What's New on the Rialto
Friends & Fiends
An Interview with Brad Little &
By Pati Buehler
Phantom of the Opera and Jekyll & Hyde - both Broadway smash hits. Both dark, evil and filled with murder, mystery, a "monster" and a love triangle with a tragic ending. But the similarities don't end there. Two stars of these shows, Brad Little (Phantom) and Rob Evan (Jekyll & Hyde) say they are great pals and would "kill" to be in each other's role.
I caught up with both Brad and Rob performing together in "The Music of Neil Berg" concert in Nyack, NY, last month. Here's how our chat went:
Brad Little & Rob Evan
Pati: Rob, tell me, having "transformed" into a monster so many times, what is it about that masked man that attracts you and so many actors who would love to play the Phantom?
Rob: (laughing) You know Pati, it's because he's only on stage about 25 minutes, whereas with Jekyll, I'm on stage the whole time. Phantom is an easy gig! What I like about it is it's so mysterious ... a beautiful, gorgeous song and you don't have to wreck your voice to sing (smiling). It's also very sexy & dark. It's also a coveted part. Who wouldn't want to play a part that's successful, long running and coveted?
Pati: Brad, after wearing the mask all over the country for three years, and brilliantly I should add, what was it that caught your eye about Jekyll, an even more demanding role than Phantom?
Brad: Well, it scared me to death, to tell you the honest truth. It's more demanding in the vocal sense. I don't know about emotionally, though. Other actors (Phantoms) loose their voice. I was one of the few who wasn't out much, but there were emotional demands with it. When I saw Jekyll, I thought there was no way I could do that. But I thought that about Phantom at first, but I was able to hold on. These roles, these "powerhouse" roles as we like to call them, there's a rush, like playing sports like baseball. It's hard to describe, but you get up there and you're a guy and you're just wailin' and the ladies love it! It's very exciting to do.
Both of you have made me aware that not only did you "playfully" tease each other about wanting to switch roles, but you both expressed how fond you are of each other. How and when did you meet?
Brad: We met doing South Pacific, I forget the year, but Rob was just out of Georgia [college] a year or two. I was doing Lt. Cable and he was one of the sailors. That's where we met and had a great time. The next thing I know, Neil Berg is saying, "Rob Evan is coming to do the "Super Star" concert up here. That was a few years later after.
Rob Funny, tonight Neil is talking about long relationships. I met Brad in my first professional show in '89 or '90. I was offered an Equity card and didn't really know what that was all about. Brad was Lt. Cable and I was in the chorus. Brad had his nose in the air (both laughing) cause he was a "star". But here we were, two "guys" and I kinda looked up to Brad.
Brad: (laughing) Yeah, I taught him everything he knows !
Rob We occassionally ran into each other and reconnected. Now we're talking about going into business together.
Pati: That's interesting. Maybe we can talk about that later. You each have very different lifestyles. Brad, you and your lovely wife, Barbara, also a wonderful actress, chose a single couple life while performing often apart from each other for a long time, yet you both find time for charity. Tell me about your unique animal charity.
Brad: Yes. The "Angel Fund" to save the African cheetah. My wife and I went to Namibia just to see how endangered the cheetah really are. The farmers are not only killing them for preying on their livestock, but they are in danger of dying of hunger because fences have prevented their migration. Another problem is that a vast majority of the land is being taken over by thick, thorny bushes which can harm the cats. CFF (Cheetah Conservation Fund, which receives funds from the Angel Fund) is removing these bushes and manufacturing them into log form, much like the dura logs in this country. The logs are being sold in Africa and Europe. It raises money for the Namibian government, puts Namibian citizens to work and helps to save the cheetah.
Pati: That is pretty remarkable. Rob, You are the #1 family man with a lovely wife and three adorable little guys, whom you can't bear to be apart from. (both laughing). Yet, you too, are involved with charity concerts. Tell me why.
Rob You know that I was given an award from the Lukemia Society, although I didn't have a direct connection, but hopefully my concerts helped to enlightened people and spread the word about such a great cause. Of course, anything I can do help children, like the Make A Wish Foundation, is especially important to me.
Both: And of course Broadway Cares Equity/Fights Aids is of special interest to us.
Pati: Both of you also shared your final performance as Broadway's leading "bad guys" within a few months of each other. Yet, the only other role you've shared was "Jesus" in Jesus Christ Super Star. From Messiah to Monster, right? What show would you like to do together?
Brad: I don't think there's a show written yet. I'd love to have a show written about "us" ... guys in this industry. We seem to both go up for the same roles. If anyone else gets a part that I went for, I'd be disappointed. But if it were Rob, I'd be thrilled.
Rob (laughing) Messiah to Monster, that's funny. Neil Berg is writing a musical about The Man who would be King. It's rare that there are two leading men in a show. But in that case there are two leading men. Hopefully that may happen. ... Hey, we could split the roles of Jekyll and Hyde between us!
Pati: Now that's one I'll see! You two seem to parallel more than most realize. Rob, you sing a passionate "Music of the Night" and Brad a powerful "This Is The Moment". Any plans for new CDs?
Brad: I would love to. Just financially it's so impossible to think about. Doing a CD on the very inexpensive end is about $55,000. Doing a high quality CD is about $100,000 ... my next CD will be delayed until my next big job to save the money for another. But if someone wants to produce one, that's another thing. But they don't always come flying in.
Rob I've taken a new direction. What I'm doing now is a totally pop CD. Two cuts already and it's for a label, so it's a whole different thing. I have such a love to sing pop music ... it turned out pretty great and a lot of other people agreed with me so that's the direction I'm headed. A Broadway CD to me is only going to sell to a limited audience. I love recording so much. I want to create something different or new or maybe old, which is what we're doing. You think of the pop singers of the '60s, '70s. They were big singers. Mark Anthony is a big singer and others. If I'm going to make one, I want it to sell not just to my fans. Not to say that I won't go back and do a Broadway record. I want to do something that's not been done before or I want to change it. Maybe it's something I need to get out of my system. We'll see where it heads.
Pati: From what I heard on your headphones, it sounds promising. You two have many loyal fans and friends who support your work. What's next for both of you?
Rob Well, I'm trying to do more TV and films. You're right about me being a family man, and Broadway is a hard life. I'm realistic. Even though I played two big Broadway leads back to back ... those big parts are not always out there. So, although I love performing live, I know that TV or film can change your family's life financially. So my agent is doing more TV and film pursuits and the pop record. A lot of the industry perceives me as Jekyll/Hyde so you have to kind of re-invent yourself. It's not to say that if a great Broadway part came around I wouldn't do it. Playing Jekyll & Hyde for so long was physically too much. I really admire Brad for being out there for so long.
Brad: Right now it's almost like going back to the good old days. Just doing shows and roles that I've not done and getting them under my belt. Doing one role for three and a half years, you need to get the artistic juices going and I've been doing that now. And I'll probably continue doing that until that next big role comes. Who knows, some writer right now might be at his desk writing the next role Brad Little or Rob Evan gets to do. We just don't know.
Pati: Well, you two have certainly brought a lot of joy and pleasure to thousands of theater fans and the many people who know you as friends. Thanks to both of you for the nice chat.
Both: Our pleasure and thank you.
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