Actor Earl Gregory stars as the Baker in Stephen Sondheim’s classic adult fairytale Into The Woods which is showing at Theatre On The Bay. Earl made his professional stage debut as the title character in Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, winning a Naledi Award for best male newcomer. He also played the roles of Tugger in an international touring company of CATS, and Seaweed in Hairspray.
Having recently returned from the Evita world tour, Earl met with The Pink Tongue and shared some of his insight into what makes Into The Woods a cult classic and a sexy beast of a musical.
What sort of person is going to love Into The Woods?
I know for a fact that the Sondheim aficionado’s in the country are going to love it. That being said you don’t need to be an expert in Sondheim to enjoy his music. It has a way of resonating with you whether you want it to or not.
What’s challenging about bringing this script to life?
The most challenging part is something very simple, and that is diction. The songs are very wordy and they move at an alarming pace. So as an actor you really have to bite into the text so much harder otherwise a lot of the story simply gets lost.
Why did you want to be involved in this production?
When I was a student at Technikon Pretoria it was one of the scores that I immediately latched onto. Then I saw the original Broadway cast recording of the show and my obsession with the show grew. Never in a million years did I think that one day I would get to play the Baker!
What will the audience be thinking about in the car as they drive home after this show?
I think they will have multiple show tunes stuck in their heads and not understand why they are singing them continually. But my hope is that as much as the show uses fairytale characters to impart life lessons that they will really get the meaning of what those lessons are.
How is this production bringing something new to this story?
This piece is so timeless and ageless just like fairytales have been for generations and lends itself to many broad interpretations. There is a saying ‘If it ain’t broke broke don’t fix it’
What’s going to surprise people about this show?
The thing that surprises most people when they come to a bonsai musical is how much can be done in a very small theatrical space. Greg King has created an entire magical forest in a rather small space.
Which is the best night to come?
Any day during the week is good. Weekend Shows are usually very popular as patrons make a whole day out of it.
Who has the best costume?
The Witch (Kate Normington) has the best Costume. She makes looking evil very glamorous.
Who in the show is most like their character?
Aaaaargh, I’m so scared to answer this question as I’m afraid I would loose a good friend and colleague. So I’m just going to be safe and say the Narrator who is played by the man with the distinct voice Michael Richard.
Who’s the least?
Cinderella’s Stepmother. Played by Dianne Simpson. She is the most incredible human with a heart of gold.
What sort of person is going to love this character?
Every character represents a person in society and I think people watching the show would be amazed by how the most un-seeming characters are the ones who show good traits and that we can fall in love with. “Witches can be right. Giants Can be Good”
How is this character like you? Different?
The Baker is incredibly brave and I admire the fact that despite life giving him obstacles and hardships he is bold and brave and goes ‘through the fear ‘to take on these journeys just as in life when we have to do things we don’t want to. Sometimes its easy to just throw in the towel.
Is it easier to play this character or to be yourself on stage?
Somehow its easy for me to tap into my characters emotional journey. I am always observing my life and how much I have had to endure to get to where I wanted to be.
What do you love about this character?
I love that after everything he has been through he holds on to HOPE ‘I think I see a glimmer’
What’s the biggest challenge about taking on this role?
Being Honest and sincere when telling the story and landing emotional beats 7 nights a week.
Without giving anything away, what’s your favorite line of dialogue?
As you may have noticed I have been quoting a few lines from the show in this interview but if I had to choose it would have to be ’No one is alone. Someone is on your side ‘.
Well, besides yourself, which actor in this production is going to blow people away?
Jacks Mother I love her comedic moments.
If you could play any other character in this show, who would it be?
I would have to say Kate Normington as she gives a tour de force belting moment in the show in her number “Last Midnight” and it is so SPECTACULAR it BOOMS night after night. It gives me chills.
What makes a good scene partner?
Someone who is open to exploring and someone you feel 100% safe with. This show is so busy and sometimes things can go wrong but knowing that you have someone who has your back no matter what is what makes a great scene partner.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be Little Red Riding Hood when I grow up.
When did you first perform?
I’m sure I was singing show tunes in the womb and come out singing. My first taste of the stage was possibly at kindergarten playing Shaka Zulu. My mom has evidence somewhere in a photo album.
Besides this one, what’s your favorite stage show?
Currently I am slightly obsessed with ‘Everybody Loves Jamie’
What’s your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Netflix, chill loads of snacks Netflix Chill MORE SNACKS
When you have a five-minute break during rehearsal, what do you spend that time doing?
Going over a directorial note or a harmony. Especially when learning a Sondheim.
Who’s the funniest person in the cast in real life?
Zak Hendrikz who plays our wolf. There is never a dull moment. I love his energy on and off the stage
What do you do when you’re not doing theatre?
I think life is theatre so I do life. I try to make time for friends and family. They are the ones who miss out on moments with me so that’s what I do. Oh and lots of cuddles and walks with my Maltese Terrier Toto. And yes I named her after Dorothy’s Toto from the Wizard of Oz.
If you had a magic wand, what show would you do next?
I would love to do the most recent Broadway revival of ‘Once on this Island’ Give the soundtrack a listen you won’t be sorry.
What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage?
I know this sounds totally cheesy, but I take a moment of gratitude for the work, my cast and the opportunity to have a job in a field that I love in a country where the arts are not as supported as it is abroad. Oh and that nothing will go horribly wrong
Catch Earl Gregory in Into The Woods at Pieter Toerien’s Theatre On The Bay until 2 March. Tickets range from R175 to R375 and are available from computicket.com or by calling (021) 438-3300.
The show transfers to Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre from 8 March to 14 April.
Visit pietertoerien.co.za for more information.
Into The Woods is directed by Stephen Stead and designed by Greg King of Kickstart, and stars Kate Normington, Earl Gregory, Zak Hendrikz, Jessica Sole, Haylea Heyns, Michael Richard, Graeme Wicks, Candice Van Litsenborgh, Dianne Simpson, Nathan Kruger, LJ Neilson, Schoeman Smit,
Ashleigh Harvey, Sarah Richard, Brandon Moulder, Naret Loots and Megan Rigby.
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