The Lion King is perhaps the best-loved Disney musical to ever be recreated on the stage. From Julie Taymor’s incredible puppetry, to Elton John’s music and Tim Rice’s lyrics, the show is a spectacle to be hold. As the show prepares to come into Seattle’s Paramount Theatre for the seasonal holiday show, we sat down with Spencer Plachy, who is playing the villainous ‘Scar’
The Lion King plays at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre December 13, 2018 – January 6, 2019. Get tickets and more info here.
Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer?
Spencer Plachy: I would probably say my mother. She stepped in, when I was in a third-grade private school, and became the coordinator of the school’s music theatre program for one year. My grandfather played in a local country band in Houston. As I got older, I became a fan of Jack Nicholson. I remember the first time I was watching a movie when it really dawned on me the nature of the business. I said, “What a moment. These people are standing in front of a camera, putting together a movie.” It was when I was watching “Top Gun”, so I have to give thanks to Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer for crashing the foundation for me and helping me want to get into movies. I think I was about nine or ten at the time. That volleyball scene is one of the campiness scenes ever.
Andrews-Katz: What was the first show to give you the ‘theatre bug’?
Plachy: The first theatre role I did was ‘Mike, the Cowboy’ in a community production of Oklahoma. The fair answer would honestly be one of the first plays I did in high school. It was a staged version of Of Mice and Men. Such a beautiful story (we did it as part of a one-act competition in high school), but being part of that story, really grabbed me. I enjoyed working with my fellow actors and telling a heart-wrenching tale because it grabbed me at such an emotional level. I played the role of ‘Slim’.
Andrews-Katz: Your Broadway debut was in the musical revival, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Since the audience chooses the ending nightly, was it difficult learning a different ‘end song’ for each character?
Plachy: Difficult? Sure. It was certainly a challenge, since all of the endings are so unique in their own way. They were also tweaked enough to be similar enough for us to learn them all. It was always a riot, and a surprise, always keeping us on our feet. My personal favorite ending, which happened rarely, was when “Durdles” (played in the revival by Robert Creighton) was the murderer. I enjoyed that.
Andrews-Katz: Later on, you were on Broadway in the classic Romeo & Juliet. What is it about Shakespeare that still resonates with the public?
Plachy: The guy knew what he was doing – it was quite evident. As an actor or even an audience member, I think it translates so well and that’s why. Well, that and the massive library he created, and the poetry is gorgeous. The language he used to convey the human experience is universal, once the meaning is translated of course. Once you spend the first scene or two getting used to the language, you realize there are no subtexts in Shakespeare. Everyone says what they are thinking or feeling, to either themselves, each other or to the audience. The audience is let in on everything. There’s no sneaking anything past them. Admittedly it takes a hump (‘to get over Richard III’) and get used to the language. Then it’s an open book.
Andrews-Katz: Given the option, do you prefer to perform in classic straight plays or musical theatre?
Plachy: My goodness. A good musical or a good play, are first and foremost, ‘good’. Being a musical (or non-musical) is irrelevant if it’s good. To be fair and honest and open, I guess I’m a sucker for just talking to each other rather than breaking out in song-and-dance. As long as the show is put together well, it just flows.
Andrews-Katz: How did you come to audition for the role of “Scar” in The Lion King?
Plachy: It turned out they were looking for a new ‘Scar’, and I got a good agent. They asked if I was interested and I said, ‘yes.’ The funny thing is, the offer came to my agent two years ago, and I turned it down. I just got married and didn’t want to tour and spend all that time apart. When the offer came around again this time, we were at a different point in our relationship, and it’s an opportunity worth pursuing. Low and behold, here we are.
Andrews-Katz: Was it difficult getting used to audiences ‘booing’ and ‘hissing’ the villain character, or did you immediately play up to it?
Plachy: I assume you mean during the final bows. I absolutely play into it. As it happens, the more I get into the role over the past seven weeks, I go out for the audience bow still in character. I give a quick glare or sneer at the audience, so if I get boos, then I know I did something right. It’s fun to be the villain.
Andrews-Katz: Why is it more fun to be the ‘villain’ character opposed to being the ‘hero’?
Plachy: I’ve actually thought a lot about that. I feel that we, as humans, live with each other on a day-to-day basis. We are all trying to share this life experience. There are ways we are told we ‘ought’ to behave in order to get along. Often, we don’t do that. When playing a villain, we get to embrace those rebellious feelings and NOT behave as we ‘ought’ to. I think we all have those kinds of feelings, and delight in playing at being naughty.
Andrews-Katz: Given the chance to play any role without limitations, what would it be and why that role?
Plachy: I’m going to say ‘Brick’ in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I came close to getting to play the role once, but had to step out because of other things going on in my life. That is my favorite stage play, let alone my favorite Williams’ play. The sheer ambiguity of that character, with his wife and Skipper, has always been a fascinating story to me. The way that Williams maintains that ambiguity is so wonderful and complex. The relationship Brick has with Big Daddy, there’s stuff going on in that show that is so moving, uncomfortable, and just wonderful.
Spencer Plachy has played several roles on Broadway, Off-Broadway and is currently touring in the blockbuster musical, The Lion King.