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The Scarlet Pimpernel : Broadway's Most Intriguing Musical.

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Interview with Nick Corley

Before Peter Hunt and Bobby Longbottom were brought on board, Nick Corley was the director of The Scarlet Pimpernel. He took the show through the initial readings and Group Sales presentations. As is true with everyone I've met through this organization, Nick was very friendly and willing to share his stories with me to give us some more glimpses into the history of this production.

This interview will be presented in two parts. In the first part, Nick told me something about the readings themselves and some interesting facts about the early casting.

NR: Can you tell me a little bit about your background, like where you grew up?

NC: I grew up mainly in California - in Ventura, between Malibu and Santa Barbara. I was there from fourth grade to high school. Then I went to Syracuse University, and from Syracuse to New York.

NR: Wow - from California to Syracuse. Your first winters must have been interesting.

NC: That first winter, I was out there with my cotton pants and my sneakers. I had been in the snow before, but only for about an hour. Nothing compared to this.

NR: I can just imagine. So, when did you become interested in theater?

NC: Ever since I was little. I majored in theater at Syracuse. I came here and started working pretty much right away.

NR: Now, you told me you started acting first.

NC: I was an actor pretty much through last year. Last year I was a director full time, and I've been a director full time for a year and a half now.

NR: What type of acting did you do?

NC: I did She Loves Me on Broadway. I was the original Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol, the one that Alan Menken wrote. I did the first three years of that. I did a Carnegie Hall concert of Anyone Can Whistle. Off Broadway, I did The Rothschilds, and a lot of regional theater.

NR: What made you decide to go into directing?

NC: I directed a little in college. The hardest thing for me to learn as an actor was to separate my "directing mind" from my "acting mind." Once I learned as an actor to separate those two things, then my acting got much better, and now I'm able to go back and forth. They're very different ways of thinking.

NR: Before you did that, were you thinking, "I don't like what this director's doing. I'd rather do it this way?"

NC: No, but often in shows I would make suggestions. It depended on the director and what type of working atmosphere he created. I learned a lot from a lot of the people I worked with. While I was doing She Loves Me, I started to do a lot of directing projects on the side because I was in town. I had the time around my Broadway schedule to rehearse a small one-act in various little corners of the city. I did a few readings for a few people. Scott Ellis, who directed She Loves Me, is the director on staff for the Nederlander Organization. They were doing a reading of The Scarlet Pimpernel and Kathleen Raitt asked Scott if he knew of anyone who could direct this reading for her. Scott wasn't available (I think he was working on Steel Pier at the time), and he gave her a list of a few people. I met with Kathleen. I got this phone call out of the blue saying, "This is Kathleen Raitt from the Nederlander office. Could you please call me." That was quite a surprise. We got along really well and they asked me to do this reading. That's how it all started.

NR: Why don't you explain to me what readings and workshops are? Can you give me a layman's description?

NC: OK. The initial reading was just for the authors and the initial producers to hear the material with actors. No one was invited. It was Pierre and Mary Cossette, Kathy Raitt, Nan (Knighton), Frank (Wildhorn), and maybe a couple of other people from the Nederlander office. I think we had a cast of seventeen people. It was in a very small studio underneath the John Houseman Theater. It was basically for the authors and the producers already on board to hear where the material was.

NR: Do you just invite actors? They didn't audition for this, did they?

NC: No one auditioned. Everyone was people we know. Oddly enough, Marguerite was Carolee Carmello. Francis Ruivivar was Chauvelin, and Greg Zerkle was Percy. If you read the liner notes from the CD, Nan thanked them and me. In the liner notes, she talks about the whole process of how the show evolved and started. We put up a simple stage. It's a reading, but there was some rehearsal involved. We rehearsed for about a week before that and then we presented the material. It was incredibly moving. Nan and I sat in the back and were brought very much to tears at the end. Carolee was terrific. The three of them, the triumvirate of the three of them worked really well together, and there was a lot of stuff going on, even in that initial phase. At that point, Jekyll & Hyde was a known commodity. It hadn't opened yet but it was touring and people knew who Frank was, so they really put themselves behind this a lot. The actors spent a lot of time and worked really hard. It was a chance for the authors to see the material, up on its feet with actors, and find out what works and doesn't work. Often things that work on paper, don't sometimes work when you put them up, and vice versa. Things that work great, read horribly on paper. So, it's about finding those things out.


Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 Printable Version

Interview conducted and photographs by Nancy Rosati.




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