Honeymoon in Vegas is the latest film to leap off the silver screen and onto the Broadway stage. Coming off his Tony-nominated role as Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin: The Musical, Rob McClure brings his comedic brilliance to the leading role, originally played by Nicholas Cage in the 1992 film. The show also stars Brynn O'Malley and Tony Danza. It's campy. It's charming. At times it's even downright absurd. Yet there is no denying it's fun. When McClure heard that composer Jason Robert Brown, someone he has admired for quite some time, had written a comedy, he knew he just had to get his hands on the script.
"The second I got the script, I couldn't remember the last time I had read one by myself in my living room and just laughed out loud," McClure said. "Then I heard the opening number, and the lyrics were so funny. I think it's surprising for a lot of people that the guy who wrote Parade and The Last Five Years has this incredible sense of humor and can write this throwback, big band score."
In addition to Honeymoon in Vegas and Chaplin: The Musical, the New Jersey native has made audiences laugh in Avenue Q and Shrek. I caught up with McClure and found out what it's like working with Tony Danza, his dream role and the cinematic way he proposed to his wife.
The film version of Honeymoon in Vegas came out when you were 10. When did you first see it?
I had a vague memory of seeing it in high school. I had a recollection of, "Isn't that the one with Elvises jumping out of the airplane?" I think that's the visual people remember from the film.
It's such a dream. It doesn't feel real. There are certain icons that when you watch them on television or in film you go, "I hope they are as cool as I imagine." He really, really is. He's so collaborative and generous. He works hard. If you get to the theater an hour and half before the show, he's already on the stage practicing his tap routine over and over. His heart is so in this show. We've been working on this together for a little over two years between Broadway and the Paper Mill Playhouse. He camouflages into the cast as just another hard-working person. Then when you leave the building and people are waiting and screaming for him it's like, "Oh right, he's Tony Danza!"
Where you a Who's the Boss fan growing up?
Huge! When we were working at the Paper Mill we shared this little house right across the street from the theater. It was full-out Tony Micelli. I had this Who's the Boss fantasy where I'd come home from rehearsal and he'd be vacuuming and making me soup.
There are many critics of Broadway shows that were originally movies, like Honeymoon in Vegas. What are your thoughts on movies being transformed for the stage?
It's a question of how does the material lend itself to musicalization. Sometimes when they take something that is so iconic of a film you're in a lose-lose situation because people are going to compare it. The nice thing about Honeymoon in Vegas is we're not talking about some crazy, smash-hit where everyone is coming and comparing my performance to Nicholas Cage. Secondly, Andrew Bergman, who wrote the book for the musical and wrote and directed the film, actually said when he wrote the movie he knew it was a musical. He was a filmmaker, though, and didn't really know how to make a musical. So he did what he knew and created a film. This is actually the full fruition of his initial idea. We feel it improves upon the film as opposed to having to compete with it.
Your love for musical theater began when you were 15 and did your high school production of Anything Goes. Do you remember the first Broadway show you saw?
I saw Cats on a school trip. I thought it was neat and a little weird. The set was cool. Then a friend of mine told me there was this little theater in Oradell, N.J. called The Bergen County Players, and they were doing this show about killing people and putting them in meat pies. My 14-year-old brain thought that was the coolest thing I had ever heard. I went to see their community theater version of Sweeney Todd. It has a surprise ending and when it happened I remember thinking, "There's going to be another audience here tomorrow who don't know what's coming; I have to be here when it happens." It was $12 a pop every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for three months, and I saw every performance.
You were a Sweeney Todd groupie!
I was a groupie! They got me a cast jacket and everything They didn't even have jackets, but they had one made for me.
I heard that is your dream show to do.
It is and yet there is no role for me at all! I've always joked with a friend that we should do it with puppets and call it Teeny Todd.
What were you like as a kid growing up in New Milford, N.J.?
I was a bit of a goofball. I was always silly. I think that lends itself to being an actor. It's a sense of play like running around pretending to be a Ghostbuster or Ninja Turtle.
Who was your favorite Ninja Turtle?
Did you ever wonder what you'd do if you didn't make it as an actor?
I think like a lot of people I began to think, "Just in case I should consider ..." I double majored in English education and theater with a musical theater minor. Teaching is the only thing that makes me as happy as performing. I still do a lot of teaching. I definitely think in another life I could have happily been a high school English teacher.
In Honeymoon in Vegas your character has a fear of getting married thanks to the final words his dead mother. How did you propose to your wife?
My wife is a huge E.T. fan, to the point where she can't watch it without crying. It's her favorite movie she can't watch. She has this little E.T. doll from 1982, and there isn't an original stitch on it. We were doing the Avenue Q tour, and we were coming through Philly, and about 85 of our friends and family were coming to a performance. Unbeknownst to her, I scheduled this party. After the theater had emptied out, I left a trail of Reese's Pieces like in E.T. from her dressing room to the stage. When she got to the stage her childhood E.T. doll was holding the ring box and our sound designer hit the theme from E.T. She lost her mind.
So sweet! Now to get to know you a little better, here are some quick questions. What is your go-to Karaoke song?
It's cheesy, but "Smile."
That's a tough one. I'm a huge nerd, so I'm really into the "The Walking Dead" graphic novels. If I was going for a classic, I'd say "Of Mice and Men."
I love this Australian singer, Anthony Warlow. There is a southern gospel singer named David Phelps who has one of the most extraordinary instruments ever. If someone were to go through my iPhone they would see everything from Kid Rock to Annie Lennox to Blossom Dearie to Dean Martin.
Favorite TV show?
My wife and I were so obsessed with Lost that as I sit here talking to you, I have a piece of the airplane wing hanging in my living room that I won at an auction. We took our extended honeymoon in Hawaii to take an 8-hour hummer tour of the filming locations of Lost.
After everything you've done and accomplished, what are you the most proud of?
If you had told the 15-year-old me that I would be originating a role on Broadway in a new Jason Robert Brown musical, I never would have believed you. That is something I will always be wildly proud of. The fact that I get to introduce audiences to new Jason Robert Brown songs through my voice is something I'll never forget.
For more on Honeymoon in Vegas and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.honeymoonbroadway.com/
Photos by: Joan Marcus