Andy Karl made it onto the radar of theater fans back in 2005, busting moves and winning hearts as lovable moron Luke in the original off-Broadway cast of the hit boy band spoof Altar Boyz. Since then it’s been one pop-heavy hit after another, including Broadway’s Legally Blonde, 9 to 5 and his current gig, mega-musical Wicked. While fans now know him as leading man Fiyero (and as the host of his own heavily trafficked Broadway.com Oz Blog), many of them may not know that he's also an aspiring Broadway composer and B-movie junkie. We checked in with Karl to get the scoop on his marital bliss with former co-star Orfeh and the unusual project this triple-threat wants to get to the stage.
So what’s been going on since Andy Karl’s Oz Blog ended?
Not too much. My wife [Tony Award nominee Orfeh] is playing Feinstein’s on August 30 and I’ll be singing with her.
What are you guys going to be singing?
I keep nagging her to put a list together! She always comes up with the good stuff. I don’t know if she wants to release the song ideas, but I [suggested] “How Deep is Your Love” from Saturday Night Fever, which is where we met.
You married a co-star. What is it like in a two-performer household?
I think that’s different for everybody—at least we’re finding that out. For us, it’s pretty fun. Some of our best times are when we work together. See, I’m trying to shout out to Joe Mantello and David Stone to get her in Wicked. We’ll see what happens.
What part should she play?
C’mon, she should play Elphaba! She’d wail all those songs.
Well, it wouldn’t be the midwife—carry the baby, have one line? Nah.
For those who don’t know, can you give us the recap on the Orfeh/Andy Karl romance?
She’s just damn good-looking [laughs]. We started a whirlwind courtship—is that what you call it when it’s fast and furious?—in Saturday Night Fever. It was sparks going off when we first met. I was trying to be all cool, but looked like a jerk. I was like, “Oh yeah, I’m totally cool.” But inside my heart was racing because I had actually seen her in the show, and in Footloose a few years before that, and I was like, “Who is that diva?” Then I meet her and she’s just the sweetest person in the world. Six months later we were engaged. About a month after that we went to Miami and got married. It’s been almost 10 years!
How are you going to celebrate that landmark?
I keep getting nervous about it because I want to do the right thing, so it’s a secret about where we’ll go. But it will be either an opposite coast or a completely different country.
How difficult is keeping a relationship going on a performer’s schedule?
Right now it is [difficult]—that’s why it’s so good to work together. In Legally Blonde we were hanging out all the time. We would plan stuff together, meet up and go out to dinner, have dates. Now, especially on a two-show day, I am here all day and I don’t see her. We talk on the phone, but it’s not the same.
Orfeh’s obviously your biggest fan, but between Altar Boyz, Legally Blonde and Wicked, you’ve been in a lot of shows with rabid fan bases. How does each group of fans compare?
Some of them transfer to the others. Altar Boyz was [especially] interesting because Ken Davenport, a very smart producer, came up with the idea of having fans be our support group—Ken actually used the fans to hand out fliers, then gave them some tickets to come see the show. They got to know [the cast] really well. From there, [fans] followed each one of our careers and I’m glad for it, I guess. What’s interesting with Wicked is seeing the difference between playing a non-principal role, like in Legally Blonde, and playing the character that wins the girl at the end. I walk out of the stage door and they sort of think I’m Fiyero! I’m pretty rocking at that point [laughs]. Don’t worry—I sign autographs but I don’t buy into it.
Is there one fan moment you’ll never forget as long as you live?
That’s dangerous territory! Here’s what I’ll say: Meetings with fans can go either way. One of [the more memorable] ones for me happened after Legally Blonde. I came outside and these three girls had “Do You Have a Package for Us?” written across their shirts. I was like “Okay. Wow.” I took a picture of it—and left it at that.
Did you imagine when you got into theater that that would be your experience with it?
You know, it’s interesting. [Fans are] something you have to deal with pretty much everyday, especially with a big show like this, and mostly that’s a plus. There are [Wicked] fans who won’t want to talk to you because they love a Fiyero from seven years ago—they literally turn their heads and won’t have you sign an autograph. Then there are some who say, “You are the best Fiyero we’ve ever seen in all the companies, including Alaska.” It’s always interesting. You just have to keep a good, positive attitude.
Was there ever a point where you thought about doing something other than performing?
I’m always up to learning things. Four years ago, I started picking up composing again. I figured I have done a lot of musical theater, have seen things start from the ground up, get the gist of it and can learn, so I auditioned for BMI Musical Theater Workshop, which is a free workshop where they teach people how to write musical theater. I’ve been composing for the past couple of years and pitching things. Nothing hugely successful yet.
What would you say your musical theater writing style is?
That’s tough. I’m totally open to as many styles as I can learn. Right now I’m learning some bluegrass. I’ve never been a bluegrass fan, but there’s a band called The Punch Brothers and these guys are so rockin’—I’m totally into it.
Saturday Night Fever, Legally Blonde, Wicked, 9 to 5—you’ve worked on lots of musical adaptations. What would you adapt as your debut musical?
I have this great, awful idea for a [musical adaptation] of a book and horror film called Manitou. It’s about this woman who’s getting a growth on her neck—it turns out to be a 400-year-old witch doctor. He killed himself back when The Man was taking over his land, went to the spirit world and has come back on this woman’s neck. The growth is getting bigger and bigger and bigger. She befriends a psychic who helps her out. It’s this crazy story and horrible B-movie, but for me it was fantastic. I was like, “Oh my god, I have to write this.” I want that to be my Little Shop of Horrors. I talked to the original author and he was like “Send me your stuff. Oh! It looks great!” So I’ll get demos ready for that.
Um, wow. So what’s your dream cast for Manitou: The Musical?
I actually wrote a part for Orfeh—she’d be playing this all-supreme goddess who guides [the audience] through a lot of the story. I can see her in Bob Mackie/Cher dresses singing and blowing the audience away. I’d love Norbert Leo Butz to play the lead psychic guy. He’s a dirty rotten scoundrel, but becomes the hero at the end. And I wanted to call one of the guys from [the tribute band] Mini Kiss to be the witch doctor that comes out of her neck. I want to be the first to have a lead villain be a small person. And I kind of want a mosh pit in the audience. Maybe it could happen. Who knows?
And the expected debut date for the Broadway/off-Broadway premiere of Manitou?
Dude, I want to do this so bad. But I’ll write another tune and go, “This is so ridiculous. Nobody is going to like this.” It’s so insane. Can you imagine me trying to get money for [the project]? “Ok, it’s a witch doctor growing out of the back of this woman’s neck, and there’s this psychic who’s going to be the hero…”. How do you pitch that? But as soon as it happens, I’ll let everybody know.