My Fair Lady
December 28 – January 2, 2021
Get tickets and more info here
Adam Grupper is no stranger to the theatre. Nor is he unknown to television or feature films. He is currently touring in the Lincoln Center production of the great Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe classic musical, My Fair Lady.
Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer?
Adam Grupper: Gosh, it’s such an interesting question. I didn’t have specific mentors. It’s such a funny question, and I’ve never been asked it before this. The one person that influenced me was a local actor, in my hometown, Casper Roos (in the original Broadway production of Shenandoah). His son Pieter, was cast in a local production of My Fair Lady. Casper was the first professional actor that I knew, that had a family life. It was what I admired, the idea of being a journeyman, working actor and still have a family. That was the model of what I wanted to be. Someone that could look at acting as a craft and a career. I was not interested in being a ‘star’, but still wanted to be a working actor. I remember that he came and spoke to us. I saw him perform and I admired the way he balanced his life and career.
Andrews-Katz: Your first Broadway casting was for the original run of Into the Woods. Describe your meeting with Stephen Sondheim.
Grupper: I auditioned for James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim right after my first Equity job. It was the first call I got from a new agent that I started to work with at that time. My first audition was on the stage of the Edison Theatre. James Lapine asked me the one question you are never supposed to ask an actor – “How old are you?” And I was stupid enough to answer! At my call back, I remember being very nervous. I was performing, understudying the ‘Baker’, singing “No More”. I was so nervous that I forgot the lyrics to the second verse. Sondheim began feeding me the lines. I was so grateful, and finished the song. When I was done, he said – “That was absolutely beautiful”. I felt like I could die not he spot, and die happy.
Andrews-Katz: Later on you were cast in the Encores! production of Merrily We Roll Along. What is it about this (so-called) ‘flop’ that has created such a strong cult following?
Grupper: That’s a great question. Part of it is that the score is so magnificent. I remember listening to the Original Cast Recording in college. I was not initially a fan, but as I listened to it over and over, it created a nuance. I began to fall in love with the score. The backwards-in-time motif is a very seductive one. The idea of seeing people at their most cynical and ending with being innocent is – in theory – devastating. The challenge is that when you care about these characters, you are seeing them at their most unlikable. It can tax audiences, but it is so worth it if you can do it properly. Knowing the path they took and knowing they began with such aspirations, energy and hopes just to see it disappear is hard to see. I think it’s one of the reasons the show survives, is because people love to see that odyssey.
Andrews-Katz: You played the role of the producer, “Gold” in Broadway’s, The Wild Party among an incredible cast including Toni Collette, Mandy Patinkin and Eartha Kitt. What is the memory you want to remember forever, and what is the one you want to forget?
Grupper: The memory I will always have is our ‘sitzprobe’ – the first time the cast and orchestra work together. I did a number of the workshops, and among a handful of the few that made it through the many incarnations of the show. The memory that lasted all the way through the show’s run and beyond, is the first number: that jazz blast and then, “Queenie was a blonde…” I heard it for over two years. To hear it with the orchestra, the jazz infused, raunchy orchestration is thrilling. I remember holding out my dinky little cassette recorder to bring it home for my wife, and said: “Listen to this!” Thinking about it even now sends chills.
The memory I want to forget is … well, Mandy Patinkin was difficult to work with. I don’t know if he had personal issues, but I felt it definitely. It affected others, and the run of our show and the entire dynamic.
Andrews-Katz: How did you keep your skills sharp during the pandemic?
Grupper: I was fortunate that I had other outlets aside from live theatre. I do audio books and have a recording studio in my home. I record a number of them. I also managed to get hired for film and TV work, including a couple of episodes of Pose, and Dope Sick. I shot a movie, Spirited, among others. What especially kept me sharp was Coaching virtually. I had a number of students preparing for their Performance Arts High School auditions. I worked with them beyond their auditions and did acting lessons with them. We worked on Shakespearean sonnets, and that was gratifying.
Andrews-Katz: Do you have any theatrical superstitions?
Grupper: I will say one very interesting thing: The Scottish Play superstition. We were in Oklahoma City doing a show for a while. There is a scene where I am waiting for my queue, and I was chatting with a stagehand that I spoke to every day. He casually said, “I just saw a bunch of Macbeth videos on YouTube.” We all blanched. Later that night, there were mechanical issues, and they had to put a five-minute delay due to a curtain malfunction. It was the one and only time since the pandemic that we had a technical difficulty. You tell me if the ghosts of that Scottish Play is having revenge.
Andrews-Katz: You’ve performed in the medias of stage, television, and the movies. Do you have a preference and why?
Grupper: I would say – it’s funny, the answer varies. I really, really enjoyed doing the last movie I did, in part because I do them so infrequently and enjoy trying out a new medium. I always return to the Well of Theatre, it is my wheelhouse and one of the things I enjoy most about it, is that it gives control to the actors, a certain agency. It’s collaborative but ultimately when it comes down to it, in movies and television, the final word on the performance is the editor and directors. You can do a million performances and the one they like is the one that goes in the final edition. In theatre, it is ultimately up to the actor to create that performance. It’s only one take, and you have to recreate that character every night. You can try different things, but it is the responsibility comes down to the actor. What I choose to do with that character is mine.
Andrews-Katz: You’ve narrated over 100 audio books. How do you keep the voices succinct, and not let your reading become monotonous?
Grupper: It’s acting! First of all depending on the kind of book I’m reading, I’m playing a character. Even when I’m reading on my own, I’m playing a character. As a narrator, I’m conduit between Author and Reader. If it’s non-fiction or technical, it’s my job to make that information easy to understand. If I’m playing character, then I get to play all these different types of characters. It’s like theater; I have all this kind of control. I can play a variety of narrators, or characters and I change my narrative accordingly. It’s storytelling. Narration is the most fundamental, basic way of storytelling. It’s the oldest form of performance that’s ever been.
Andrews-Katz: In the current production of My Fair Lady, you play the role of Alfred P Doolittle, “a common dustman”. What similarities and differences do you share with your character?
Grupper: I have no similarities with this character. I have none. I tend to be cerebral. I should preface this with saying, where we do coincide is that I would like to think of myself as an intelligent person, and Doolittle definitely is intelligent. He is a pleasure seeker, he is transgressed, anti-establishment, a truth-teller, and believes in pleasure seeking as an act of defiance or a political act by defying Edwardian morality. I admire his kind of “F-You” stance. I wish I had it sometimes. He is selfish, but I do admire his courage. His anti-establishment stance is admirable.
Andrews-Katz: If you could play any role – regardless of any limitation – what would it be and why?
Grupper: What is really interesting is that I’ve never thought of playing parts that I cannot play. This question opens a world of possibilities. There are characters I’d like to take another shot at, Sweeney Todd or Tevye, but here I can play a woman, or a person of color, or a person that is gay or trans. I think I’d have to give that question some serious thought. I don’t know. I really don’t. I’m trying to run through all the roles [in my mind], and I’m drawing a complete blank. This is the first question that has truly stumped me.
Adam Grupper has worked on the stage, as well as television, film, and audio books. Currently, he is portraying “Alfred P. Doolittle” in the touring production of Lincoln Center’s – My Fair Lady. Stanley Holloway originally created the role in London, on Broadway, and in the 1964 film.
My Fair Lady
Paramount Theatre – December 28 – January 2, 2021
Get tickets and more info here