Mary and Max Press Photo (Trudie Lee)
It is always refreshing to hear of new musicals being developed, especially when they are original content pieces. That is the case for the new musical Mary & Max, which is currently running at Theater Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Starring Broadway's own Nick Adams, Lauren Elder, and Anthony Galde, they are bringing this new musical to the stage for the first time.
Based on the Australian Claymation film of the same name, the story follows two unlikely pen pals, lonely 10-year-old Mary from Melbourne, and Max, a 44-year-old man with Asperger’s Syndrome in New York City. Mary & Max has a book and lyrics by Bobby Cronin, Crystal Skillman, and is directed by Stafford Arima
The three of them sat down to talk with RyeTheNewsGuy.com exclusively about their experience creating a new pieces out of the United States and away from the New York Theater scene, how they relate to their characters, and SO much more! Will Mary & Max see a Broadway bow in the future? Read on to find out!
First, tell me a little bit about the show Mary and Max, and how it became to be a musical adapted for the stage?
Lauren Elder: This is Lauren. Hi. Bobby Cronin, who wrote the music, has been one of my best friends for many years. Years ago, another friend and I, suggested that he see the film, just because we thought he would like it. As soon as he watched it, he said he had to turn it into a musical. He told me he wanted me to play Mary. And, so, he started writing it for my voice. Then as he wrote more, and more, and collaborated with Crystal Skillman, who wrote the book, then we started having readings. Then, having other people join us and a couple years ago Nick and Tony joined us. Now, here we are, in our first production.
Wow. That's incredible.
So, how does it feel to have a composer write a musical especially for you and your vocal range?
It's a dream come true. I mean, its very rare that we have something like this happen. Usually, you're sitting yourself into other characters and trying to make your voice work in a score that was written for someone else.
I'm so happy that I didn't have to do that. He wrote everything to fit right into my voice. Right into all the sweet spots. And, I mean, I really identify with the character, as she was. But, as we've grown and she's become even closer to me. So, its really, really amazing to have this opportunity.
Wow, that is pretty incredible! Okay, so Tony and Nick do you guys have any insights on the process and your experience?
Tony Galde: Well, Nick and I both came in in Atlanta, and it was kinda crazy because it was very last minute for both of us. Actually, we found out the same day which was the day before we started rehearsals. So, I had been asked, and came into ... to rehearse some of the feature stuff. And I rehearsed with Bobby for about four hours that day. As I was driving away, they called and said that the person that was playing Max had backed out or was unable to do it, and they asked me if I would do it. So the next day, I started, you know, we started rehearsals and I was playing Max. And the rest is history, which is kind of crazy because he is a 350 pound Jewish New Yorker with Asperger's. So I never anticipated playing that role, but I'm having an amazing time. And Nick can tell you his story..
Nick Adams: Yeah. I got a call the day before, and I was in New York asking if I could fly to Atlanta to start reading the following day. And I initially said no, that it was too last minute, and I was starting another job a week after that. So I just thought it would be too much. I went to see Miss Saigon that night and at the top of act two there's a huge sign that says "Atlanta." And I was like that's the sign that I should go to Atlanta tomorrow, so I called my manager. And he was like, "Yeah, you should go. You should do this. I've been hearing rumblings about this musical for the last couple years and just go and say yes and go do it."
And I am so glad that I did. You know, it's been a incredible journey to originate another character. And I think as actors that's really the ideal. I mean, you get to build it from the ground up and these creators have been really receptive to ideas that we've had and borrowed influence in the choices that we've made with the characters, which isn't always the case so it's been a process. And for the three of us, kind of, to have the last couple of years to find this together it's been an incredible experience. And I think it's been valuable to have that chemistry, sort of, built from the beginning. It's been a great journey and this is just the beginning. It's still in its infancy, you know, it's our first production we've been allowed. Last night, you know, we did a talk-back last night after our performance, and people didn't really understand that this was the very first time it's ever been on its feet. They asked if we had the same staging and choreography before. And we said, "No, this is all knew for Calgary because it's the first time we're doing it."
Tony: We've never even done the show without a book in front of us.
Tony Galde and Lauren Elder (Trudie Lee)
Well, sticking on that note of creating an original role- something I wanted to talk about was what has it been like creating and developing a new original piece outside of the United States? Was this something you enjoyed, and what was challenging about it?
Tony: I think what's cool about doing it here is the eyes are off of us to a large degree, and you know, sometimes depending on where you do it. But when you do it in the States people start to come in more, and start to judge it and decide about it. And like Nick was saying, you know this is the first go around. So there's still so much that will happen, you know, with the show. So it feels really, it feels safe here, and being lead by Stafford Arima is a dream. You know He's amazing so - that to me has been the most thrilling part about this is that it just feels like we're kind of in a little bubble, you know, somewhere. Just creating and fine tuning it and then whatever happens from here. I'm sure it will change dramatically, as it did here from the first time we read the script to opening night it's a different show. Even in the six weeks that we rehearsed here. So, I like feeling that safety of being outside of the eyes, the watchful eyes-
Tony: I think understanding too that it's a work in progress. This is so not anywhere near finished and that's what's beautiful about it. I think that's what's been really amazing for us is just being on that journey for so long. And like Nick said, us working together we've kind of grown in this piece together. Yeah, it'll still change a lot I'm sure before we go into New York.
That's awesome. Anything from you Lauren or Nick about your experience in developing this outside of the United States and what you found challenging or enjoyed?
Lauren: I can't say that it's been that different from developing other musicals. We've been in a rehearsal room with amazing talented people and just working our butts off. There's been so much openness and so much creativity which has been really incredible. But I don't know if that's about it being here out of the United States, or just the people that are magically involved with this. So Yeah, it's been a lot of hard work, and it's been really fun. And I wish we had had more time to explore the city. We've been so immersed in this world of Mary and Max that I don't feel like we've actually even gotten out much. Which is okay.
So have you guys found yourself in any of your characters at all? And if so, what have you learned from them that you can take with you and apply in your life?
Lauren: Good question.
Tony: I think for me, Max, everyone has some Max in them. Everyone feels different. Everyone feels like they don't fit in or they don't you know ... We're all just searching for that connection. We're all just searching that we connect with. And that we can feel safe with. That's for me the thing that's closest with Max. That I understood immediately, and I think everyone does. And I think it's similar with Mary. Don't you think?
Lauren: Oh yeah. I mean, she's an outsider. She's kind of an outcast. And I think basically everyone can understand what it feels like to not be accepted by someone or to feel different than people because we are all different. She has such a big heart. And she just wants to love and be loved. And I think we can all identify with that as well.
Nick: I mean the thing about three of our characters is there's this unifying thing of what would be considered our flaws is, sort of, what helps us find each other. And that's what our friendship is built upon and we sort of celebrate those unique things about each other.
Nick Adams and Lauren Elder (Trudie Lee)
Nick: My character in particular has a bad stutter for most of the show. And Mary helps him sort of break out of that by excepting him. And I mean not to give a ... I mean if you've seen the film you know that he ends up being gay. That also was a beautiful journey for my character at the end that's revealed. It's interesting to see how audiences respond to that as well for each one of us to each character, but it is really special. It is very delicate.
Nick: And I think we do our best to give honest representations of in a theatrical way, but honest representations of each one of these characters. We even talked about this before it's very easy to click into them and connect with them and find them. They're all so different, but so interesting. It's unlike anything I've done before.
Tony: Yeah. I feel like I connected with Max. The little boy in me connected immediately with Max. Because just ... things in my life when I was young that were challenging. So yeah, I just connected with him immediately. And that's what it feels like the idea of connecting, and the idea of going back to the simplicity of your childhood and I don't know. I think everyone wants to connect. I think that we're living in a time right now that everyone's desperate to connect and see through each other's differences. And that's really what the theme of this show is.
That is incredible, and sounds so real and authentic. I truly hope that I get a chance to see it. On that note, after you end in Calgary are the three of you planning to stay with the show, will it make its US premiere in New York?
Lauren: We don't really know yet. We know that there are some theaters and some producers that are interested in the show. And we're hoping that-
Oh, wow, that is always very exciting and promising to hear.
Lauren:It will have a life beyond this and absolutely we are all hoping, and praying, and manifesting that it ends up on Broadway. Everyone can come and see it and enjoy this beautiful piece of art that we have. Yeah, the three of us definitely want to continue with it.
Tony: We always say to each other, I can't imagine doing without-
Lauren: With anyone else.
Tony: It's not just a family. It's a family that's been together for a really long time and been through a long journey together. So-
Lauren: And I've done it with other people before these two joined. And it's like I don't even know how we did it with the people before. They were amazing too, but since Nick and Tony joined it just raised the level. It went somewhere else. And yeah, I just can't imagine anyone else being in these roles.