I was first introduced to the leading-man talents of Will Reynolds in the summer of 2012 when I saw him star in the New York Musical Theatre Festival production of "Baby Case" as "Charles Lindbergh/Bruno Hauptmann." After seeing Will in the show, I knew I had to interview him. Now, that time has come!
Will's other theatrical credits include "The Illusion" (Signature Theater), the North American Tour of "Mamma Mia," "Emma" and "A Room with a View" (The Old Globe), "George Bailey" in "A Wonderful Life" (Engeman Theater), "Huck" in "Big River" (Goodspeed Opera House), and "Jason" in "Ordinary Days" (Adirondack Theatre Festival). Will also created the leading role of "Chad" in Seth Rudetsky's musical "DISASTER!" and had the privilege of working with Robert De Niro on the film "Good Shepherd."
Now, Will is starring in the US premiere of the new musical "Love Story" along with fellow "Call Me Adam" participant Alexandra Silber at the Walnut Street Theatre (825 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107), based upon Erich Segal's best-selling iconic novel and one of the most romantic films of all time. "Love Story" runs through October 21 only! Click here for tickets!
From November 10-12 Libra Theater Company is presenting a concert of Will's music entitled "POEMS and MOON SONGS," directed by MK Lawson and featuring Sara Jean Ford ("How to Succeed…," "A Little Night Music"), Marissa McGowan ("The Nutty Professor," "Bonnie and Clyde"), Drama Desk nominee Jeremy Morse ("Bloodsong of Love," Libra’s "12th Night"), and Zachary Prince ("On a Clear Day…," "Baby It’s You") at Underground Lounge in NYC at 7:30pm, with additional 10pm performances on November 10 and 11. Click here for tickets! Updated: All profits will be donated to the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, for Hurricane Sandy relief.
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I was one of those little kids who was always running around in a cape in the backyard. In pre-school, we were putting together a class circus, and my teacher asked who wanted to be the ring-master and introduce each "act." No one volunteered, but I, naturally, saw this as the starring role, so I grabbed my cape out of my backpack (never leave home without it) and ran to the front of the class. And I was always the last kid out of the music room. I had some incredibly inspiring teachers early on, and never encountered anything else growing up that might have veered me from the path. That's either lucky or crazy.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? I became obsessed with Sondheim in high school. And all the actors and cast albums from his shows. I did a semester long independent study on him that culminated in a half lecture/half concert...obsessed. I had written him a letter that summer with questions for my project, and he responded, on TAPE with his answers. It was my holy grail. My dream of working with him is actually coming true next January, when I start work on the NY revival of PASSION directed by John Doyle at Classic Stage. I'm still pinching myself.
3. What attracted you to "Love Story"? What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I connect to so much of this story. I lost a close friend to cancer, and going through a similar journey as Oliver in LOVE STORY has been incredibly healing. But everyone can connect to it, because we all have lost or will lose someone, at some point. It also has a lot to say about fathers and sons - parents and children. It's universal, and every night I can feel that our audiences "go there" with us, and it is both rewarding and extremely moving. It is truly a gift to tell this story every night. And Howard Goodall's score is stunning.
4. What do you identify most with about your character "Oliver Barret IV"? Beyond bringing my own understanding of loss to the character, there is also a lot of joy in "Oliver." He is a bit of a smart aleck and a total romantic, which I can absolutely tap into. I get to blend my own love stories with his. Falling in love every night, and experiencing all those firsts again and again...it's a blast. Plus I happen to play opposite the most incredible leading lady a guy could ever be lucky enough to work with, Al Silber.
5. What has been the best part about working with Alexandra Silber? We had instant chemistry with each other, from the CALL BACK! The second we met, there was this 'thing,' and as we became friends and got closer during this process, it continued to grow. I feel so SAFE on stage with her, so supported. We basically don't leave the stage for 90 minutes, and it is an honor to live this story with her, daunting though it may be. She keeps me sane, and God is she funny!
6. What excites you about performing at the Walnut Street Theatre? The fact that it's the oldest theater in the country and that Thomas Jefferson himself enjoyed a few skits here...that's pretty cool. You can really feel the energy and presence of the generations of actors who played here before you, and to now be a part of that ... again, pretty cool. I'm also loving Philly - such a cool town with a really thriving art scene.
7. This past summer you, along with fellow "Call Me Adam" participants Anika Larsen, Melissa van der Schyff, and Jason Collins starred in the "Best of the Fest" winning show "Baby Case." What did you enjoy most about starring in this show? I had the rare opportunity to play both the protagonist and the antagonist - Charles Lindbergh, who's baby is kidnapped and is the catalyst for the story, and Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the German immigrant who is ultimately accused and executed for the crime. Each man had such a profound impact on the other, and though extremely different in most ways, they are both men desperate for answers, justice, and peace. I love when a show examines the role perspective plays in history, and BABY CASE did that brilliantly. I was really proud of what we were able to accomplish at NYMF, and so glad that it got all that recognition.
8. On November 10-12 Libra Theater Company is presenting a concert of your music entitled POEMS and MOON SONGS at Underground Lounge in NYC. What made you want to start writing your own music and what excites you about this upcoming concert? So much excites me about this project. It's a very special collection from my songbook, and I'm honored to have been approached by Libra to share it. I love setting poetry - my show THE GREENWOOD TREE (NYMF '09, Kennedy Center "Page to Stage Festival" '10) is a musical based on the love triangle embedded in Shakespeare's sonnets. In POEMS & MOON SONGS, my settings of some of the greatest poetic voices of all time are featured (Emily Dickinson, A.E. Houseman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and more). I also have always had a fascination with the moon, and there's a corner of my songwriting that is a response to that fascination, in my own words. The evening is an attempt to capture the conversation that unfolds when we look up at the night sky - feeling both tiny and alone, yet utterly and deeply connected.
I started writing music in earnest while in drama school at Carnegie Mellon. Coming from the suburbs of Chicago with no real formal training, I started out very overwhelmed by what a conservatory demands of a young artist. Unaware of it at the time, I needed a release and an expression that was completely mine - "hands off" from my teachers and the rest of my training. I started spending more and more time in the practice rooms, and I ended up crafting songs for the incredible talents surrounding me. Before I knew it, I had a handful of original tunes, and we made a homespun album and did a concert at the drama school. It was an incredibly exciting time, and I'm so grateful for my fellow schoolmates, teachers, and the countless people beyond CMU who helped me unlock my voice as a writer.
9. Why did you want to partner with Libra Theater Company for this concert? What does Underground Lounge offer as a venue that another one might not? Libra approached me last season to use a few songs for their "Songs You Should Know" concert. A relationship developed, and their artistic director, Nick Luckenbaugh, came to me with an offer to present an evening of my work. POEMS & MOON SONGS had been kicking around in my mind as a title, and I pitched it to them. It has been fast and furious since then! They are a fantastic young company - their award winning production of TWELFTH NIGHT was at The Underground Lounge, and it is a space they have a strong affinity for. There are many theatrical concert hot spots out there, but I'm excited about opening up fresh new venues, especially in different parts of town. Also, the Underground Lounge is extremely intimate, which to me is its most attractive quality. We have 5 performances and a really exciting cast that I can't announce just yet...COME!
10. What do you get from writing your own music that you don't get from performing other's people's music? Where is your favorite place to write? At the end of the day, no matter what, it is all about honing your skills as a STORYTELLER - whether as an interpretive artist or a creative artist. I write with my actor hat on, and I act with my writer hat on. They each inform the other, and I wouldn't have gotten into writing in the first place if it wasn't for the work I've done as an interpretor. As actors, we get pigeonholed pretty quickly in this business into some "type," which can limit the sort of roles you'll play, the kind of stories you can be a part of. But as a writer, anything goes - those restrictions don't apply. It is incredibly freeing.
My favorite place to write? I do a lot the broad strokes work while on my feet, walking around NYC (or whatever city I may be in at the time). I go to an instrument once the idea is starting to cook. I usually make a rough demo as soon as I can, and then I go back to being on my feet, listening and reviewing - which starts the seemingly endless (but incredibly important!) revision process. I think a writer is only as good as their willingness to revise.
11. You are an avid traveler. From September to November of 2007 you backpacked through Europe by yourself and in December 2008 you backpacked through South East Asia. What did you enjoy most about traveling? What was the best part about this experience? What did you learn about yourself? YES! I toured with MAMMA MIA! for about a year and a half when I first started out, and all that travel made me hungry for more. So after I got off the road, I had a lot of flight miles saved up, and I used them to take me to Europe. I saw 28 cities in 11 different countries in 6 weeks. I slept on trains. I did the hostel thing. I played my uke on top of the Eiffel Tour. I hiked the Cinque Terre, saw lots of different theater, and met some incredible people. But mostly, I learned how to follow my gut, and how to be open to all the possibilities of the present. Is that cheesy? I had an idea of a plan, but no true plan, so it was a lesson in grand improvisation. A year later I flew to Asia and joined up with 2 friends who were on tour with Lea Salonga in CINDERELLA - we trekked through Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam together on their 2-week layover. We explored Angkor Wat, took a 3 day river trip down the Mekong Delta staying with families along the way...it was beautiful. I learned so much about living simply, simply living, and was inspired by the heartwarming kindness of all the people I encountered there. I then travelled back to the islands of Thailand for another week on my own. It truly is paradise. I also came back a vegetarian. So there's that.
12. What's the best advice you've ever received? In show biz? "Run your own race." Don't look around and compare yourself with what every one else is doing, just do your best and keep on putting one foot in front of the other.
13. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Ooh, now you're getting personal. This may be TMI, but I have this bizarre ability to control my dreams, usually, so I pretty much have free reign over the casting anyway. That said, I'd always like a chance to hang out with my grandmother again. She was really important to me and had some great stories. Or if I could put on a cape and run around with 8 year old me (Billy) in the backyard, that be pretty fun too.
14. Favorite way to spend your day off? Sleeping late and eating well!
15. Favorite way to stay in shape? Usually it is yoga, recently it has been Bikram yoga, and MOST recently (because LOVE STORY has a love scene that involves just a pair of boxers) it has been the Insanity workout. It is truly insane, but it works! At least that's what my fictional wife says.
16. Boxers or Briefs? That amazing hybrid - the boxer briefs.