Spotlight on Bryan Batt
by Nancy Rosati     

(part two)

Bryan Batt as Percy
As Percy in
The Scarlet Pimpernel
Photo: James Van Treuren
NR:  Last time I interviewed you, you were standing by for Douglas Sills in The Scarlet Pimpernel and we were ... at the Minskoff. Here we are, we're still at the Minskoff.

BB:  I know. Just can't get away.

NR:  It seems like you're going to be here for life.

BB:  I can think of worse places to be stuck in, I'll tell you. It's a great theater. I love it. The crew is terrific. That's one of the best things about coming here. Everyone says, "It's about being on stage." I love coming in the stage door, signing in, telling everyone "hi" while they're checking out the mikes. You know, that sense of camaraderie that you have coming in. There's nothing like it. Other people like coming out of the stage door. I like going in. Do you know what I mean? When you go out there and sign autographs, it's nice, it's wonderful, it's a high ...

NR:  I don't think it happens too often in this show.

BB:  No, it doesn't, because they don't know who I am. I will walk right by people and they don't recognize me. The only time I'll say anything is when we're collecting money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Then they'll have the money, and I'll say, "Do you know who I was?" If I tell them I'm the DJ, they give more money.

NR:  This is your fourth show here.

BB:  Fourth show in a row.

NR:  And you may be getting a plaque?

BB:  I don't know. Sarah Minskoff mentioned it and I said, "Come on. Put it up."

NR:  Nan (Knighton) has told me how much she loves this theater.

BB:  There's something great about playing those old houses. I will attest to that. There's a magic ... when I was at the Winter Garden, just being on the same stage as West Side Story and Funny Girl and Mame was incredible. How amazing. But, the plumbing works here. You always have a lot of hot water.

NR:  On to something that we've talked about in the past. I know it's very important to you to show up for work no matter what, sometimes even if you're sick or hurt.

BB:  Right, unless you're going to hurt other people or yourself. I just had a situation recently where I hurt my back. I did as many performances as I could, but there were some that I just couldn't do because I would have made it worse, so sometimes I don't have a choice.

People don't realize that this is a hard vocal show for me because I'm singing at the top of my range with that kind of rock, screaming thing. Then, the way the sound is designed, it's very loud on stage as well as off and my mike doesn't come through it. There's no monitored sound of voices on stage, which is unlike any other Broadway sound design I've ever been in. They wanted the reality of the disco.

NR:  Even though you're working hard vocally to do this show, I know you told me that you don't want to get a reputation as someone who doesn't show up.

BB:  I would never do that. One thing that my father did say is if you have anything, you have your reputation and your word. I think reputation is very important. When Judy Katz signed on to work as my press agent, one of the biggest compliments I've ever received was that she said, "Everyone says such nice things about you." I was very touched by that because it's not like I'm trying to win any popularity awards, but I think you receive what you put out. It's just the way I was raised and the way I am. Some people will argue it takes more energy to be nice. For me, it doesn't. I'd rather compliment someone. For me it's easy.

NR:  You have more energy than anyone I've ever met over the age of five, and I'm trying to figure out how you do that! Where does that come from?

BB:  (laughing) That's what I'm going to play next - a child.

NR:  It's physical and mental energy.

BB:  Yeah, I do, most of the time. Yesterday I was with my vocal coach and she said, "What is wrong with you?" because I was very low key, low energy.

NR:  I don't believe it.

BB:  I was. She said, "Are you depressed? Is something wrong?" I said, "No" but I think I've figured it out. I think it was because I couldn't be at my niece's third birthday party.

NR:  So, you were depressed.

BB:  I was a little down, but I think I put my finger on it. You know when your heart wants to be somewhere else, and you can't? That is the hardest thing for me about doing theater. I love it, I wouldn't trade it, but missing family and friends ... I have so many friends in New Orleans and I've missed some of my dear friends' weddings. I missed the birth of my first niece, Bailey. I had the day off from Forbidden Broadway but because of the weather I couldn't make my connection flight. I was standing there in an airport in Pennsylvania, holding my luggage, and knowing that I couldn't get there. I started to well up and cry. I called and my sister-in-law had already given birth and they said it was a girl. Then I burst out with tears of joy because there are four generations of just boys in my family on the Batt side. Now there are two girls, Bailey and Kelly.

NR:  Seriously though, how do you maintain the energy all the time? You're always awake, you're always happy ...

BB:  I don't know. Rarely, like once every three months, there will be a couple of hours where I'll be a little down, but then I'll snap out of it.

NR:  Do you talk yourself into that, or is it just natural?

BB:  No, it's just the way I am.

NR:  That's amazing. You should bottle it.

BB:  But sometimes it works to my detriment I think.

NR:  Why?

BB:  Because I'll try to force things to happen, whether career-wise, or relationship-wise. I find the best things come to you when you are at a relaxed state.

NR:  So you have no patience?

BB:  I have very little patience. I try to force things. I'll say, "Let's make this happen. Let's make it happen." Originally when I was up for Pimpernel, I obsessed about it because I had just started rehearsal for the new Forbidden Broadway. I do believe things work out, but I knew I was right to standby for Percy. I knew it. I don't think they had lowered the keys yet so it was still higher, and it just didn't sit as well in my voice as when they lowered the keys. I was told basically, "You're the one we want" but it didn't work out. I was so disappointed because I really wanted to standby, make the big check at the Broadway show. We had this arduous, but wonderful rehearsal process for Forbidden Broadway. The previews went on forever and there were lots of cuts and changes. It opened to the most glowing reviews, and I was very kindly mentioned, and then I received a Drama Desk nomination. As it turned out, I ended up doing The Pimpernel too. So, that's the hardest thing for me, to sit back, do the job, keep the feelers out, but have some patience. It's also the audition thing - just trying to get in. Even now, sometimes I can't get in to be seen. I think casting directors sometimes do a disservice to the director by not bringing in as many people to be seen. I understand that I'm not always going to get a role, but it's so frustrating when they won't even let me audition.

NR:  I know you work hard at not being typecast.

BB:  I do. But, what I love about this is it's a totally different part, and I don't like just being seen for one thing.

NR:  (laughing) I don't know, are you going to only be seen for slimy DJs from now on?

BB:  The thing is I'll walk in there and they'll see me, and they'll say, "You're not that."

NR:  Plus, now that you're singing disco songs, they don't know that you really can sing.

BB:  Right. After Pimpernel, I thought maybe ...

NR:  This is your sixth Broadway show, and you've done Off Broadway, but you're still not really known outside of theater circles. Does that bother you?

Bryan Batt, Steven Weber, and Patrick Stewart
With Jeffrey costars
Steven Weber and
Patrick Stewart
BB:  No. I would love to do more film, but Jeffrey was a very, very specific role, and like I said in some other interviews, after that I was seen for what they perceived Darius as - a flighty little chorus boy. Darius was such a specific part. He was a true innocent who would have these pearls of wisdom which he didn't even think about. It was just who he was, and they came out ... along with very silly dumb comments. But, when he says at the end, "Hate AIDS, Jeffrey, not life. Remember, it's still our party," it was great. But, lesser writers than Paul Rudnick, other people who are not as well versed and imaginative, after seeing that they would think, "Oh, he plays the little gay boy." So, there were these flighty, not necessarily witty, what I found very insulting, quippy, queenie parts that I didn't want to do.


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