In January 2011, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center announced that Scott RC Levy was to be its new producing artistic director in the theater. He took over that June, then produced and directed classics like Hairspray, Gypsy and A Christmas Story, as well as edgier pieces like Assassins. His work has been well-received, and some argue that he's breathed new life into the FAC theater program.
Now the Springs is about to see whether Levy can act, too. The Drowsy Chaperone finds Levy in his local debut as Man in Chair, the play's main character. He says that the move is partly to find out how things look from the other end of the stage.
"It's one thing to be the director, but how does it work for the actors?" he says. "Are the systems we have working, or do they need to be improved? I like to see that from the actor's perspective."
Levy's experienced that perspective plenty of times. Though he came to the FAC following a stint as producing artistic director at the Penobscot Theatre in Maine, he's also been a teaching artist with the Guggenheim Museum and has acted on and off Broadway, overseas and across the U.S.
So, other than taking a look at the systems and logistics of his programs, why has he chosen Chaperone to make his debut acting appearance here?
To answer that, a little background is essential. First, Chaperone is a different sort of play — a comedy with a musical in it. A bit of a sendup of 1920s musical theater, it's set in the apartment of Man in Chair, who puts on a record to reminisce about his favorite show, the fictional Drowsy Chaperone. The musical breaks out in his apartment, interwoven with behind-the-scenes story lines of its actors.
The play was originally performed as a spoof for a stag party, but went on to become a multiple-Tony winning Broadway production in 2006 and 2007. It closed after a run of more than 700 performances and previews.
Man in Chair seemed to call to Levy, in part because he, like the character, loves musical theater. But Levy also wanted more interaction with the FAC audience. That meant he had to truly inhabit the role of Man in Chair, even going so far as to shave off his trademark goatee.
"But when I decide to be in a production," he says, "I won't direct myself. I need to be able to entrust the production to the director I bring in."
The director in this case is WYNOT Radio's Cory Moosman. A veteran of the Springs' stage scene, Moosman is the right director for Chaperone, Levy says. What's more, "He's the right person to direct me."
Moosman has led six other productions at the FAC, including Beauty and the Beast and Lend Me a Tenor. When Levy posted for interviews to direct Chaperone, Moosman's name was foremost in his mind.
"We're in complete agreement," says Moosman, "It's like jazz, we're trying new things and having fun.
"Scott has been easy to work with. There's always a moment when you wonder if it will work, but if you cast well, then it does."
That means enjoying the intangibles, too, like chemistry. "Our entire cast is a bunch of crazy comedy actors who aren't afraid to take chances, Moosman says. "This is the best musical-comedy ensemble I've ever been a part of."