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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 24, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 17
The hunt has ended! An interview with Hunter Foster
Arts & Entertainment
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The hunt has ended! An interview with Hunter Foster

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

JASPER IN DEADLAND
5TH AVENUE THEATRE
April 30-May 24


Hunter Foster is what you'd call a Broadway quadruple threat. He has accomplished himself as a musical theater actor, singer, librettist and now playwright. His works include the classic musicals: Cats, Les Miserables, and Grease, as well as some more contemporary shows like Martin Guerre, Footloose, King David or Urinetown, the musical. Aside from writing the musical Summer of '42, Hunter Foster has now penned the new musical Jasper in Deadland.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer?

Hunter Foster: I think the first person that I wanted to be was Harrison Ford. I grew up with Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and that sort of thing. It was the first thing that influenced my wanting to be an actor. For musical theater, it was Mandy Patinkin. He was someone I wanted to be in musical theater.

Andrews-Katz: What was the first show that gave you the 'Theater Bug?'

Foster: For me it was - I'm trying to think - I didn't necessarily grow up with theater. When I saw Les Miserables, I loved it. I used to think that musicals were a sort of tap dancing thing, not an overly dramatic piece. When I saw Les Miserables, I thought that was what I wanted to do. Not that being in a tap dancing show isn't fun; but to see a musical like that, that was so epic and grand, with real drama going on&I was mesmerized.

Andrews-Katz: Both you and your sister (Sutton) are Broadway talents. Do you two ever get competitive with each other?

Foster: Not at all! We've both been doing this for such a long time, I think we are happy that either of us has a job. There's never been any sort of competition with her at all. We both believe that there is enough theater out there, and although the theater is great, there are also better aspect of our lives. It doesn't have to take up everything in your life.

Andrews-Katz: Does it ever get awkward for either of you when you have to perform together in the same show?

Foster: We've only done that twice, and it was a long time ago. It was fine. We were in the shows for short stints overlapping. It wasn't really awkward. Actually, it was cool to have her around. We were in Les Miserables and Grease together on Broadway.

Andrews-Katz: You created the role of Bobby Strong. What was your first impression of the musical Urinetown?

Foster: I never really heard titles like that. There were a few, Bed Bugs the musical, or Toxic Avenger and you'd think, 'That's odd. I don't know what this is.' But I read through it and thought it was interesting. The music was really cool and I understood what they were trying to do. I did a reading and thought it [the show] was pretty good. We didn't know how good it was until we put it before an audience. We didn't know what to make of it until the audience started to laugh. You never know sometimes until then. You can be in a rehearsal room and everyone agrees that it works, and that the moment is funny. When you get it in front of an audience they may not get the joke. I've seen it happen over and over again.

Andrews-Katz: You played the role of Seymour in the Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors that was Tony Award nominated. What was your audition process like?

Foster: Oh, I don't even remember, it was so long ago. I was doing Urinetown at the time. I remember auditioning, and it was odd because they were calling me in for Seymour. I wanted to play the dentist. They said, 'You'll read for Seymour' and I didn't think I did that well. Then they called me back and I got it. We went out of town and the production closed. Then they made changes in casting, directors, and the entire production. They kept me.

Andrews-Katz: What inspired you to write the libretto for the musical The Summer of '42?

Foster: I've always wanted to be a writer before I wanted to be an actor. I knew that I wanted to eventually tackle writing a musical. Summer of '42 is a movie I always liked as a kid. I reached out to the screenwriter to secure the rights. We started working on it. We got several productions done and a cast recording. It was something that I really wanted to do, writing a musical, and Summer was going to be the first. It's been great.

Andrews-Katz: How would you summarize Jasper in Deadland?

Foster: I think it's a show about this kid who has this friend (that has become more than Best Friends) but he is afraid to love someone. His own family is dysfunctional. His (girl) friend accidentally falls into a lake and drowns. He goes after her into the Underworld. It's sort of a modern retelling of the Orpheus legend, where he has to find and bring her back to the Earth. It's also a show about dealing with parents and what it is to be a teenager in contemporary times. These two kids sort of have parental issues, and family issues, and they go through Deadland together. When they come out, they come to terms with some of the issues they are facing. It's also a love story as well. It's how people learn to love each other despite the obstacles in life and death.

Andrews-Katz: What was the inspiration behind the musical?

Foster: Ryan Scott Oliver is the co-book and composer of the show, and it was his idea. We have the same agent and she hooked us up together. He wanted to do a mash up of all these different legends and tales from mythology. He used Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythologies from all sorts of backgrounds. He fleshed out the characters more and the storyline, and we started working off of his drafts. I found it interesting because it was a real opportunity to score [musically compose] what it was like to be a modern teenager. The pitfalls a teenager faces and also a parallel to what we face in life.

Andrews-Katz: Are there advantages in being an established actor before writing a libretto?

Foster: I think it all goes hand in hand. I think I know when I'm writing, how I would say it as an actor. I've been writing characters with different arcs and journeys that I would want to do as an actor. I try to put myself in the situation as an actor, and ask - 'does this make sense to you' or 'how would I say it.' It's very helpful to have both perspectives.

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

Foster: That's a big question! I always wanted to play - because it is one of my favorite musicals - the M.C. in Cabaret. I thought he was one of the most interesting characters ever written. He's sinister, yet a showman and there are so many fun things about it. I've never gotten to play him and always wanted to. I auditioned for to take over when Alan Cumming was in the role (originally in 1999). I got close but Michael C. Hall got the role after Alan left.

Hunter Foster has appeared on Broadway in many different roles. He was nominated for his role in the Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors. On television he has appeared in 'Bunheads' alongside his sister.

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The hunt has ended! An interview with Hunter Foster
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