Each night for the past few weeks’s the Alliance Theatre has been dazzling audiences with its production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. We recently caught up with Corey James Wright, who plays Rapunzel’s Prince in the show. Since first moving to Atlanta a year ago, he has been quite busy. In this Feature Q & A, read about his experience at the Alliance with Into the Woods, his role in AT&T’s Dolphin Tales at the Georgia Aquarium and more.
What led you to accept a part in the Alliance Theatre production of Into the Woods?
The Alliance Theatre has a prestigious reputation of producing some of the greatest theatre in the country. When I moved here a year ago, I wished, at some point, I would have the honor to work with the Alliance Theatre.
How familiar were you with the musical beforehand?
Prior to auditioning for this show, I never had the opportunity to see a production of “Into the Woods.” I was vaguely familiar with some of the songs, “(Agony,” “Hello Little Girl” and “Children Will Listen”), however, I knew very little about the contexts of the songs or plot other than it obviously incorporated some of the most well known fairy tale characters and had been brilliantly crafted into a libretto and score by two members of royalty in the music theatre world, James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim.
Into the Woods marks your first time working with the Alliance Theatre. What has been the best part of the experience?
Making my debut with Into the Woods on the Alliance stage has been an incredible experience. This is a tremendous production – creatively, musically and technically. The entire Alliance company has made this journey a smooth one, from the amazing company manager (Laura Thruston), Stage Manager (Pat Flora), The Design team (Todd Rosenthal, Lex Liang, Ken Yunker and Clay Benning), and the King and Queens of this production: Choreographer, Musical Director and Director (Danny Pelzig, Helen Gregory and Susan V. Booth).
You play Rapunzel’s Prince in the show; how would you describe your character?
Rapunzel’s Prince is a humorously contrasted character in regards to the other characters and their journey. He knows nothing of consequences, fear (other than dwarves) and commitment. He is easily distracted by the “new shiny object” in front of him. I do believe that both princes have the wonderful and unfortunate ability to “live in the moment,” which leads to both ignorance and bliss. I enjoy playing within and sometimes outside of those parameters.
You perform the song “Agony” nightly with Hayden Tee. How has it been working with him?
It has been so much fun to work with Hayden Tee. He is a master of his craft. We’ve had so much fun creating the relationship between the two princes, to whom we have given first names. We’ve decided Cinderella’s Prince’s name is Keith Charming and Rapunzel’s Prince’s name is Perry Charming. Keith and Perry certainly enjoy reveling in each other’s agony.
Audiences seem to particularly enjoy “Agony.” What was it like hearing the applause the first night you performed?
“Agony” is the type of song every actor dreams of singing. It’s filled with so much hysterical material and offers endless opportunity for comedy. During rehearsals you don’t get the luxury of an audience response or laughter. So, discovering that what we were doing was working was a huge relief….and awesome!
How do you prepare for each show?
It’s not very fascinating or interesting but, I will generally take a shower at the theater to feel fresh for the show, grab a cup of coffee, turn on some music and get into costume and make-up and share the day’s anecdotes with my dressing roommates and veteran Atlanta actors (Jeff McKerley, Brandon O’Dell and Jeremy Wood). Hayden and I also try to run or rehearse the lyrics to both “Agony” and “Agony Reprise” to make sure we are in sync with each other.
Now that show is in full swing, what is your favorite aspect of doing the show each night?
As with live theatre and a production of this stature, my favorite aspect of this production is to see what is going to happen next. Something new happens every night. It may be an understudy having to immediately go on unexpectedly, discovering something new within the text or experiencing the variance of energy created in the room with the cast and audience every night.
What is your favorite scene either to be in or observe from offstage?
My favorite scenes to be in would have to be both “Agony” scenes. I have not normally had the opportunity to be in comedic roles, so I take advantage of every moment to relish in the humor that Prince “Perry” Charming brings to the scenes. My favorite scene or song to observe changes night to night. All the performances are so memorable and perfect that I usually have a different section of song or scene playing in my head the entire following day.
Recent favorites include: Jill Ginsberg’s, “Steps of the Palace,” Jeremy Wood’s, “Giants in the Sky,” and anything Barbara Marineau, Angela Robinson, Mark Price, Courtney Balan, Courtenay Collins, Diany Rodriguez, Hayden Tee or Jamie Wood Katz sings. The entire cast is AMAZING!
Why should Atlantans who haven’t yet seen Into the Woods come out to see it?
It is a rare and exquisite opportunity for people to see a professional production of “Into the Woods.” Due to the complexities of the show, many theaters either cannot handle the requirements of the set, size of cast, orchestra or special effects. The Alliance has confidently and successfully mastered every need of this production and together we have created a beautiful, tangible, and fascinating story which will certainly reach out, connect and touch the heart of every person in the room.
How long have you been with Georgia Aquarium’s AT&T Dolphin Tales and can you tell us a little about the show?
September marks my one year milestone in Atlanta. I arrived last year to work with the Georgia Aquarium’s Dolphin Show, which opened April of this year. I play the role of the Star Spinner, a timeless character who shares a magical connection with the dolphins. The Star Spinner leads the audience through daring adventures, close encounters with evil sea monsters and shares the magic of the sea with all.
Has it been hectic participating in both Dolphin Tales and Into the Woods concurrently?
The performance schedules for both shows have made for full days. Star Spinner by day and Prince Charming by night. Fortunately, they don’t interfere with each other.
How different is it working on this show compared to working at a traditional theater like the Alliance?
The aquarium is just beginning their journey into show business or theme park type entertainment, and Dolphin Tales is a great show for performers. The Alliance has been in the business for a while and certainly lives up to their reputation as one of the greatest professional regional theatre companies. It has been a great experience to be back in a traditional artistic and performance atmosphere.
Have you seen a play or musical recently that particularly moved you?
The most recent show I saw was the Lyric Theatre’s production of Rent directed by Alan Kilpatrick. It was as spectacular, visceral and touching as I remember the original production to be.
Be sure to catch Corey in Into the Woods at the Alliance Theatre. The musical plays through October 2. For tickets and more information please visit the Alliance Theatre’s website.