Talkin' BroadwayV.J.

The Prince and the Pauper
by Nancy Rosati

(top) Rita Harvey and Rob Evan, (bottom, l to r) Dennis Michael Hall, Allison Fischer, Gerard Canonico
The Prince and the Pauper, a new musical by Neil Berg, Bernie Garzia, and Ray Roderick, recently opened to positive reviews at the Lamb's Theatre Off Broadway. The three young co-stars, Dennis Michael Hall (Prince Edward), Gerard Canonico (Tom Canty, the Pauper) and Allison Fischer (Lady Jane/Jamie/Nan, understudy to Edward and Tom), shine with talent and poise beyond their young ages. I recently spoke with them before a matinee performance. Visibly relieved that school is now over for the summer, they're settling into their roles and enjoying the success that comes with being part of a hit show.

Nancy:  What have you done before this, and when did you start acting?

Allison:  I was about 9, so that was 4 years ago. I've done a lot of community theater. I haven't done much in the city. I did A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden. I've done a lot of readings and the "Broadway Kids" CD. I did The Little Princess.

Nancy:  How about you, Dennis?

Dennis:  I started singing in choirs when I was 8. I went into community theater. My first job was A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden. I was Tiny Tim in ‘99 and Young Scrooge the year before. I played the Little Boy in Ragtime on tour. I did Measure for Measure with Shakespeare in the Park and I also did a show at HB Playwrights called Burnt Piano. And I was in The Full Monty on Broadway.

Nancy:  Your brother Anthony (Blair Hall) was in Seussical. Is there anyone else in your family who's in the business?

Dennis:  No, just my brother and me.

Nancy:  Gerard, how about you?

Gerard:  I started when I was 8 because I've always wanted to do theater. My first show was Les Miz. I played Gavroche for about a year and a half. I left to do A Christmas Carol, which I did with Allison and Frank Langella and Tim Curry. After that I did a tour of Casper the Musical. I got involved with the readings for Prince and the Pauper when I was in Les Miz, so I've been working with them for awhile.

Nancy:  What grade are you in?

All Three:  We're going into eighth.

Nancy:  How do you balance school with your jobs?

Allison:  It's hard. In the beginning I hated it because it was really hard.

Gerard:  You have to get used to doing schoolwork and this. Les Miz was really hard because I had to be there every night no matter what. I was almost falling asleep during class but now I'm getting used to it because I've done it a couple of times already. It's still hectic.

Nancy:  Do you have a regular school day?

Gerard:  Yeah.

Nancy:  You must have very cooperative parents.

All Three:  (laughing) Yeah! They have to be.

Nancy:  What do the kids at school think?

Gerard:  There's some jealousy. I was in a new school this year. There are a lot of kids in this school that are jealous so they act mean.

Nancy:  Do you have anyone who tries to be friends with you because you're a "star"?

Allison:  Not really. The kids in my class are really good. They're cool with it.

Nancy:  Allison, you're doing three distinct characters. You look like somebody in Forbidden Broadway with all of the costume changes and the wig changes. I'm trying to imagine your first tech rehearsals.

Allison:  When I first found out about it I thought there was no way I could do this, but then it got exciting because it's fun to run around so much. For the tech rehearsals, it was a little hectic, but it's easy now. Now I know what scene is next and what I have to change into. In the beginning I kept note cards so I wouldn't get confused, but I don't need them anymore.

Nancy:  You have jewelry and wig changes.

Allison:  The jewelry is attached to the costume so that helps. I hate the wig.

Nancy:  Which is harder - playing different characters or all the costume changes?

Allison:  I think the costumes. The characters are fun. It's fun to be a boy.

Nancy:  You guys both play the title roles. What's that like?

Gerard:  It's fun.

Dennis:  It's tiring sometimes.

Nancy:  Why's that?

Dennis:  On two-show days I'm exhausted by the end of the night.

Gerard:  It's good the way they worked out the schedule. They know that we're only kids and we can only do so much. There are two shows today (Wednesday) and tomorrow's our day off. We have to be careful because it's a hard part. We have to know what to do, know what to sing. We have to be "on" every night. It's hard.

Dennis:  It's challenging.

Gerard:  It's worth it though because it's so much fun. At the end of the show, you know you've worked so hard and the people in the audience appreciate that.

Nancy:  That must feel terrific. You'd hate to do all this work and not have appreciative audiences.

All Three:  Definitely!

Nancy:  So, who fools around the most in rehearsal?

All Three:  (laughing) Some of the adults. Probably Rob Evan.

Gerard:  In rehearsals, there have to be some times where you have to go crazy.

Allison:  Yeah. You're doing it every day over and over again. We all have our moments. Some more than others.

Nancy:  Are you still rehearsing now?

Gerard:  Not really, but they're still making some changes. The last change was pretty drastic. They changed a song and they totally switched around the second scene.

Nancy:  How much notice did you get on that?

Gerard:  One day.

Dennis:  Actually we didn't even get one day. We rehearsed it during the day and did it that night.

Nancy:  Did you do it right?

Dennis:  Yeah. It actually worked out pretty well.

Allison:  I think it's better now.

Gerard:  It's better where they have the song now. It's probably my hardest song to sing.

Nancy:  Which one is that?

Gerard:  "Thrill of Adventure." It's the hardest song for me to sing because it's in the highest register. It's good that I do it and get it over with. I think the changes all work because you understand it a little better now. What I'm singing in that song is what Father Andrew told me and some people forget that he told me that.

Nancy:  Allison, you're understudying both of them?

Allison:  Yeah.

Nancy:  How on earth are you keeping all of this in your brain at the same time?

Allison:  It's hard, but I'm doing ok. I think they're hiring an understudy so that will help.

Nancy:  Do you have a favorite part of the show?

Allison:  I love the coronation at the end because there are so many things going on. So many things can go wrong and that's fun.

Gerard:  The one thing I don't like about the coronation is that giant cape I have to wear. It's so big that I have to be careful, because if I step backwards I'm going to fall on my face. And that crown that he has to wear....

Dennis:  Ugh, that crown! It doesn't fit my head.

Allison:  I get so nervous because there's this one part where I have to drop the banner on Hugh Hendon to save Lady Edith. Many times I've missed because sometimes he's not close enough.

Nancy:  Is there a part of the show that you dread doing?

Gerard:  It's not that I don't like it, but it's hectic in the first scene. You have to remember all this stuff and yet, you're trying to do it as best as you can.

Allison:  That's one of my favorite scenes actually.

Dennis:  I like it because I'm not in it. (laughs)

Gerard:  It's fun to do, but in the beginning I'm on stage a lot. Sometimes something goes wrong with the costumes. They had to put all these snaps on the costumes because when we do our quick change on the stage, it has to stay together. Robert Anthony Jones plays my grandmother and he ripped the snaps off one night, and that was kind of scary.

Dennis:  The scene I don't really like is when Miles and the Prince go down to the dungeon because two times a week at least, when Hugh tries to take Miles' sword out of its scabbard, it gets caught. It happened yesterday. Hugh couldn't take it out so Miles had the sword and it was all messed up. It took a minute for Rob to figure out that it was his line so we just sat there on stage waiting for Rob to say his line.

Nancy:  Props can be the hardest sometimes.

Gerard:  Props are really hard. I hate them. The swords always get caught. One of my least favorite scenes is after "If I Were You." I have to get under a bed and get all snapped up to look "princely" for my next scene. It's a scene that Dennis does with Wayne (Schroder). I don't like that because the snaps are unbelievably hard to snap and I have to get under the covers, make sure I'm not being seen, and do it all in 30 seconds.

Nancy:  Who have you learned the most from? Do you have any role models?

Allison:  All the ladies in the show. When I'm singing my song I want to make sure I'm breathing right because I don't want to hurt my voice. The ladies always give me tips and they help a lot.

Gerard:  I would have to say Rob Evan.

Dennis:  He's a kid at heart. He's fun and he's great to be with. He's such a role model for me because what he does on stage is amazing. I'm "Mini-Miles."

Gerard:  I also have to say Stephen (Zinnato) because I'm with him a lot. For some reason, I like the bad guy parts better. I like being evil. Just the way Stephen does stuff on stage and the way he acts, it's great.

Nancy:  Do all three of you want to do this professionally?

Allison:  I do.

Gerard:  Yes. Definitely.

Nancy:  How about you Dennis?

Dennis:  I'm thinking. I'm not sure. I might.

Nancy:  What are you thinking about?

Dennis:  I don't know. I think I would like to. I'm not totally sure about it, but I have time.

Nancy:  You definitely have time. Also, you already know more than someone going into the business as an adult. You know it's not all glamour and giving out autographs. It's a lot of work. Have you had auditions where you've lost the role?

All Three:  Oh yeah.

Gerard:  Most of the time you don't get them.

Allison:  Auditions are mostly so they know who you are and if other things come up they remember you.

Gerard:  For TV especially, if you don't look the part, you don't get the job. It doesn't matter how great you act or how great you sing or dance, or do whatever you do. It just matters if you have brown hair or not. That's pretty much it. For Broadway it's different though. You do need talent to do Broadway.

Nancy:  And as you know, there are many people with talent who don't get it.

Gerard:  There are a lot of people who are talented and they get a part, but it's not the part they deserve. I've worked with so many people that are great singers and they haven't gotten a better part yet. In Les Miz, some of the swings were fabulous and they've never had a big part. Swings have to pretty much be the most talented person there because they have to learn all these different parts.

Nancy:  Allison, you're the closest thing to a swing in this show, playing three roles and understudying two. I was very impressed when I saw you. In fact, all three of you do a fantastic job. I wish you well with it.

All Three:  Thanks.

The Prince and the Pauper
Based on the Mark Twain classic. Directed by Ray Roderick.
Music and Lyrics by Neil Berg.
Book and Lyrics by Bernie Garzia and Ray Roderick.

Lamb's Theatre Mainstage
130 W.44th Street, New York, NY

Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8PM
Tuesday at 7PM
Wednesday and Saturday at 2:30PM
Sunday at 3PM

Tele-charge (212) 239-6200
Tickets: $40 - $55

Cast: Dennis Hall, Gerard Cononico, Kathy Brier, Robert Evan, Allison Fischer, Rita Harvey, Robert Anthony Jones, Michael McCormick, Wayne Schroder, Sally Wilfert

For more information, visit the official website.

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