THE LEADING MEN: Will Chase and Jim Norton, Two "Sides of the Coin" in The Mystery of Edwin Drood

By Michael Gioia
14 Jan 2013

Chase in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Photo by Joan Marcus

I saw your tweet a few days ago about an audience member "taking notes in the front row"…
WC: [Laughs.] Oh, God! Audiences forget that it's live — not most people, but some people do — and if it's in the front row that you're going to come and sleep, or you're going to come and talk, or if you're going to come and take pictures, we can see you. It's not a movie. The guy was having a good time, but he had out his notepad, and you can literally see him nod and go, "Yeah, yeah… That's cool!" [Laughs.] I'm surmising that he was doing a production somewhere. I can't imagine that he was reviewing the show for any reason. You just want to say, "Hey, guy… We can see you there!" [Laughs.]

Is it exciting, though, to be interacting so much with the audience in Drood? What's the vibe out in the house?
WC: Yeah, it's great. I would say it's one of my most favorite things to do because it just loosens everybody up. Most audiences don't dig the whole, "Somebody's going to talk to me" [thing]... Then they realize that's what the evening is. My [pre-show interaction with the audience] is asking people if they're drinking…because I want them to! [Laughs.] I want them to know that the vibe of the night is to have fun, and [I] chat them up a little bit just to loosen them up, and by the time they see the entire company come out, they think, "Oh, okay!" Most shows take the first number to get things going; we get it going before the first number, and I think it's key. I actually go out in the lobby and yell at people to hurry up and take their seats. I even get people out of cabs sometimes…

Studio 54, for me, is always this great place. There's always an event happening at Studio 54, so I feel that as soon as you walk in, it should feel like a music hall. And, I'm just another actor at the music hall who is, of course, cocky and conceited, so, of course, I'm telling people to hurry up and get to their seats. It's my favorite thing to do in the evening.