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Broadway actor Steve Blanchard brings the Creature to life (again) in the Civic’s Frankenstein: the Musical
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Some people spend years trying to figure out what they want to do with themselves.
Not Steve Blanchard. In high school, Blanchard decided that acting would be a great way to make a living, and set out to do just that, performing in school productions and studying drama in college. After school, he began what he calls the “typical actors journey” — stints in theaters in Boston, New York, Baltimore, D.C., and L.A.; auditions and call backs; a part as an understudy in a Broadway revival of The Three Musketeers that closed after one week…
But even those driven people who know what they want have their “eureka” moment, and Blanchard’s happened during his senior year at the University of Maryland, when he went to see Sweeney Todd on Broadway. “That was my changing moment,” he says. “I knew that was the kind of theater I wanted to do. I didn’t want to do Dames At Sea and Guys and Dolls. I didn’t want to do musical comedy. I wanted to do really passionate, dark, dramatic theater with music.”
If that’s the case, it’s probably safe to say Blanchard has been waiting to play Frankenstein’s monster his entire professional career; it doesn’t get much darker or dramatic than the role of the not-so-good doctor’s famous creation in Frankenstein: The Musical.
Blanchard originated the role of “the Creature” in the debut New York production of the play. Opening in 2007, Frankenstein: the Musical met with a lukewarm response from the city press, but received massive acclaim nationally. Most importantly, it found a devoted audience, and became a huge success.
When Frankenstein: the Musical makes its Midwest premier as a Fort Wayne Civic Theater production on March 6, Blanchard will once again playing “the Creature.” His appearance on the Fort Wayne stage came about through a chance meeting with Civic’s Executive director Phillip Colglazier, who saw the original production in New York and happened to be friends with one of the show’s producers.
Frankenstein: the Musical goes back to the original Mary Shelley novel for its inspiration, a far more romantic tale than the one we’ve come to know. The Creature is obviously much different, too — in other words, no more “ol’ zipper-neck,” as Blanchard explains. “It’s not the green guy with the bolts and the big platform shoes and the flat top,” he says. “It’s a very eloquent story. Mary Shelley’s novel is written so beautifully. The creature itself is the most articulate, eloquent speaker you’d even find in any piece of literature.”
Blanchard says he took the elements Shelley put in her story to develop the character. “This man — and he is a man — wakes up and not only does he obviously have no idea who he is, but that thing we count on everyday to be there, our soul, our spirit, is just completely gone. He’s just a hollow shell of flesh and bone, and even the flesh and bone he doesn’t recognize because it’s not all his. So I try to come from there and imagine what that would be like.”
Blanchard had experience playing lonely yet heroic characters on the stage — when he was first approached about the role in Frankenstein he was in the midst of his stint as “the Beast” in Beauty and the Beast. He actually holds the record for the longest running Beast, though he says it’s unusual for a stage actor to stay in a role for a long time. “It’s kind of an aberration,” he says. “Folks get bored and they leave, or the show just doesn’t run that long. I was very fortunate to be in a piece that not only ran for so long but was also very well written and a joy to do. It was so well written that even on your worst day when you had a cold or allergies or your hip hurts or your feet are killing you, you’d get out there and be sucked into the Beast immediately.”
“I got to be an actor everyday on Broadway. I mean, you have to look your situation square in the barrel. Where can I get another opportunity to be an actor every single day in my life on Broadway in a great play?”
It’s probably that sort of attitude that has enabled Blanchard to amass quite a resume as an actor. Though he calls himself a “theater guy,” Blanchard has also chalked up quite a lot of TV experience during his professional career, including parts on Law & Order , Third Watch, and the soaps Another World and One Life to Live. “TV is a great day job,” he says. “You’re doing theater at night, and being in New York, you have the opportunity to do TV during the day. So you do a couple soaps during the day, or a L&O. It’s usually a long day and you spend most of it in your trailer, but I enjoy it very much. It’s not the medium I prefer, because stage is sort of an actor’s medium and he is in control and no one can really edit you. You are the boss when you’re standing up there in front of 2000 people.”
Frankenstein: the Musical runs between March 6 – March 22 at the Arts United Center, but aspiring actors will get the opportunity to talk with Blanchard during his time in Fort Wayne when he conducts a workshop and discussion on Sunday, March 15. “The strongest and best advice might be, if there’s anything else you might want to do, then go do it, because you’ve got to want to do this more than anything in the world,” he says. “There will be many times throughout the course of your career where you’re tested and you’ll come to a crossroads. It’s the old fight or flee thing, and you’d better want to fight or otherwise you should just get out now. And it’s a good thing that people are tested, in any career really. If you really want it more than anything in the world you’ll keep fighting and you’ll persevere, and if you don’t want it that much you should probably get out because you’re not doing service or justice to the actual profession.”
Fort Wayne Civic Theater presents Frankenstein: the Musical
Fridays March 6, 13 and 20 at 8 pm
Saturday March 7, 14, and 21 at 8 pm
Sun March 8, 15, and 22 at 2 pm
Arts United Center
303 East Main Street
Tickets: $24/adults; $16/age 23 and under; $20/Sunday Senior Matinee
Box Office: 424-5220
Civic Theatre's actor workshop & discussion with Steve Blanchard
Sunday, March 15th from 7:00 p.m. until 8:00 at the Arts United Center. Free of charge with reservations required in advance by contacting 422.8641 x225 or by email to Phillip Colglazier. (PColglazier@FWCivic.org). Must be 16 or older.