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The Bridges of Madison County - Broadway

Jason Robert Brown and Marsha Norman's adaptation of the novel of the same name arrives on Broadway.

Which Role Would The Bridges of Madison County Star Hunter Foster Kill to Do Again?

Which Role Would The Bridges of Madison County Star Hunter Foster Kill to Do Again?
Hunter Foster
Hunter Foster embraces 'complicated characters' in musicals and plays.

Hunter Foster can talk about musicals with an extra level of authority. Not only has the Tony-nominated actor starred in a fascinating variety of shows, he has actually written one—the book of the touching musical adaptation of Summer of ’42. Foster is currently taking on the challenge of creating a fleshed-out version of Bud Johnson, the husband of Kelli O’Hara’s character, in the Broadway premiere of The Bridges of Madison County. “I gravitate toward complicated characters,” says the versatile actor, which is obvious from his six Role Call choices.

Role That Was My Big Break
Urinetown [2001, as doomed hero Bobby Strong] was so special, particularly because we started in a 160-seat off-Broadway theater and became the hottest ticket in town. It was a unique little show that made it all the way to Broadway, and getting to perform on the Tony Awards was a childhood dream come true. When my agent sent me the script, he said, ‘Everyone is going to be scared away by the title.’ Shows that sound bad usually are, but Urinetown was a really well-crafted piece—sort of a love letter to musical theater. [Director] John Rando told everyone that the more serious we were, like Jerry Orbach in Law & Order, the funnier the show would be. I took my lead from Nancy Opel [as urinal matron Penelope Pennywise], who played every moment as if it was life and death. The ridiculousness is what made it so funny.”

Role That Was a Dream Come True
“I used to pinch myself every day that I walked into the St. James Theatre to play Leo Bloom in The Producers [four stints, 2004-2007]. I did it with John Treacy Egan, Brad Oscar and Tony Danza [as Max Bialystock], and it was a thrill to play the final performance of an iconic musical. I had seen the show a couple of times before going in, so I had Matthew Broderick in mind, but they allowed me to find my own version. Leo is a guy who has been closed off from the world. Max opens his eyes and helps him to really live for the first time, even though it’s by becoming a cheat. There’s something great about being a play in which you don’t have to work hard to get laughs—it’s like surfing. I felt so fortunate to be part of a Mel Brooks experience. I will always be able to say, ‘I was a Leo Bloom.’”

Role I Wish I Could Have Done Longer
“I loved every minute of Hands on a Hardbody [2013, as Benny Perkins], and I’ll always regret not being able to play that role longer. Benny was an Iraq war vet damaged by the loss of his son; he won the truck [in a previous competition] and he wants to win again to overcome his pain. By the end, he learns to reconnect with people, especially the character played by Keith Carradine. It was a very complicated character, and I loved the fact that he has redemption at the end. We tallied up that we probably spent five days around that truck during rehearsals. It was one of my favorite experiences ever, even though it ended so quickly. Musicals are all about timing, so who knows what might have happened in a different season. We’ll never know—unless it gets revived in 20 years!”

Role I Would Love to Do Again
Kiss of the Spider Woman [2008, as Molina; Signature Theatre of Virginia] is a show that I would kill to do again. The role is such a roller coaster; by the end of the night I would be completely exhausted. Again, a complicated character: He’s got an incredible imagination and is full of heart and love, but doesn’t know where to place that love. And he’s heroic—in the end, he basically gives up his life for Valentin. [Composer] John Kander came to rehearsal, and I got to sing ‘She’s a Woman’ with him at the piano. He said, “I want you to interpret this and do whatever you want, and I’m just going to follow you.’ I thought, ‘My god!’ It was an amazing thrill and the most rewarding show I’ve ever done.”

Role That Was the Most Challenging
“Definitely, the most challenging thing I’ve ever done was a play by Thomas Bradshaw called Burning [2011, as Older Chris] at the New Group. It was three hours long with a lot of sexual scenes, and I had to be completely naked. My character was the older version of a young drug addict who was adopted by two gay men, and the play followed his journey through life. It was a complicated, broken character, and I had to let go of my inhibitions and expose myself on stage literally and emotionally. Then, friends and family came and sat on the front row! Even though the play was extremely challenging, I’m glad I did it. I felt like if I do that—just go for it—I could do just about anything.”

Role That Was My Favorite to Prepare
“I’ve never had a better time putting a show together than Happiness [2009, as Stanley; Best Featured Actor Drama Desk nomination]. [Director/choreographer] Susan Stroman created a wonderful environment, and Lincoln Center Theater is a terrific place to work. Great cast, too, including Joanna Gleason and Ken Page. I played a train conductor who helped people go on to the afterlife—when they died, they would get on his subway car. He was a bit of a scoundrel, which I enjoyed! Happiness was also one of the most disappointing experiences, because it deserved more than it got from the critics. It moved audiences as much as any show I've been in. Everything about it felt like love.”

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