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Interview with Robert Patteri

NR: Did you work with William in Beauty and the Beast?

RP: No. Actually we just missed each other because he was standing by in Toronto and I came in to do Gaston in Toronto just after he left. But he knows my wife. They worked together. I met my wife in Beauty and the Beast in Toronto. I plucked her out of Canada.

NR: Where is she while you're on this tour?

RP: She's going to come with me until October and then she's going to go live with my folks because she's three months pregnant right now so we're going to have a little bambino in December.

NR: How long are you committed for this?

RP: Until April.

NR: Wow. Do you get time off to see the baby?

RP: Yeah. They're going to let me off when it's born. But, it's part of the thing that you never know what's going to happen in this business. It's the irony of trying to prepare for these things. As we said, "OK, we're ready to have kids" we weren't sure if we were going to be in Los Angeles or New York. My place was out here (L.A.) but I had just finished doing a show in Florida that was going to run for a year and it closed early.

NR: The show was Ben-Hur, right? I heard about that.

RP: Yeah, it closed early and so we went to New York and we weren't sure what we were doing and we just said "Well maybe we should wait on this" and then thought "You know what? God always takes care of you when you have kids." He just does - He provides. So you've just got to have faith and say there's never a right time. In life today there's never a right time. But taking a step further, in this business, there's just never a right time. Because even when you're working it's not the right time or when you're not working you're thinking, "I'm unemployed" So you just have to go ahead and live life.

NR: Did you know anything about this show and the history of it?

RP: Uh-huh

NR: You did? Have you seen any other versions?

RP: I saw 2.0 in 1998. And you know what? I went in with low expectations just because of what everybody said. I loved it! I had the time of my life. I get so tired of the theatrical critics - you know - everything has to be Arthur Miller or The Crucible or whatever. Mamet or Shaw or Les Miz. It's gotta be dark. Certain things are just meant for entertaining. And this show... you just watch the audience. It's the same sort of thing that happened with Beauty and the Beast. The critics will trash it but the audiences will walk away and they'll love it. It's a "feel good show." It's a ton of fun. The audience just rolls over themselves watching Doug have a blast up there. He's so fantastic with breaking that fourth wall.

NR: That's an interesting thing because he's historic in this role.

RP: Oh, totally.

NR: Now you're about to replace him.

RP: Yeah, and I'll never be able to fill those shoes. You can't even compare. Doug's known for doing it so I just have to go in and do what I do best. The essence of me is completely different than Doug. But he has created such a brilliant model that I'd be silly to fight what he's created.

NR: That's a good point.

RP: I don't want to do that. I have to sort of fill in where he's left off. Once I get in the show and I'm in it for awhile, I'm sure I will create my own things and things will grow. But I can't do that right now because I don't have the other cast with me. I don't have Amy (Bodnar) and William working with me every single day for eight hours a day for six weeks of rehearsals where you create those. I'm walking into a show where there are all of those beats and all of those moments, and they are inherently going to be a little different because of the essence of me and how I do things. I've got to stick pretty close to what's there right now.

NR: How are they working that with you? Do they work with you when they can?

RP: This is the first day I worked with William and Amy, but I've worked with understudies up to this point.

NR: Are you understudying at all, or is your first appearance going to be in Nashville?

RP: Nashville is the first time.

NR: Did you read any of the books?

RP: I haven't had time to yet. I definitely will. I definitely want to and it's one of those things that I would love to have done, but getting thrown into this role is just monumental. It's a monumental role if you're doing something like this that's dramatic, but if you throw in the comedy aspect of it too, and there's just so much time that you have to work with playing around with all of that.

NR: Yeah, it's huge. And you just found out about this recently, didn't you?

RP: A week and a half ago.

NR: It just so happens that this is the weekend I was planning to be here in L.A. I feel badly doing this to you so early!

RP: Oh, no, it's fine.

NR: Had you done any fencing before?

RP: Oh yeah, I've done a lot of stage combat. I've done a lot of Shakespeare, so whenever you're doing Shakespeare you know there's going to be some swordplay.

NR: That's right. You're sure there will be fencing and tights!

RP: (laughs) That's right - fencing or broadswords, and tights.


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Interview conducted and photographs by Nancy Rosati.




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