Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Spotlight On...Randy Redd

photo credit: Sasha Israel
Name: Randy Redd (Randall Gordon)

Hometown: Brookhaven, Mississippi (it was named after the town of Brookhaven, New York by founder Samuel Jayne in 1818.)

Education: Florida State University (in Tallahassee, Florida)

Select Credits: I made my Broadway debut as an actor in 1998 in Parade at Lincoln Center. Other shows in New York include Smoke On The Mountain, The Burnt Part Boys, a new musical at Playwrights Horizons, Terrence McNally's Some Men at Second Stage, Ring Of Fire on Broadway and Million Dollar Quartet on Broadway and currently at New World Stages.

Why theater?: When I was a kid I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician. It sounded specific. And smart. That changed, however, after my first appearance on stage. My piano teacher's living room on Storm Avenue was Carnegie Hall and all eyes were on 8-year-old me at Miss Fannie's Steinway in a powder blue leisure suit and brand new Buster Brown shoes. I gave a public piano recital every year until I was 17. I was always putting on shows though. Christmas pageants, talent shows, fashion shows, magic shows, parades. Other than a cataclysmic 6-day stint as a waiter, I've worked in the theater. Those jobs have ranged from playing a purse-snatching teenage vandal in Eliot Spitzer's first campaign commercial and trekking all over the country in a cramped children's theater van to the Tony Awards and a performance last year at Carnegie Hall - on 57th Street.

Tell us about Million Dollar Quartet: In 1956 the 4 musicians gathered at Sun Records in Memphis for one of the greatest jam sessions ever. Directed by Eric Schaeffer, the show was inspired by the recording session that brought together Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. Million Dollar Quartet opened on Broadway in 2010 and moved to New World Stages this past summer. MDQ is currently on tour and has been running successfully in Chicago since 2008.

What is it like being a part of Million Dollar Quartet?
: It's ridiculously fun but always challenging. I have never been more grateful. I've had a lot of really great jobs but I've never had a long-running steady gig with a group of people that I love seeing everyday. It's not like going to work - it's going to play.

What’s life like as an understudy?:
I've never had a job like this. I had a number of featured roles and covered several roles in Parade but I only had to go on once. Getting the chance to sing "Big News" in that show was thrilling but, at the time, the pressure and anticipation was so intense that I always said I'd never be an understudy or standby again. I learned MDQ in less than a week. I was cast on a Monday and had rehearsal with the company the following Friday. I am in awe of this stunning cast and still so intimidated by their talent but that day I was blown away by their generosity and support. As an understudy I get to have my cake and...then have some more cake. It's pretty dreamy and I'm very thankful.

What’s it like playing a rock icon?: It's like everybody's rock star fantasy come true. Not only is Jerry Lee Lewis written as an intensely passionate performer but he's also the funniest and cockiest bad ass I've ever gotten to play! When I saw the show for the first time I was knocked out by Levi Kreis's performance - he is a brilliant musician, a fabulous entertainer and he brought so much of himself to the part that I never dreamed I'd actually get to tackle that role myself. He played the piano BACKWARDS! I have an obligation to the guys on stage but I feel a huge responsibility to our audiences and fans. So many of the people who come to see the show grew up with these legends and have listened to this music their whole lives. They know the words to every song and they sing along. You don't want to let them down. One night a man was waiting to meet me after the show. He waited until the crowd had cleared. He strutted up to me, introduced himself and told me that that he had seen Jerry Lee Lewis in concert over 50 times. "I saw 'The Killer' in person 52 times!" And then he just stared at me. There was something in his eyes that left me speechless. I didn't know how to respond. I didn't know what he was going to say or do next. I was relieved and humbled when he said, "Brother, you NAILED it!"

What kind of theater speaks to you?: I have a reputation for not liking anything. However, that's not true. I do not like fluff. I like to be entertained but in the theater I crave a good story told with a muscular, personal point of view. You know, you can feel it - a story that can and should only be told on stage. I am moved by theater that selfishly knows what it is and lives so fully on the stage and in its Self that it can not be copied. I loved Enda Walsh's plays at St. Ann's Warehouse, Sleep No More and Rude Mechanicals' The Method Gun but I'm also a huge fan of shows like Rock Of Ages and Million Dollar Quartet.

What or who inspires you as an artist?: History, imagination and truth. Good stories inspire me. Of course, I'm inspired by my brilliant friends and their work, my students and their successes - especially my students. But mostly I'm motivated and energized by the mystery of it all, the deceptive puzzle of creating and building something personal, magical and impossible.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I never really think about this but I'd really like to play George Seurat in Sunday In The Park With George, Frank 'N' Furter in Rocky Horror and I'd still like to play Hedwig. I also keep a list of the real people whose stories I'd like to tell. Charlie Chaplin and Charles Manson are at the top of that list.

What’s your favorite show tune?:
"With A Little Bit Of Luck" from My Fair Lady - "Oh, you can walk the straight and narrow; but with a little bit of luck you'll run amuck!"

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Adam Guettel.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: My friends all say Colin Farrell. But I'd pick Robert Downey, Jr. I'd call it "One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong". Maybe Joel and Ethan Coen would make it.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Most recently, Other Desert Cities. Before that, Southern Comfort by Dan Collins and Julianne Wick Davis directed by Tom Caruso at CAP21.

What’s up next?: I've written a new musical with Susan Blair Ross called Touché. Susan and I have known each other for 20 years. We played twins in my first show in New York - a gospel musical called Smoke On The Mountain. She guffawed on stage at my pitiful fiddle playing and we have been friends ever since. We're hoping to see it produced in 2012. James Lecesne and I are working on an adaptation of a short novel by Penelope Fitzgerald called Human Voices. I've known James even longer - we met in Miami at the Coconut Grove Playhouse doing One Man Band. I'm writing a new musical with my best friend and collaborator David Pittu. David and I met on the national tour of Parade. Together we wrote What's That Smell: The Music Of Jacob Sterling. I'm also directing a project at CAP21 featuring songs by Dan Mills and an original musical created by the Urban Youth Theater at Abrons Arts Center.

To catch Randy in Million Dollar Quartet, visit