It’s just another night at work for Richard H. Blake when he sings “Dancing Through Life” on the Gershwin Theatre stage, but the song title is apt. Blake, who is currently playing Oz-ian heartthrob Fiyero in Wicked, got his start as a youngster in dance competitions and has put those twinkletoes to good use throughout his career, stepping into Broadway shows like Aida, Saturday Night Fever, Rent and Hairspray and creating roles in Legally Blonde and The Wedding Singer. After two years on Wicked's first national tour, Blake has joined the company on Broadway. He recently chatted with Broadway.com about finding his character, boy band mall tours and how he cornered the Broadway market on playing jerk boyfriends.
You’ve been with Wicked for a while. What keeps the show fun for you?
It’s a really good show, which helps, and it helps that I really like the character. Having played the roles that I’ve played in my career, it’s fun to play a good guy for a change He’s fun and carefree but ends up having some depth.
Are you enjoying being back in New York?
It’s great. My wife [Teri DiGianfelice] is a former performer who now teaches dance full time, so she would travel with me during the summers and visit a lot, but it’s nice to be home.
Is it hard to be apart while you’re on tour?
We’ve been together for 13 years, so we know the drill. You have to make certain rules, like we will not go more than three weeks at the absolute most without seeing each other. We saw each other enough, though, because we’re having our first baby!
Have you picked out a name?
We have a front-runner: Greyson. I did a poll at the theater. We had three different choices, and he was the clear favorite.
You don’t care about keeping the name a secret?
I’m an actor; I’m way too self-conscious! I care what people think [laughs].
Did you and your wife meet performing?
We met doing Footloose. I’d known the choreographer A.C Ciulla since I was 10 or 11 years old—we were in a boy band for a hot minute—and he put us together for the opening number and said, “That’s trouble.” And he was right.
Did you just say you were in a boy band?
Oh, I was in a slew of boy bands. I was a product of the New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys generation. I was the same age as those guys, and once they became so popular there was always a producer holding auditions and trying to put together a group.
What were these boy bands called?
One of them was called City Boyz. With a Z. Because that was cool.
Yeah, that’s how you knew you were street. And it’s three 11-year-old white boys from middle class families trying to be tough. We were so not cool. We performed in malls. It was crazy.
Was that your first taste of having lady fans?
It kinda was. That’s the crazy thing about the Biebers and the Backstreet Boys. You don’t really have to be that good or that successful, you just have to tell people you are! We’d do a cool photo shoot and they’d put up posters in malls saying “Come see the City Boyz!” That mall would be packed—girls everywhere screaming like crazy. We were eating it up, but we were never going to play for more than a mall full of people. But it was good for the ego.
Wicked fans love their Fiyeros. Do you have teenagers swooning over you at the stage door?
Hey, all through the show people are thinking I’m the cool guy—and like I said, if you tell people you’re cool that helps! Seriously, the fans are just amazing and they come from all over the world. It doesn’t matter if they can barely speak the language, the show reaches everyone. They’re wonderful.
OK, we have to ask: Glen Guglia in The Wedding Singer, Warner Huntingon III in Legally Blonde...why do you play so many jerks?
I know, if there’s a jerk boyfriend to be played, I’m your guy! I think it’s because I’m not that guy, and that’s what makes the character interesting for me. I try and bring some sense of honesty and some endearing qualities to the bad guys. A lot of times a bad guy is not malicious, he’s just unaware of what a douchebag he is. That makes him human as opposed to just an antagonist for your story.
These jerks have had some awesome outfits. Do you have a favorite?
I’ve worn a lot of tight pants. I wear tight white pants in Wicked, the Roger pants [in Rent] were very tight, plaid and punk rock; Tony Manero [in Saturday Night Fever] wore those '70s pants that were way too tight. So I’ll pick Warner’s preppy street clothes, just from a comfort level.