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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 20, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 12
The making of Lizard Boy, the musical: An interview with writer Justin Huertas
Arts & Entertainment
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The making of Lizard Boy, the musical: An interview with writer Justin Huertas

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

LIZARD BOY, THE MUSICAL
SEATTLE REPERTORY THEATRE
March 27-May 2


Justin Huertas knows his way around a stage. Hes been in the pit (playing the cello for the National Tour of Spring Awakening), hes been on stage (at the 5th Avenue and Balagan theaters), and now he is behind the scenes for the Seattle Repertory Theatre writing his new musical, Lizard Boy. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Huertas about his life and work in theater and his new play. Eric

Andrews-Katz: Who were the first influences to stir your interest in theater? Justin

Huertas: I started drawing as a visual artist. Then I picked up the cello and that was what I wanted to do. I randomly decided to join the Drama Club in Middle School, but if I had to pick a person who influenced me, Id have to say Stephen Sondheim. Ive always been super inspired by his musicals and I didnt understand why until college. Theres poetry in his lyrics and I think hes brilliant.

Andrews-Katz: At what age did you start practicing the cello?

Huertas: I started playing when I was in fourth grade (so that means I was probably 9 or 10 years old). It was in third grade that they told the kids to pick an instrument they were drawn to. I went home and told my parents I wanted to play the cello because it was as big as I was at the time. It worked out as Ive been playing for over 18 years.

Andrews-Katz: Do you prefer a classical or more modern approach to musical theater?

Huertas: I like both. Right now, because Im writing this contemporary musical, Im more into the modern kind of musical theater. I love the Golden Age Musicals. The new waves of writing fascinate me, and how people tell story through music. Shows like Spring Awakening and Once, and even what they are doing with the new productions of Jacques Brel... I find it fascinating. These modern approaches are really cool.

Andrews-Katz: Youve credited Stephen Sondheim as being an influence; how has he influenced your work?

Huertas: Sondheim allegedly has these mantras that helps him work: Less is more, Content dictates form, and God is in the details, and those are the things that I always think about when I try to write music. There are so many times I get wrapped up by asking What function does this new song have to serve, and it takes me a second to stop and think about the characters emotions. Sometimes his rhymes are perfect and sometimes they arent, but if they arent, theres a reason for it.

Andrews-Katz: What inspired you to write Lizard Boy, the musical?

Huertas: This whole commission with The Rep started when I was playing cello on tour with Spring Awakening. I played cello in the band for the 14/48 Theater Festival (where 14 plays are produced within 48 hours). Jerry Manning, who was the artistic director at The Rep saw the performance and offered me the commission. He didnt know if I could write and wanted me to do a somewhat autobiographical piece. Originally, it was going to be based on a diary and my Coming Out story. I thought my story was boring so decided to spice it up a bit by adding super powers and created the story that became Lizard Boy. I wanted to tell the story about a guy that no one cared if he was gay, but shunned him because of his lizard skin.

Andrews-Katz: Youve described your show as Marvel Comics meets Chamber Operetta. Can you elaborate on that?

Huertas: Its a comic book, superhero origin story, a coming out story, and a story about a guy that has been a shut in (due to his lizard skin) and decides one night to go on a gay meeting app. He ends up meeting a rock singer and it becomes an interesting personal adventure. Its told with a three-person, folk-rock band, so I guess thats where the chamber music part comes in. We all play different characters and play our own instruments.

Andrews-Katz: To give the audience an idea of Lizard Boy, who would be your Dream Cast in the principal leads, and why?

Huertas: Let me start off by saying that the cast we have is really good&but I have totally thought about this.

I wrote the character Siren for a friend of mine, but I had lots of images in my head. Jennifer Lawrence or Michele Pfeiffer as Catwoman were in my head. Id cast Jennifer Lawrence as Siren, but it would have to be a crazy Jennifer Lawrence. That would be really good.

Cary is a handsome guy on the surface but hes very lonely. He thinks that the only way he can get people to hang out with him is to pick them up and take them home. It would have to be someone super hot, but I also want him to have a dapper moustache. Dan Stevens (who played Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey), he has good facial hair.

For Trevor, the lizard boy&I am a huge fan of Tyler Posey (TVs Teen Wolf). Id totally want him to play Trevor. He has a combination of seeming dangers and being a superhero as well as appearing really goofy.

Andrews-Katz: Youve been in the musical pit, on the stage and now, behind the scenes of a musical production. Which do you prefer and why?

Huertas: The great thing about Lizard Boy is that I get to do all three of them simultaneously. If I can keep doing that, Id be a very happy camper for a very long time. I love being in the pit because of my love of music. I love being on stage, and writing is really fun. Of all the three, I think I love acting the most. But, if I can do all of them, that would be cool.

Andrews-Katz: If you could play any role - regardless of any limitations - what would it be?

Huertas: The things that pop in my head are Sondheims female leading characters. They are incredible. I would love to play Mrs. Lovett [from Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street]. I would love to play the big character roles like the Witch in Into the Woods. Im also thinking of Sally in Follies; I love a good Torch Song! Put me in the middle of a stage, let me emote for a while, and then leave. You clap for me for hours&.that would be great. I think Mrs. Lovett would be the number one choice.

Lizard Boy, the musical opens at the Seattle Repertory Theatre on March 27th and plays through May 2, 2015. For more information call 206-443-2222 or visit www.seattlerep.org.

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