Call Redialed: NEW Ryan Bauer-Walsh Interview: "The Who's TOMMY" at Seven Angels Theatre
Last time Ryan Bauer-Walsh & I spoke, he was getting ready to sail around the world performing on a cruise ship. Now that he is back in New York, I am thrilled we get to catch up as he gets ready to star in Seven Angels Theatre’s production of my all-time favorite Broadway musical, The Who’s TOMMY, in the role of Captain Walker.
Based on the iconic 1969 rock concept album, The Who’s TOMMY is an exhilarating story of hope, healing and the human spirit. The story of the pinball-playing, deaf, dumb and blind boy who triumphs over his adversities has inspired, amazed audiences for more than 40 years. This five-time Tony Award-winning musical is a high-energy, one-of-a-kind theatrical event, you don’t want to miss.
The Who’s TOMMY will play at Seven Angels Theatre (1 Plank Road, Waterbury, CT) through May 19. Click here for tickets!
1. It has been about six or seven years since our last interview together. What has been the biggest change for you during this time? Hey Adam! Its good to chat with you!
The biggest change for me is that I found myself. When we last spoke I was about to set out on a journey around the world. It was a leap taking time away from the New York theatre scene and while it grew my spirit and connection to our beautiful world I ended up back where I started - and that’s where things really changed. When I came home I found out my mother had cancer and going through that with my family profoundly altered me. I consciously took a year off of theatre to figure out what mattered in my life. During that time several things happened; I started rockin’ a chrome cut, illustrated two published books, booked my first TV show and just last month I had my gallery debut as an artist.
I also got my health together. I found out my body doesn’t process certain foods. It was causing a lot of problems. Once that was figured out I hired a trainer and worked my ass (oops can I say that?) off till I felt back at 100%. My first audition back was for TOMMY at Seven Angels theatre and I booked it. Here we are.
2. Here we are! You are playing Captain Walker in Seven Angels Theatre's production of The Who's TOMMY. What made you want to audition for this show? After all that had happened this last year it was really important to book that first audition back. It’s a lead role, and it’s a new type that I really want on my resume.
It’s also a show about PTSD. I think it is incredibly relevant to where we are and relevant storytelling is the reason I do theatre. I want to perform stories that help people understand personal trauma from a new perspective and history from a personalized narrative. Catharsis is so overlooked in society as a necessary solvent for life’s difficulties. This show is literally about healing. It’s a perfect fit.
3. What do you relate to most about Captain Walker? His persistence. He goes to war and comes home only to find he is once again at war. A war he can’t ever win because he is fighting an unresponsive opponent. That fight gets reflected off his son and onto everyone around him. So he tries tactic after tactic to keep his life together. But the only thing he ever really needed was forgiveness. He wanted to win, but he didn’t need to. Like all of us, he just wanted to feel loved, to feel whole.
4. That’s interesting. So what would be one characteristic of his you are glad you yourself do not possess? His desperation. You see Captain Walker start out as a 19 year old at the beginning of war in Europe. He is held captive in a POW camp and his desire to never be caged again changed his brain. Now, whenever he feels trapped or threatened, he lashes out. He constantly needs to be in control of everything and everyone around him. Everything needs to be perfect. Safe. After Tommy’s awakening Captain Walker is disillusioned because he went from having a son he couldn’t control because he was comatose to having a son he couldn’t control because he was a superstar. He is absolutely desperate to fix things and I find it exhausting.
5. In this show, Captain Walker goes the extra mile and then some to get his son better. Has there been a time you have gone the extra mile for something you wanted? Absolutely. Sometimes the extra mile is just standing still for a second and breathing. New Yorkers are so frenetic— it’s forced upon us.
This last year my “extra mile” was taking a step back so I could move forward.
6. One of the songs you sing is "Do You Think It's Alright?" Is there anything that made you ask yourself this question first? (Laughs) This makes me laugh because I ask this question too frequently. Usually it’s about having a second cup of coffee. But I do remember asking myself that when I accepted a tour in China. Spoiler: It was not alright. (laughs)
7. Another one of my favorite songs you sing in this show is "I Believe My Own Eyes." What is something you now believe in that you didn't prior to being cast in this show? I wouldn’t say this show has changed my core beliefs - but it is reaffirming them. More than anything it just feels so good to be back on stage. Having the opportunity to prove yourself to me is an opportunity for joy, connection and growth. I used to think that chaos was the source of all growth, and while it continues to be true societally - I find that acceptance can have the same affect when applied properly. Say ‘yes.’
8. What is one fun story that has happened during rehearsal that you can share with us? As you know there are two kids that play young Tommy in the show; Brendan Harris and RJ Vercellone. They make me laugh constantly and are such smart actors. But the theatre recently held an egg hunt for them for Easter and since then I'll randomly find an egg in odd places exactly when I need a sugar boost. Recently I found one inside Tommy’s mirror; Jelly Beans. I have a huge sugar tooth - ask anyone I know.
9. In addition to acting, you are also an artist. If you could draw Captain Walker in any scene from this show, which scene would you want to draw him in? With the kind of work I do, I think I would want to focus on his time in the camp. Trying to capture the moment his anxiety develops. That time in the camp is what causes him to impulsively shoot someone in the play later. I think capturing his ruptured state in a broken landscape could be a beautiful painting of a difficult moment. It would be a lovely place to find where the light in the work is.
10. Rapid Fire Questions:
Twizzlers: Chocolate or Strawberry? Strawberry. But red licorice pinwheels are my jam.
Peanut Butter: Crunchy or Smooth? Smooth with honey.
Boxers or Briefs? Briefs. Always.
Favorite Color M&M? Extinct tan.
Favorite go to Emoji when texting? Three hearts surrounding a smiley. “I feel loved.”
It’s so good to speak with you again! Thank you for making me feel loved.
More on Ryan:
Ryan’s recent credits include: The Most Happy Fella as Jake (ENCORES!), BILLY ELLIOT (1st National, Chicago) ZORRO (international tour), Les Miserables as Jean Valjean and Feuilly (Maltz Jupiter, North Shore) Miss Saigon (NCT). Ryan also created the role of GOODE in Errol and Fidel which won Best of Fest at NYMF. He originated lead roles in four Off-Broadway productions including Pietro in Death For Five Voices. TV/Film: HBO’s THE DEUCE, Neon Days. Ryan is also an accomplished artist and the illustrator of two children’s books. He is currently working on his own line of children’s books and recently made his solo gallery debut in Harlem as an artist. He can be heard on multiple cast recordings and is known for his extensive resume of internationally acclaimed concert work. BFA: HARTT. Rep: AVALON.