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Mamma Mia! - Broadway

A mother. A daughter. Three possible dads. And a trip down the aisle you'll never forget!

Aaron Lazar on Romantic Leads, Working With Legends, and the ‘Simple’ Joy of Mamma Mia!

Aaron Lazar on Romantic Leads, Working With Legends, and the ‘Simple’ Joy of Mamma Mia!
Aaron Lazar has played lovers, fighters and everything in between.

Since arriving in New York just over a decade ago, Aaron Lazar has proved himself a master at falling in love in musicals—and he has suited up in period costumes with aplomb in shows such as Les Miserables, A Tale of Two Cities and A Little Night Music. But there’s more to this handsome star than the ability to sing in a waistcoat, as he demonstrated in The Light in the Piazza and now as dreamy dad Sam Carmichael in the long-running ABBA-scored hit Mamma Mia! On the big screen, Lazar recently nabbed the role of Tina Fey’s work-obsessed husband in Jonathan Tropper’s hilarious This Is Where I Leave You. For his Role Call, the articulate actor analyzed six roles he loved—including two biggies he hopes to tackle again.

Role That Was My Big Break
The Light in the Piazza [2005, as Fabrizio] is one of the greatest shows I’ve been a part of and one of the most fulfilling characters I’ve ever played, and that's a testament to a lot of things: the writing, the direction, the costume design, the lighting design. It’s such a brilliant story of star-crossed lovers with a language barrier and a cultural barrier, but despite it all, they have a happy ending. I had 12 days of rehearsal to replace Matthew Morrison, so I worked hard on the Italian accent for the audition. If real Italians came to see the show and didn't find me believable, I would have failed. I come from the tradition of Rodgers & Hammerstein, and Fabrizio was very much from that legit musical theater tradition, but [librettist] Craig Lucas and [composer] Adam Guettel made it contemporary and fresh.”

Role That Was the Most Fun
Mamma Mia! [as Sam Carmichael, 2012 to present] is a show I never thought I would be right for. It was pop music, and I assumed I wouldn’t be able to sing it. Then I walked by the Winter Garden Theatre one day and thought, ‘Maybe I could be a dad in this.’ Literally the next day, I got a call about an audition, and it worked out. There’s an energy in this company that I’ve never experienced on any other show. It’s an ultra positive place, almost like a parallel Broadway universe, and I attribute that to [producer] Judy Craymer and the stage management team, because they hire good people. There’s no jaded ensemble members phoning it in. Part of it is the nature of the material. No matter what’s going on in your personal life, you step onto that Greek island and have an amazing time, and there's a concert at the end with the most fantastic costumes ever. You feel like a rock star eight times a week.”

Role I Would Love to Do Again
Carousel is my favorite musical, and I’ve played Billy Bigelow several times, including with the Boston Pops [2007]. He’s a flawed, tragic antihero, and the show is such a difficult piece of theater. A lot of the dialogue is lifted from the play Liliom, and there are tricky elements in the second act, with Billy coming back from heaven to visit his daughter. For me [the mammoth song] ‘Soliloquy’ is the easiest part. The words are there, the music is there; all you have to do is go for a ride with it. The ‘If I Loved You’ bench scene, on the other hand, is one of the most difficult. The idea of doing a production of Carousel that doesn't feel like it’s stuck in the 1950s really intrigues me. There are so many elements to Billy that I understand better now that I’m older. It’s a role I really want to do again.”

Role That Let Me Work With Legends
“I had a great time playing Carl-Magnus in A Little Night Music [2009]. He’s a total egomaniac, and the other characters talk about him as if he’s animalistic, so I tried to put some weight on and kind of make him a gorilla. I wanted people to laugh at him, but I didn’t want to make him a buffoon. It was surreal to play opposite Angela Lansbury and Elaine Stritch, Bernadette Peters and Catherine Zeta-Jones. There was so much to learn just from watching them, and it was an honor to share the stage with women who have accomplished what they have. I had waited my whole life to be part of a Stephen Sondheim show, and suddenly I found myself celebrating the opening of A Little Night Music at his house, in the room where he composes, looking at autographed pictures of Leonard Bernstein. I was in heaven!”

Role That Was a Crash Course in Broadway
“You hear about Broadway your whole life, and I learned what it meant to work on Broadway in The Phantom of the Opera [2002]. It was special because it was my first show—I was in the ensemble and understudied Raoul—and my entry into romantic period pieces and young lover roles. The first time I went on as Raoul, my parents bussed up 200 people from Philadelphia, and they all wore T-shirts with my headshot on the back. I invited [director] Hal Prince to come see me. I was a kid, what did I know? At 7:20, there was a knock on my dressing room door. It was Hal, and he said, ‘Have a good show.’ I’ll never forget it.”

Role That Taught Me to Carry a Musical
“For my graduate thesis at Cincinnati Conservatory, I played Don Quixote/Cervantes in Man of La Mancha [2000]. I was way too young, but I came out of school thinking about roles I would eventually be able to step into, and that’s one of them. The show stopped every night for several minutes after ‘The Impossible Dream,’ and I’ve been searching for that kind of leading man role since I got to New York. I want to carry a show, but there are not a lot of leading parts for people who are not celebrities. I look at shows that were done by Alfred Drake and John Raitt—for me, it was like, ‘OK, you’re going to go to New York and go after leading man roles. And I’m still at it!”

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