Thursday, April 7, 2016

PHX Stages Q/A: Rob Stuart

by Gil Benbrook

"Versatile" is the adjective that comes to mind when describing Rob Stuart. This ariZoni award winning actor is equally at home in both musicals and plays, comedies and dramas. He has starred in numerous Hale productions over the past few seasons, including his award winning turn as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, and he opens there tonight playing Otto Frank, Anne Frank's father, in The Diary of Anne Frank.

Stuart has also appeared at Hale as Captain VonTrapp in The Sound of Music, as Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins and as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Brandi Bigley, who played Maria to his VonTrapp in Sound of Music, had this to say about Stuart - "Rob is a pleasure to work with. He brings his personal charm and charisma into his characters forcing the audience to fall in love with him. Seriously, they don't even know it's happening until it's over." And Annalise Webb, who co-starred with Rob in both My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins, had this to add, "Rob Stuart is one of the finest men I know. As a person and a performer, he is always genuine. He is also one of the most dedicated actors I've been blessed to work beside. Seriously. I've interrupted his going-through-his-lines-before-a-show sessions too many times to deny his dedication to this art. And it's the little things like this that prepare him for the mishaps that are bound to happen because let's face it, this is live theatre!"

Stuart took a break from the final Anne Frank rehearsals to sit down and answer the PHX Stages Q/A:

Name: Rob Stuart

Where you were born and or raised: Born and raised in northern Utah farm country

What brought you to Arizona?  My parents moved the family to AZ when I was 13.
What your parents did/do for a living:  Real estate and property management.

Siblings: 1 sister, 4 brothers

Family/Children: 2 sons and a daughter
Day job/part time job: Director of Purchasing and Supply Chain, Southwestern Eye Center

First show you ever saw: The Music Man

Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: As I sat watching The Music Man, as a high school freshman, I decided that I wanted to play the role of Harold Hill someday. And though I don’t perform for a living, that was the moment I realized I wanted to perform on the stage.

The one performance you attended that you will never forget:  Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, in NYC. David Hyde Pierce was absolutely amazing.

First stage kiss: I played the role of Billy in Carousel when I was 20 years old. I was quite intimidated by my Julie Jordan (Hi, Kim!), and the days leading up to the first rehearsal of “that scene” were absolute torture!

Rob Stuart at Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird - Hale Centre Theatre - 2012
photo: Wade Moran
Best stage experience you’ve had so far acting?  Playing Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird was an incredible experience. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to play such an iconic role. The entire cast was stellar. So far, it is the most fulfilling experience I have had on stage.

What has been the most fun or fulfilling aspect of your current/ most recent show?  Playing Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank has required me to tap into a set of emotions I’ve never had to explore on stage before. It has been quite an experience, and I look forward to learning a lot more from this character.

Stuart with Annalise Webb in My Fair Lady
Hale Centre Theatre - 2015
Photo: Nick Woodward-Shaw
Most challenging role you have played onstage? Atticus Finch and Otto Frank top the list for me, because of the depth of the characters and the power of the stories both plays tell. From a sheer dialogue and dialect perspective, though, Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady is right up there with them.

What was the first show you performed in and what did you learn from it that you still use today? I played Joey Biltmore, in Guys and Dolls, as a high school sophomore. I learned during that experience that it takes a whole lot of work and dedication from everyone involved, in order to create the finished product. But all that work pays off in the end. I still approach every show this way, and it pays off every time!

Leading role you've been dying to play:  Sweeney Todd

Guilty pleasure show you’d love to perform in: Spamalot! I’m a big fan, and it’s a very silly show!

Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: I recite all my lines and lyrics, and walk the stage before every show.

with Jessica Graham, Gary Caswell, and Susan Hogel
in Guys and Dolls
Hale Centre Theatre
photo by Tamera Young Photography
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap:  I was Capt. VonTrapp in a production of Sound of Music at the Gilbert Fine Arts Association, about 10 years ago. Instead of telling Maria she wasn’t going to have dinner with the children, I said, “Maria, you’re not going to have children.” No joke. It happened. Sorry, Linsey!
Worst costume ever:  Seven Brides for Seven Brothers…Jackson Hole Playhouse in Jackson, WY, in 1992. I played Caleb.  Long johns...buttoned panel in the back…need I say more?

Best costume ever: Guys and Dolls at Hale - Sky Masterson’s white pinstripe suit, and white fedora!

Your go to audition monologue/song: Monologue – To Kill A Mockingbird courtroom monologue. Song – Johnny Brown’s Soliloquy from The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Worst audition experience: When auditioning for the role of the dentist in Little Shop of Horrors, I decided to laugh maniacally through the audition song…you know, to show the director I had a good laugh for the role…yeah, I don’t think that came across as I intended.

If you could go back in time and catch any performer or show, what would they/it be? I would love to go back and watch Anthony Newley in The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd!

Famous past stage or screen star(s) you would have loved to have performed with:  Vincent Price. His work in radio was incredible! Performing with him in any genre would be the experience of a lifetime.

Your personal acting idols: I can hardly list them all, but a few that come to mind are Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kevin Klein, and Anthony Hopkins.

Favorite play(s): Comedy – Noises Off; Drama – To Kill a Mockingbird
Stuart with (l-r) Josh Mortensen, Laura Anne Kenney and
Isabelle Jensen in Mary Poppins
Hale Centre Theatre - 2015
Photo: Nick Woodward-Shaw
Favorite musical(s): Sweeney Todd, Chicago, Les Miserables…so many!

Most listened song/music on your iPod/Phone? Vocal Jazz

First CD/Tape/LP you owned: Best of The Manhattan Transfer

Last good book you read: "Bazaar of Bad Dreams" by Stephen King

Must-see TV show(s):  Game of Thrones

Guilty pleasure binge watching tv show: Battlestar Galactica, the recent remake

Last good movie you saw: The Revenant

Favorite movie: Two of my favorites are The Princess Bride and A Fish Called Wanda

Favorite restaurant in the Valley: The Roaring Fork  

with Sarah Pansing in The Diary of Anne Frank
Hale Centre Theatre - 2016
Photo: Nick Woodward-Shaw
Sports teams you root for: The Dallas Cowboys

Something about you that might surprise people: I once took the LSAT, with the intention of going to law school. I scored high enough to get into a good number of programs, but decided against it in the end.

Special skills: I play the guitar, and have written a lot of music, mostly in the country genre.  

Worst non-theatre job you've had: Roofing repair, in the summer, in Phoenix

Best non-theatre job you've had:Snowmobile tour guide in Yellowstone

Three things you can't live without: Family, Theater, Nature
Words of advice for aspiring performers: If you have a desire to perform, a need to express yourself through some type of performance, don’t ignore that feeling. You must make performing a part of your life, in some way. Whether you make a profession of it, or do it as a hobby, you have to feed that part of your soul.

What you love most about theatre in Phoenix: Phoenix offers a lot of opportunity for a corporate desk jockey like me to get my theater fix. There are plenty of shows to see, and endless opportunities to participate.

Stuart in The Sound of Music
Hale Centre Theatre - 2014
Photo: Nick Woodward-Shaw
And, the “Inside the Actors Studio” 10 questions:

1. What is your favorite word? Dad – I’m so proud to be a father, and the word represents so much of what’s important and precious in my life.

2. What is your least favorite word? Irregardless – Seriously. Not a word.

3. What turns you on? A ballad by Diane Krall

4. What turns you off? A know-it-all

5. What sound do you love? I was in Yellowstone, in the middle of winter, on a day when the park was closed to visitors, not another person for miles and miles around. I was lying on my back in the snow, near a frozen-over waterfall, at dusk. It was snowing lightly, large flakes falling slowly. The trees creaking…the snow settling… Yeah, I love that sound…

6. What sound do you hate? The drip, drip of a leaky faucet…drip, drip…

7. What is your favorite curse word? I use them, I’m afraid, but I don’t really have a favorite.

8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Master Distiller

9. What profession would you not like to do? Hotel/Restaurant Management

10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? “You were right.”

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