It may only be August, but Broadway is gearing up for Christmas with A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL. New Jersey actor/director/producer turned Broadway Producer, Scott Hart is one of the people bringing this musical from the road to New York. BroadwayWorld was able to catch up with him during this busy time to discuss the show.
Broadway producer. Must be an amazing feeling. Tell us how this came to be.
Scott Hart: Thank you so much. I'm very excited to be here. And yes! it is an amazing feeling! As you know, I've been involved with theatre for a good part of my life. As an actor then branching out to directing. Producing was the next logical step. I've produced for non-profit theatre's and a few large commercial dinner theatres over the years. However, I really wanted to get involved with Broadway producing. A whole different and exciting aspect of the business. So, I contacted a good friend of mine, Roy Miller, whom I've known for many years from the old Neil's New Yorker Dinner Theatre and Paper Mill Playhouse in NJ. As you know, Roy is a very successful and accomplished Broadway Producer having produced such hits as The Drowsy Chaperone, the West Side Story revival, the Ragtime revival, The Pee Wee Herman Show and more. It was at that time that Roy told me about this new project he was working on, a pre-Broadway national tour of a musical version of A Christmas Story and if I was interested he'd be happy to have me come aboard.
I must admit I was very skeptical at first. A musical version of such an iconic movie? But, the minute I heard that Joseph Rubinette wrote the book my curiosity was peaked. Then I heard the incredible score by the wonderfully talented Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, that's when I knew I wanted to be a part of this amazing show.
The other extremely exciting prospect to me was working with such a tremendous producing group. As I said, I've known Roy for years. But to be able to a part of this group alongside Gerry, Michael, Pat, Tim and the others, as well as working with Peter Billingsley, one couldn't ask for a better opportunity. I HAD to jump at it!
A Christmas Story is one of my favorite movies as well as many, many people. The musical seemed to do so well on the road last year. How often did you travel to see it on the road?
Scott Hart: Not as often as I would have liked. The show rehearsed in Chicago. I had the opportunity to see video clips of some of the rehearsals during that time, as well as a Press Day we had. Some of the press clips can be found on YouTube now. We then opened in Hershey PA last November. I went out there the day before it opened for the final dress, then the opening night performance. I had the opportunity to take the family back out there again to see it before it moved on to North Carolina. John Rando and Warren Carlyle tweaked the show a bit while it was on the road prepping it for the big opening in Chicago. I was, of course, in Chicago for that. So 4 or 5 times last year. But this year, I plan on seeing it every chance I get!
I would be remise if I didn't let readers know that I've known you for years (even directed you in a production of LaCage Aux Folles) and think you are an amazing performer. How does that past on stage impact your ability to be an effective producer?
Scott Hart: Thanks so much, Greg. And, to this day playing Georges in that production of LaCage is still a highlight of my onstage career. Love that role, love that show. I so hope to have the opportunity to play Georges again.
Over the years from working onstage so much, one learns to know, feel what works and what doesn't. We've all been in shows where we just knew something wasn't working. Dialog, pace, blocking, whatever. You just know. Same with directing. You sit back and you can just tell when things just aren't meshing together properly. You know you have a good show, good cast, good production team. You feel it and sense that there's real potential there. You just need to know how to get it out. Same with producing. You know you have a great show with tremendous potential. Now, you just need to put together just the right producing team, artistic team, production team. A group of individuals who share your passion for the piece and who will do whatever it takes to get that piece in front of an audience. In the 35 years that I have been involved in theatre, I strongly feel that I have that "gut" feeling about what will work and be a huge success.
Once it was announced the show would be in NY this Christmas season, I'm sure things began to happen quickly. The producers are doing something really unique using the internet to locate the next Ralphie. Do you think this is something we will continue to see more of to search outside of New York City?
Scott Hart: New York is THE theatre capital of the world. We have the most wonderful talent available to us here. It constantly amazes me the talent that is out there. With that said, however, children can be tough to find. We have had some great kids audition for us from all over. However, when you have such a specific role at such a specific age requiring tremendous talent, sometimes you just need to open up your search.
The role of Ralphie is so specific. He's 9 years old, has to have an incredible, unchanged singing voice. He has to be able to act and pull it off believably and he has to be able to dance. On top of all that, this kid is on stage almost nonstop for 2 1/2 hours, he carries the show. That's a tremendous task, a huge responsibility for anyone. Let alone a 9 year old boy. By opening up the casting nationwide via the Internet, it gave us the opportunity to see kids we may not have normally seen.