Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Quick Q&A: Doug Kreeger

I had the chance to chat with Doug Kreeger, the charismatic star of the new off-Broadway musical Rooms which opens this week at New World Stages.

Why Rooms?

More than anything it’s such a special show, it’s a two person show with a door and two chairs and a five person band and we take you to all these “rooms” throughout the three year history of this relationship. It proves you don’t need a lot. As much as I loved doing Les Miserables and having a barricade and a turntable you don’t need all that in order to bring people something that they can connect to and that moves them. Every demographic of person can latch on to something. It’s funny it’s moving and it’s an amazing rock score.

Do you personally have an affinity for pop-rock music?

I do. I’m the DJ in the dressing room. INXS, Foreigner, Queen. My music tastes span generations and genres depending on what I’m in the mood for. But yeah I’m definitely a fan. Classic rock is my favorite music.

What's different about singing this score as opposed to more traditional Broadway music?

It’s slightly different in terms of style but the hardest part is doing it eight time a week. When I was doing it last year (in Rochester and in Washington DC) I thought “oh this is fun, I can do this!” and was really roughing it up and making it raw, but then I started to have some issues with getting it out for every show. So I had to go back to my technique and find the spots in the show that I could do a little more traditional, just to protect my voice. The audience doesn’t know how much I’m doing to protect myself.

Right now, after about a month of doing the show, I’m pretty much on vocal rest. I talk a little bit here and there, I’m not pulling a Heather Headley where I’m quiet all the time but I’m pretty close. In the three months of vacation after doing the show in Rochester I let myself do everything I wanted to do, all the drinking and socializing, that I knew I wouldn’t be able to do now. There’s no caffeine, there’s no alcohol, there’s no extracurricular activities in my life.

Your character has a dark emotional arc in the show. Is it easy to shake it off after a performance?

Oh yeah, I don’t really have a problem with that. The only time I did, with a character sticking with me, was the Leopold and Loeb show Thrill Me. That was so dark, I was playing this sociopath. It was a little more intense.

Thrill Me was also a two-person musical. What is unique about performing in them?

You really get a chance to experience and show the character’s total journey from start to finish. After Thrill Me, I thought I couldn’t do another two-person show again, it’s just exhausting. When we’re doing a two show day or a four show weekend, one of our mantras has been that we are going to get out of it as much as we put in to it. That helps us start off on a high energy place.

How did you work on your Scottish accent for the show?

We had a dialect coach. He gave us tapes of people talking in a Scottish accent, I think he actually went in and recorded people talking in pubs. It’s all sort of in the throat and aggressive.

I'd like to know about the experience of playing opposite Natascia Diaz in other productions of this show last year, and if your performance has changed by working with Leslie Kritzer now in the role.

Natascia is a brilliant actress, was brilliant in the role and I learned a lot from her. It was tough to think about doing it with someone new. I had an amazing time on stage with her, and now I’m having an equally amazing time on stage with Leslie.

With Leslie it was a fine line between plugging her in to stuff that was already working and letting her explore. (Director) Scott Schwartz was brilliant with this. Leslie had a week of rehearsal before I came in, and then I came in and riffed with her. She is amazing. She’s giving, she’s hilarious, emotional. She’s been a total joy to work with. It’s been exciting to re-investigate my character with her and have stuff I do reflected in her..

Let's talk about one of your other career highlights, working with Chita Rivera in The Visit.

Oh my God. She’s a legend. She and George Hearn, that entire cast was exceptional. But she’s, you know, in her 70’s and still has more energy than everybody else and loves the blood sweat and tears of creating and collaborating and doing it eight times a week. She was our cast mama, she would come into the dressing room before the show and spend a few minutes with each of us. Every night! She would tell us stories about her life and her history and she never sounded like a namedropper. She is the most wonderful woman and human being.

She came in to rehearsal one day and she was twenty minutes late – and she was never late. So we had already started rehearsing and the double doors flew open and she said “The traffic was horrible, I just need to put my legs above my head!”. So she got down on the floor and put her legs over her head and let out this sigh and said “I’m ready!” Ladies and gentlemen, Chita Rivera.

What's Doug Kreeger's dream role for the future?

I hate that question! I never really had dream roles growing up. I had dream shows, I love the rock shows, I loved Jesus Christ Superstar, Tommy. I would love to do Tommy sometime in my life. But I love to create roles, so my dream role is any one that I can create.