other subjects.
The one thing he said that will stick with me forever is this: "Without the fans, we wouldn't have our life. None of this would have happened, no matter how good we were".
Now, I'm just some unknown actor trying to squeak it out, and I've somehow gotten a little fan club online. I love it when they're waiting outside the stage door. I love every single one of them, and their opinions. The public has a voice.
Free speech used to come from the media. Now even that is a tool for social manipulation, by political writers, columnists, savvy advertisers, even theatrical reviewers, all with their own personal agenda trying to herd the masses like sheep. The internet is the great equalizer. Now that it is being incorporated into everyday life more and more, Andy Warhol may have been right. We all may very well have 15 minutes of fame after all. I just hope mine isn't singing "Like a Virgin" with bad lighting in a hotel ballroom during first-round audition cuts for season #16 of American Idol:The Golden Years.
BK: You're working with Mr. Michael Crawford. Mr. Crawford's fan club are legion, and they regularly send people to websites to combat and castigate anybody who says an unkind word. What do you think about that whole crazy fan thing. How does Mr. Crawford deal with it - it must be crazy at the theater on certain nights.
DS: WOW! I've never been in a show that needed police barricades. REALLY needed them! The guy could have gotten crushed. A friend of mine, Joanna, almost did one night. I had to pull her out of the crush since security didn't believe she was there to say hi to me. Another night I couldn't even get out of the stage door area to go home. The fans wouldn't make any space for the cast to exit because Michael was right there, less than 10 feet away! I got really irritated when this woman who said "I just have to get this autograph" actually moved more INTO my way instead of letting us exit. I felt like such a pile of crap later for being irritable and judgmental about her. The look in her eyes at being so close to someone she idolized reminded me of how I was whenever I thought of Les Miz as a kid. Hell, as I felt about it as an adult! She would have died to have had dinner with Michael Crawford like I got to have, treated as a peer, with Paul Stanley and Terrence Mann.
Next time that happens I'll go back inside and sit for a few minutes remembering that there are some things more important than my selfish ass getting home after a show to watch Shipmates or play Playstation. I hope she got her autograph. I wish I would have gotten it for her.
BK: Here is a guest question for Mr. Michael Crawford. Tell him it's from me - Hello, Mr. Michael Crawford - how are you enjoying Dance of the Vampires? Everyone at haineshisway.com sends their best to you. I'll be seeing the show in a couple of weeks and am looking forward to it.
DS: Michael says hi and wants to borrow 5 bucks.
BK: What's next for you Doug Storm?
DS: I'M GOIN' TO DISNEYLAND! (I hear they're hiring.)
BK: Here's a question we like to ask everyone: If you could have any musical revived, what would it be and what part would you want to play and why?
DS: I would like to play "Effie" in Dreamgirls. When I saw Jennifer Holliday do that I was 10. Man, the audience gave her a standing ovation when she STARTED the song! People were on their feet in the isles, in tears, cheering, you name it. I've never seen anyone affect an audience that way, and I have been lucky to work with some huge stars. "Effie" might be a stretch for me being skinny, white, and male, but I love a good challenge. Non-traditional casting is so PC these days, why not? EQUAL OPPORTUNITY!!! If not, I'd like to revisit Oliver, or Sound of Music with all the kids played by adults like in Blood Brothers. Now THAT'S cutting edge theater.
BK: What do you think of these big huge Euro musicals? Do you think they are healthy for Broadway? Would you like to see more traditional American book musicals done?
DS: Dude, I want to see it ALL done. Revive the classics. Bring out the avant-garde. Bring on the Eurotrash! Anything that gets asses in the seats and perpetuates our industry. We're seeing society get more enthralled with it every day with shows like "The It Factor" and "American Idol" showing the audition process, and then even more with movies like Moulin Rouge and Chicago hitting the screens. Wait until you see The Pussycat Dolls! If you haven't heard of them you will. It's Cabaret and Chicago in real life! Theater ain't nerdy any more, and it's not all Julie Andrews spinning on a mountaintop, but man I love it when it is.
BK: What are your favorite classic musicals?
DS: Carousel, by far. I love a good story of a badass with his heart in his hand. Then of course there's Sweeny Todd, a badass with someone else's heart in his hand... I like that too.
BK: Well, Doug Storm, you have been delightful, and we offer you a toast of the official haineshisway.com beverage, Diet Coke, and also the official food of haineshisway.com, cheese slices and ham chunks, and we also dance the official dance of haineshisway.com, the Hora, in your honor. Any last words?
DS: YUM! Cheese slices and ham chunks with Diet Coke... you add a little Bacardi and an ashtray to the menu and I'll join the staff. I'll bring my Tivo stuffed with every South Park episode to the office. And we can count how many times I used the word "ass" in this interview while we watch! Thanks for paying attention to me.
For more information about Doug Storm, visit him online at www.dougstorm.com.