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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 2, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 22
Michael Thomas Grant is a fink!

An interview with a lead from Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
Arts & Entertainment
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Michael Thomas Grant is a fink!

An interview with a lead from Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

ROMY AND MICHELE'S
HIGH SCHOOL REUNION, the musical
THE 5TH AVENUE THEATRE
June 8-July 12


Many films have become stage musicals, and the latest is Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. After several years of workshops, the show is being produced and put on stage by the 5th Avenue Theatre. In preparation for the opening the Seattle Gay News caught up with Michael Thomas Grant, who is playing Sandy Frink, the role originated by Alan Cumming in the 1997 film version.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Where were you raised?

Michael Thomas Grant: I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. I went to the Memphis College of Art until after my freshman year. Then I left and did not continue.

Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences as a performer?

Grant: First and foremost it was my brothers. That's how I was raised, listening to music in my dad's truck. We'd all sing along with ZZ Top, George Thorogood and the Eurythmics. You didn't want to sing off key, so I learned to sing that way.

Andrews-Katz: ZZ Top, George Thorogood and the Eurythmics? It's like 'one of these things doesn't belong.'

Grant: (laughing) That's true. I think that The Blues Brothers Soundtrack eventually replaced the Eurythmics. My brothers were kind of a second set of parents for me. When they went through their Led Zepplin/Hendrix stage, it was my first foray into those fields. The first song I even played live was 'Say it Ain't So' by Ouiser with my brother on the guitar.

Andrews-Katz: What was the show that gave you the theatre bug?

Grant: I never considered performing until I was in high school. My girlfriend at the time, showed me a bootleg copy of Spring Awakening. Later I saw A Very Potter Musical, and it was watching Darren Criss that it dawned on me that I wanted to explore more theatre. I eventually saw Spring Awakening at the Playhouse on the Square in Memphis. It was kind of serendipitous, so I decided to move to LA and pursue acting. I decide to try out for Seussical, the Musical, because nothing says 'I'm serious' like Seussical, the Musical.

Andrews-Katz: You've appeared in film and stage. Which do you prefer and why?

Grant: I think I prefer theatre because I get to do so much more of it. The energy in the room, and connecting to people is more visceral and in the moment. You get more time with the people and material to create those kinds of bonds. It can mean much more than the actual product, and you get more out of it as a performer. In film, you get to have smaller moments, which are nice too, but a lot of the theatre has been in smaller venues, so you get them there as well. Also you don't get to sing as much on film.

Andrews-Katz: Romy and Michelle isn't the only original musical you are doing this year. Tell us a little about David Orris' Invisible.

Grant: Invisible is basically a John Hughesque take on The Invisible Man. Griff is one of the stereotypical nerds that you would see in those kinds of films. He and his best friend make a serum to make them both physically attractive and adept, and it turns them invisible instead. It brings into question whether or not you want to be popular and what it means to be seen as a genuine human being. I think it's really cool.

Andrews-Katz: Have you been with the musical Romy and Michele since its first workshop days?

Grant: No. I think the workshop started twelve years ago. Robin [Schiff, the musical's script author] has been trying to get it worked on for over a decade. The main team has been together at least seven years. Once they started to put it into workshop form, that was maybe three years ago, that's when Stephanie [Renee Wall, playing Michele] was brought on, and two years ago is when I was brought onto the project.

Andrews-Katz: What are the problems and advantages of doing a musical that is based on such a popular film?

Grant: The cool thing about it is there are so many iconic moments within the musical. You have to work around those specific things so people can get what they love out of the piece. There is an audience expectation about what they are getting, and you have to match it to some degree. The beauty of it is after you can turn it around and those can be your strongest aspects. The people coming to see the movie are going to love it because everything they expect is there. After that point, you have as much freedom to take them [the audience] by surprise. The musical takes every moment you love about the film, and turns it up to an eleven!

Andrews-Katz: What will be some differences between the film and the musical version of Romy and Michele's High School Reunion?

Grant: I guess because the cast has been cut down a little bit, there is no 'smoking cowboy' and that's missing. There have been relationships expanded as well.

Andrews-Katz: At what point does a show in workshop, get worked over and tweaked enough to become frozen and sent on?

Grant: Never! That's the cool thing about Robin Schiff; if there is a better joke, she will find it and change the script. That's the good part about having our people every step of the way is that we are still improving things. There are some things that are kind of frozen, but those are the things that already work as perfectly as we hoped.

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

Grant: There are a couple of different roles. I woke up this morning and in the shower I was singing 'Dear Evan Hanson.' I would love to play him because of the characterization. But then your brain starts to go further and further back to other shows. I don't know. I may stop there because I love that character so much. It's kind of perfect. Another part of me says it would be super fun to be in Caroline, or Change. If someone ever gave me the opportunity to sing 'Lot's Wife' every night, that would be great!

Michael Thomas Grant is making his 5th Avenue debut with the premiere of Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. He has appeared on Showtime's 'Roadies' and ABC's 'The Fosters' as well as being an accomplished cabaret performer.

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Michael Thomas Grant is a fink!

An interview with a lead from Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

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