by/por: Ana Lilia Cortés
Andrew’s Lloyd Webber “Phantom of the Opera” returns to the Ahmanson Theatre, with Brad Little and company and directed by Harold Prince- all ready to bring the joy and magic of that legendary production back to L.A. audiences.
In an interview with LWR, “The Phantom”- Brad Little –is unmasked, as is the name of his new CD, to learn more about the thespian of other Broadway shows like “The Prince and the Pauper,” “Cyrano, The Musical,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Anything Goes,” an extraordinary being who transformed the pain he suffered into relief for others. Talking to him was as moving, almost on the same level, as what that everyone else now enjoys when he dominates the stage in the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, for besides his talent and experience, there is an extra ingredient in this, his new role: his heart.
How is it to return to your home state with one of the best roles in theatre history?
Amazing. Usually I fell nervous and to tell you the truth, a little scared, but it’s funny because when we moved in the 1970’s my parents wanted me to play in a show in Los Angeles, and always asked me: “When are you coming to L.A.?” Finally it is happening and they moved to Michigan three months ago! My mother now says she will be forced by her friends to come and see me now.
How important was it for you to see “Fiddler on the Roof” as a boy, and how did you find that you wanted to be onstage as your parents did?
I wanted to be a basketball player while my brother was a theater major and my sister went into college as a theater major. I did not go to college because I’m dyslexic and now I’m the only one in the industry in the family, because my brother and sister went onto doing other things.
What was the best thing about those years?
My best years are right now. I remember when I was a kid that my father was acting every year in a different musical, in very big open theaters, and I fondly remember those as a very fun time, but I’m living my best years right now: I’m launching my new CD “Brad Little Unmasked,” although that is not the title I wanted. It seems kind of pretentious. My wife will tell you that it was not in my plans or in my heart to do it really, because I’m not into the star thing. I am a very private person but I enjoy singing and I enjoy when people take pleasure in my singing. I made the CD because fans keep asking me to, and I promised them, besides it is a more useful memento that I can sign for them, better than a playbill, I think.
What is it that you love best about “The Phantom of the Opera” and what is it that the role gives you as an actor and as human being?
I’d say the passion, the sensuality, the romance, and the music is so much fun to sing. When I saw Michael Crawford on Broadway I just cried and cried because it brought back so many childhood nightmares. I relived so many things I went through as a child, as far people not understanding dyslexia and having a complete disregard for it, feelings being hurt and so forth, losing a girlfriend because she thought I was dumb, for instance. “The Phantom” brought all that back to me, and even though I have no longer such a low self-esteem, at that moment I felt as if the role spoke to me in a personal way and found myself wishing it had helped other people that night, to go ahead and cry my eyes out like I did. It is important, because we don’t do that, you know? To see a real human onstage, go through it is so powerful! I’ve told this to other dyslexics and they agree, so I’m sure it speaks to people with all kinds of handicaps as well.
How did you go from having no self-esteem to fulfilling your potential as an artist?
It was such a slow process; it took me some time. I didn’t go to college. Colleges did not accept me. That was devastating but my attitude was always to fight, because it wasn’t about an awful GPA, it was my SFT scores that were the problem. I didn’t feel comfortable talking to people. I didn’t feel smart. I don’t read, so everything I know and experience in life was from what people told me, or what I saw on television. And when you’re an actor you have to go through auditions where I have to read! So whenever I messed it up I was even ashamed to admit my dyslexia. My wife really helped me there, by simply telling me, “Honey, just tell them you’re dyslexic.”
I did not know about opening up because when you have this, you’re battling episodes that accumulate throughout your life. In school, for instance, kids said the worse thing they can say: “Are you stupid?” Imagine my fear when I had to go trough to those auditions, but now the first thing that I tell dyslexics is that you need to educated them, because they don’s understand at all, they don’t know how is like to be dyslexic, only other dyslexics do, so you have to educate them as much as they’re educating you. To get this message out is inspiring, knowing I can help others with the same problem I have.
The Gaston Lernout original novel, in five years will be a century old, and it will be seventeen years after the debut of the musical. What keeps “The Phantom” fresh, and one of the public’s favorite musical romances of all times?
It’s such a common question. “What is about it?” It has almost everything, I think, it has it all: horror, romance, action, music; something for everyone, all wrapped up into one.
As “The Phantom” you must hide in the dark and through these circumstances, falls in love?
I get so wrap up in what I do that I don’t speak with anyone after the play. The emotions I go through- love, pride, embarrassment –require a few minutes in solitude, so to speak, in between the end of the play and after the curtain call. I go very deep into myself when I play this part, and it is easy to do because it is such a classical story, plus I’m behind a mask and a cap, I’m covered, and I can go to places I think that I may never really go without that exterior mask, it’s so wonderfully therapeutic in so many ways.
Harold Prince had a very important role in The Phantom’s success; ¿what is the most important thing you have learned from him?
He brought a wonderful human touch; when he directs us, he talks in black and white terms, as you would to a child. One who does not have all the credit she deserves is Maria Björnson, the set designer, the props, costume designer, make-up and hair- doing the job of four different people. One eye did all of that, and it is how everything looks together that affects us actors as well, that makes it so much easier.
What do you think Andrew Lloyd Webber means as far as musical theatre history?
I think he is the Tiger Woods of musical theater, what Andrew has been able to do is to keep up with modern music and make it accessible. “The Phantom” is very different from Jesus Christ Super Star, and it’s really amazing how he can create with completely different styles of music; Evita is an amazing piece of theater, so it is “Cats,” etc.
The public has some beautiful memories of Michael Crawford as “The Phantom”, what do you think about him as “The Phantom”?
Is a wonderful honor to be playing this role, and Michael Crawford is the Godfather of all “Phantoms”, he is the one who created it and we only hope that we can pull it off like he did.
After “The Phantom” and all the shows you have been in, what is your dream role?
That’s not fair! I can’t keep “The Phantom of the Opera” out, because that is my dream role!