Will Brill on How Stereophonic Is Similar to Sunday in the Park With George | Playbill

Tony Awards Will Brill on How Stereophonic Is Similar to Sunday in the Park With George

The actor just earned his first Tony nomination for playing the bass and monologuing about houseboats.

Will Brill Heather Gershonowitz

Before Stereophonic, Will Brill had never even picked up a bass. And now he's playing the instrument eight times a week on Broadway. But Brill, who before this was primarily a dramatic actor, is now pretty confident in his musicianship. After all, he's picked up a Tony Award nomination for his performance.

"I'm really knocking on wood that we get to play at the Tonys," he says. "I think it will be so fun to bring this music to a really wide audience. I just love it so much." Stereophonic by David Adjmi, with music by Will Butler, follows a '70s rock band as they're recording their album. Its creators have been very intent on calling it a play, since the music is only heard in snippets. Fans, however, can stream the full album now, which features the complete songs in the show (and Brill playing bass and singing backup vocals).

Brill plays Reg, a bass player who struggles with alcoholism and a wife (who's also in the band) who wants to divorce him. Brill was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play. He's not the only one. In his category are his other bandmates Eli Gelb and Tom Pecinka, as well as Jim Parsons (Mother Play) and Corey Stoll (Appropriate). Stereophonic has picked up 13 nominations total, including Best Play, making it the most nominations ever received by a single play. 

Below, Brill (who was previously on Broadway in the 2019 Oklahoma! revival) talked to Playbill the morning he learned he was nominated, and he detailed how he's been with the play for eight years.

Juliana Canfield and Will Brill in Stereophonic Chelice Parry

How are you feeling?
Will Brill: I feel great. I'm walking through a park right now. There's a breeze, and the sun is shining. I'm holding a cold soda in my hand. It's very perfect.

How'd you find out this morning?
I set my alarm for 9:55 AM. I took a Trazodone. I was like, "I just want to sleep through it. I don't want to know." There's so much talk. I feel so nervous. And then, of course, I woke up, like six times, and then I watched it. When I saw my name, I was dumbfounded. I was like, "Whoa, that's so cool!" And then I saw Eli's name, and I was like, "Oh, yeah. Wow!" And then I saw Pecinka's name. And I just started brimming up with tears. And then I saw Sarah [Pidgeon] and Juliana [Canfield]'s name, and I got very, very emotional. It feels very lucky and very crazy that so many of us get to be celebrated in this way. I feel really nice.

We just crunched some numbers here at Playbill. And we discovered that Stereophonic has broken records as the most Tony-nominated play ever.
That's crazy! That is kooky. David Adjmi never even, like, wanted this to be on Broadway. I was FaceTiming with him this morning. And he said, "This play has a mind and a will of its own. And it's going out and doing what it wants to do." What a thing to be a part of, but it's really true. I first worked on the show eight years ago, and barely believed that it would ever happen anywhere, let alone that there would be music, let alone that it would be in any space, let alone go to Broadway, let alone have an original cast album. It's so bananas what this thing has done.

What do you think about or what is it that has grabbed audiences?
I think David has a real knack for expressing how scary and how enriching it is just to be alive and be in a relationship with other people and with art. I don't know if he's ever thought about this, but the play to me feels richly in dialogue with Sunday in the Park With George in that way. It's about, sort of, obsessiveness and creation and love and separation. It's one thing to say that this is a play about rock stars, but it is also just a play about people who are trying to do something very, very hard and are succeeding and failing at the same time. And I think everybody can relate to that. I think that happens to all of us all the time.

David's done something so, so cool in that he's taken pieces of his own experience, parts of David Adjmi, and distilled them into completely unique separate human beings. Like there's something about the play where you're watching a group of people do something, and you are also watching one person do something. You're watching David Adjmi really work out his demons and his hopes and joys. I think that is also palpable in some way.

I have to say, when your name got called, I was thinking, "Oh, he got it for the houseboats monologue."
What can I say? This whole show is a joy to do, but that monologue and the music, frankly, are just things that I didn't even know I had inside me. I didn't know that they would have an outlet like this, but the first time I read that houseboats monologue, eight years ago, first of all, it was three times as long. It was like a 40-minute scene. We all just laughed so hard for so long through that whole thing. You look at it, and it makes no sense. Then you see it in the world, and it is a really profound piece of beauty and humor at the same time, which I think is so cool. That is a testament to David, and, I guess, lucky for me that I have this sort of natural inclination to lean into that weird stuff and bring it to life.

People have been saying that the band in Stereophonic is pretty similar to Fleetwood Mac. So, are you hoping John McVie comes to the show?
OK. If John McVie comes to the show, I would be so happy. I will be so delighted to meet him. It would be a strange experience. You know, people ask like, "Are these characters based on people?" I've only ever seen videos of John McVie when he's much older, and I've never heard him speak. You know, when you see somebody and you have all of these assumptions about them, and then they talk and you're like, "That's not what I thought that person was going to sound like." I have the feeling that it would be that kind of a thing. I'm a great fan. I would be really into it. Yeah, I hope he comes. But also, like, John, if you're reading this, no pressure.

Photos: Meet The 2024 Tony Award Nominees

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