By Carey Purcell
19 Nov 2013
Bryce Pinkham is making a name for himself as a killer actor — not only an actor delivering good performances, but also an actor who kills. Literally. (Onstage, anyway.) After making his Broadway debut playing Black Fox in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, he took on the role of the villainous Carl Bruner in Ghost The Musical. The Yale Drama School graduate can now be seen onstage at the Walter Kerr Theatre, murdering Jefferson Mays eight times a performance.
Featuring a book by Robert L. Freedman, music by Steven Lutvak and lyrics by Freedman and Lutvak, the musical casts Pinkham as Monty Navarro, an impoverished young man who finds himself the ninth in line to inherit a fortune. The only problem is he has to get the other eight heirs — all played by Tony winner Mays — out of the way, in the most polite and British way possible.
Pinkham's previous stage credits also include Love's Labour's Lost (Shakespeare in the Park), Knickerbocker Holiday (Lincoln Center), Orphans' Home Cycle (Signature/Hartford Stage), A Funny Thing Happened..., Our Town, Beyond Therapy (Williamstown), A View From The Bridge (Guthrie Theater), All's Well That Ends Well, Woman Of No Importance (Yale Rep) and Much Ado About Nothing (Chautauqua Theatre Co.).
What exactly is A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder?
Bryce Pinkham: The way I've been describing the show to people is it's as if Gilbert and Sullivan were bored one night and they called up Charles Dickens and said, "Hey, come over to my place. By the way, do you like 'Downton Abbey'?" and Charles Dickens was like, "Yeah, I love 'Downton Abbey.'" "Oh, great, because we're going to binge watch the entire first season."
So they binge watch... then they take a hit of laughing gas and decide to write a musical all night.
"Downton Abbey" is so popular right now. What is it about British entertainment that Americans love so much?
BP: I guess it's something about their sense of nobility and their sense of class, and, of course, the dryness of their wit. But there's something we love about their sense of duty, their sense of rising to the top. And we learned most of our theatre from them, too, so it's all about looking back at our British heritage, you might say. I'm mostly English myself, so it's fun for me to get used to that.
|photo by Joan Marcus|
Your character is a kind of anti-hero in this musical.
BP: My character's the underdog, and he learns at the beginning of the show that he's the heir to a great fortune — something he didn't know before his mother passed away. Turns out, she's related to the noble family, and the only problem is there are eight people before him in the line of succession — all played by the inimitable Jefferson Mays. It's a journey he takes to sort of reach the top. And, because it's a musical comedy, he decides to dispatch all those despicable relatives to their maker, and sing and dance about it on the way.
You're creating another new role in a musical. How does that feel?
BP: I love it because nobody's done it before you. It's very explorative in the room, and with this show in particular, the spirit is so playful to begin with, that it allows us — Jefferson and I and the rest of this amazing cast — to really invent, still. The show has been in the works for ten years, and there have been many actors who have contributed to its growth, and I'm very lucky to be the actor with his hands on this role at this moment. But it's not lost on me how much work has gone into the show before I got here, and it feels like it's already been set up as an amazing show, but I also get the chance to make it my own. That's sort of what you dream for.
This isn't the first murderer you've played on Broadway.
BP: I never thought I'd be the guy playing these mischievous men — I guess you'd say bad guys. I don't. I try to look at them as human beings. And hopefully when you see the show, you root for him. The reason I think the show is brilliant is because it's been created for you to love the bad guy, like you would in "Dexter" or something like that. It's hard to do, and they've done it really well. Hopefully, by the end of the show, you do love him. He's a loveable underdog, and you can't help but love him when he dismembers people and stuff.
Is it hard to kill Jefferson Mays eight times a night?
BP: No, because each time I kill him, the audience is promised that he'll come back as an even more ridiculous character. People actually start to look forward to the deaths, because they know they'll get to see Jefferson do something equally or even more ridiculous. It's a delightful progression.