Spotlight on Robert Evan



by Tony Swanick

(page 2)

TS: Rob, welcome to Talkiní Broadway.

RE: Thanks, it is great to be here. I think the Internet is a great way to connect with fans and Iím glad to see that Broadway is taking advantage of it. It is great to have this opportunity.

TS: You must be exhausted with everything you have happening in your life right now. How do you make the time and handle the pressure?

RE: Itís been a very busy time right now but well worth the energy and time. The biggest thing for me is making sure that my family does not get shortchanged in the deal. I doubt it will happen because it is the part of my life that is the most amazing to me but you have to be certain to make the time and not bring the problems home from work.

TS: I want to touch on it all, but letís address Jekyll & Hyde right now. You began as the alternate in the role and then moved into the full-time lead in January after Bob Cuccioli left. Do you feel that your prior involvement with the show has made the transition easier for you and the cast?

Photo: Carol Rosegg

RE: I guess it had to make the transition somewhat easier because the cast knew me and we had worked together but there were still some adjustments because Bob and I are very different people and we have different styles that needed to be adjusted to. What was great for me was to be able to watch Bob in the role and decide what elements of his performance I could or would emulate and what things would be distinctive to Rob Evan. I think the mix is just right.

TS: Do you feel that vocally and physically this is the toughest role on Broadway?

RE: It has to be among them, which was why Bob was not expected to do all the shows when we opened. Physically, you are all over the stage, involved in most of the scenes, and it is a physically challenging role. There are some nights when I am just sore after the show. Vocally, it is at least as tough as Valjean in Les Misťrables and the range from high to low and from powerful to soft is huge. Sometimes, as Hyde, there is a kind of a roar which emanates from the darkest part of the human spirit and it is difficult and often unpleasant to put myself in touch with that part in me to achieve believability when depicting the evil of Hyde.

TS: Does it bother you to play evil?

RE: Not really, not most of the time. There usually is a lot more meat to the role of a bad guy, but the problem is that Hyde is more than a bad guy. He is evil in a very dark manner and anything that is redeeming about him is manifested in Dr. Jekyll. That is why, when you go to see The Phantom of the Opera, you come away with a feeling of compassion for the Phantom even though he murders several people. Still, there is a beauty to be found in him where as in Hyde, especially when separated from Jekyll, there is nothing but darkness. Now normally, it is easy for me to put the role in perspective but this manifestation of evil becomes frightening when you see it reflected in the world you and your family have to live in.

When I hear of incidents like the murders at Columbine High, it scares me for my childrenís sake. How can you raise a child safely in a world where children kill other children? What kind of evil is in the hearts of those kids with the guns? It kind of makes you wish Dr. Jekyll had been successful in his efforts to eliminate evil.

TS: Clearly, the Jekyll/Hyde experiment went off course. Do you see a benefit in exploring the dark side of our selves?

RE: Maybe if it leads to a way to control that darkness, but Jekyllís problem was there was no control to the experiment and it got away from him, and all the good intentions in the world cannot overcome the consequences of his actions. Still, we have to explore it somehow if we are ever going to get to the bottom of all the crazy violence in this world.

TS: As an alternate and now in the full-time lead youíve had the chance to work with some fine performers. How was that experience for you?

Rob Evan and Linda Eder
RE: Well, I guess first there was Linda Eder and what can you say about her that has not already been said? She is an enormously gifted singer and there were times when I was amazed by what she was doing vocally. I think she and I have similar styles as singers and I learned from watching her. It was very hard for me and the entire cast when she left because we were all wondering where we were going to find another ďLindaĒ for the part. I think this was a wonderful decision, to find someone to bring their own skills to the role and not be a duplication of Linda and that is how we got the wonderful Luba Mason.

TS: It must have been hard for her to step into that role.

RE: Well, I think so because there were so many people watching with so many expectations. And face it, there were a lot of people hoping Luba would fall on her face, but that did not happen. She did not try and create a clone of Lindaís character but found her own niche and displayed her own strengths. She may have been scared to death, but she never showed it on stage and now I believe the fans have embraced her as Lucy.

TS: I saw Luba in the role and she did a great job. I donít think her voice is quite as strong as Lindaís, but her acting was great and her voice blended very well with others in the cast. Of course, I thought Christiane Noll was perfection as Emma Carew.

RE: I agree that Christiane was great and one of the most consistently good performers Iíve worked with. She was always ďonĒ and weíve become good friends and have performed together a lot away from the show. When she left, it was again tough for us, but now we have Anastasia Barzee in the part and she is wonderful.

TS: People are still talking about your last show with Linda and how emotional it was. Is that because she was married to the boss?

RE: (laughs) Actually, I think we all have an emotional attachment to Frank (Wildhorn, J&H composer and Linda Ederís Husband). Itís been a real honor for me to work in a musical heís written. But the last night Linda and I worked together was a truly emotional experience. The fans knew it was coming and wanted to be there to share it and they did.

TS: Speaking of the fans, the ďJekkiesĒ are an unusual bunch as fans go donít you think?

RE: (laughs) I donít think unusual quite does it. Frankly, Iíve never seen fans with such loyalty and devotion to a show and it is amazing to see. I know they have a bit of a reputation, but they are wonderful, warm people who are honest about what they like and what they donít. What makes it hard is that if I blow a line or miss a note, they know it. I bet most of them could sing the score themselves and that kind of devotion is rare for a show that is still relatively young. I know the Phantom fans and Les Miz fans are also amazing, but they have developed that devotion over the course of a decade. For Jekyll & Hyde, and for The Scarlet Pimpernel for that matter, to have such fans says a lot about the shows Frank puts together.

TS: Now you get to play an insane person who literally has a split personality. Where do you find the emotions to bring to that role?

RE: Well, we all do have good and evil inside us, but most of us suppress any evil inclinations we have. So I just try to reach that dark side inside and bring it to the role. Itís a little scary sometimes when you have to tap into that every night.

TS: Does it ever effect you afterwards?

RE: Sometimes it sticks around, but once I see my family and look at my boys and realize what miracles they are, any hint of evil disappears and I just feel blessed.

TS: What about the pressure on you when you took over? That must have been unbearable.

RE: Not unbearable but it was hard. There had been a lot of animosity among the fans about who did the role better while Bob was still here, which I thought was not really fair to either of us. Still, when he left, there was one camp hoping I would succeed and others who wanted me to fall flat. But one of the things I wanted to do was embrace those who loved Bob in the role and I think, to a large degree, I have done that.

TS: Sometimes changes in a show are hardest on the fans donít you think?

RE: I agree. Look at all the hoopla surrounding The Scarlet Pimpernel and the changes there. Many shows could not have survived the loss of stars of the magnitude of Terrence Mann and Christine Andreas but they did. Part of that was the power of Doug Sills in the lead (Percy) and the rest was the strength of the ensemble cast. At our show, we had some of the same challenges but at least we did not have a major rewrite to handle the way Doug did.

TS: What is the most vocally challenging part of the role for you?

RE: I would have to say ďConfrontation,Ē because the changes from Jekyll to Hyde happen so fast and that means a completely different voice being used back and forth throughout the song as well as changes to my body and posture throughout. It is a remarkable but difficult song.

TS: Are you starting to adjust to the increased demands on your time?

RE: Well, it is still hard because I love being with my wife and kids, and I donít get to spend as much time with them as before, but itís great being happy in both my professional and personal life. I mean, when Iím not with my family, Iím doing what I love almost as much, singing and performing. So, I really canít complain.

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Photos courtesy of The Robert Evan Fan Club, Linda Russack, President and Christophen Muller, Webmaster.