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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
Legally Blonde's Michael Rupert on tour at 5th Avenue
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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
Legally Blonde's Michael Rupert on tour at 5th Avenue

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Legally Blonde, the Musical
5th Avenue Theatre
Through March 14


Michael Rupert has become a stable staple of Broadway. His career started at 17 when he received a Tony nomination for his role in Kander and Ebb's The Happy Time. Over the years, his path has crossed with many of the great names of musical theater - and some of the most controversial, as well. After acclaim for his recent Broadway creation of Professor Callahan in Legally Blonde, the Musical, Michael Rupert is recreating his role for the touring company and will be performing it at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre.

Eric Andrews-Katz: What started you in a musical theater career?

Michael Rupert: When I was a kid, I was a natural singer. My first exposure was my parents' cast albums of Oklahoma and South Pacific. I listened to them and loved that stuff. It was telling a story through the music. I started acting before I was a teenager.

Andrews-Katz: What was it like, at 17 years old, to receive a Tony nomination for your Broadway debut?

Rupert: Honestly, I was so young that I didn't quite appreciate it. It wasn't a big deal and I didn't understand the honor of it, and just thought it was cool. But it was the first time my parents thought, "My God. Maybe he'll actually make a living from this!"

Andrews-Katz: You were in Debbie Allen's revival of Sweet Charity. Can you describe the feelings of winning the 1986 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical?

Rupert: It was a terrific experience, working with Debbie Allen and Bob Fosse. When I got the nomination it surprised me. My role wasn't that big. I stumbled through the acceptance speech not having one written previously, because I didn't think I was going to win. It was wonderful all around and pretty swell to win.

Andrews-Katz: You performed in Pippin against the triple threat: children, animals and a "leading player" [Northern J. Calloway] with a history of emotionally disturbed behavior. Do you remember anything odd from the show?

Rupert: The children were terrific, no problems there. The animals, well, we've had to clean up the messes on stage several times. In terms of Northern, sadly, he was a troubled guy. He was bipolar and had a lot of issues and demons. There were times he would be the nicest person, and then turn on me and accuse me of doing something I never did. It got to the point where I needed to step back and let him deal with his own issues.

Andrews-Katz: In 1981, you played Marvin in the groundbreaking March of the Falsettos. At the time, what challenges did you find in playing a man who leaves his wife and child for another man?

Rupert: The reason it wasn't much of a challenge was that Jim Lapine [author of Falsettos] explained that, in his view, we were NOT doing a Gay play; we were doing a show about families and relationships where some of the characters happen to be Gay/Lesbian. It was something new and different, both words and musically, and the entire thing was groundbreaking. It wasn't until our first audience that we received our responses and knew that we were in something very unique and special.

Andrews-Katz: What were the responses to a musical that dealt with AIDS?

Rupert: People were incredibly moved by it, as we all were. There is something about the story being set in the pre-AIDS era that is very moving for the audiences. We could see [from the stage] a lot of straight, middle-aged men who were dragged by their wives to the show. By the end of Act Two, I could see the same guys in tears. Again, the show emphasized that it was about family, relationships, humanity and loss.

Andrews-Katz: What inspired you to create the musical Three Guys Naked from the Waist Down?

Rupert: We first got the idea for the show when I was doing a preview at the Kennedy Center, for a show that never got to NYC. Jerry Colker [co-writer/lyrics] and I would stand backstage and say, "We could write something better than this. Why don't we write a show?" We started exploring comedy clubs in NYC when we got back.

Andrews-Katz: What was your initial reaction when you were asked to audition for Legally Blonde, the Musical?

Rupert: The first time they asked me to audition, I initially passed, as there was a schedule conflict. I had known Jerry Mitchell [choreographer] before, but the writers didn't know of my work very well. It got offered again and I accepted. It turned out to be one of the better experiences of my career.

Andrews-Katz: Any plans for MTV to release the Legally Blonde, the Musical DVD?

Rupert: As far as I know, there are no plans. I think that it is very possible that once the tour is over, they may release the DVD.

Andrews-Katz: When and where did you meet your life partner, Will Chafin?

Rupert: We met on the street. Will had seen me perform before and stopped me on the street one day by introducing himself. That was 12 years ago. We ended up having a cup of coffee and talking and becoming friends. We didn't start to date until a few years later.

Andrews-Katz: Any plans for marriage?

Rupert: Not really. We've talked about it, but we are registered as domestic partners. It's possible that we will marry in the future, but not at this time.

Based on the hit movie, Legally Blonde, the Musical opened on Broadway at the Palace Theater on April 29, 2009. It ran for over 595 performances and was nominated for eight Tony Awards, including Best Score and Best Book of a Musical. Originally sponsored by MTV, it was aired for only a week and has yet to be released on video or DVD. MTV also sponsored its own reality show: Legally Blonde, the Search for the Next Elle Woods on Broadway.

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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
Legally Blonde's Michael Rupert on tour at 5th Avenue

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