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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 28 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 09
Patrick R. Brown has theatre 'SCARS'
Arts & Entertainment
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Patrick R. Brown has theatre 'SCARS'

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

THE LION KING
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
March 12-April 6


The Lion King is one of Broadway's most successful adaptations from screen-to-stage. And that says something, since it got its start as a Disney cartoon. While every hero needs a villain, in this case it is the lion, Scar. The Seattle Gay News caught up with Patrick R. Brown as he makes his preparations for playing the role.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer?

Patrick Brown: You know that's a tough question to answer because I didn't decide to perform professionally until my 20s. I never considered it a viable option. However, I grew up sort of far away from theatrical professions. Like a lot of performers, television and amateur theatrics is where I observed in my childhood.

Andrews-Katz: When was the moment you decided you wanted to become a stage performer?

Brown: I was living in Bermuda and had made friends with an actress that lived in Seattle, Jayne Muirhead. We became good friends and she came to see an amateur show I was doing. She looked me in the eye and later said, 'You should go home, and get paid to do what you do because you are good!' That was the 'Ah-Ha' moment.

Andrews-Katz: You were in the cult classic Merrily We Roll Along. What challenges did you face performing Sondheim's work?

Brown: Everyone says Sondheim's work is difficult. You don't realize how much that's true until you have to sing it! You have to pay attention to the work. It requires a lot of focus and you really do need to know some technical things about music. Casual singers have a lot more trouble with Sondheim's work because it is technical. His subject matters are usually challenging and it's meant to be. Merrily is challenging because the show works [its plot] backwards [in time]. I worked with the Shaw Festival for 5 or 6 seasons, and that's where I did Merrily. It was a great production of a confusing show.

Andrews-Katz: You've done your share of musicals and straight plays. Which do you prefer and why?

Brown: I like them both for different reasons. Honestly, a musical is a lot more work. It is both physically and mentally more work all around. But it can be more rewarding because the song and music really elevates emotion, and passion, and can be very freeing. I do also enjoy straight plays because there is often more drama than in musicals. Musicals tend not to go too deep - I know that's a generalization - but so far there's no 'Bent, the musical.'

Andrews-Katz: How did you audition for The Lion King?

Brown: That's a good story. I auditioned for the Toronto production in 2001. As was my life at the time, I always got a call back and a second call back. When it came down to me and the other person, the other person would get the job. I received my final callback and drove to Toronto. My audition happened to be at 10:30 a.m. on September 11, 2001. Understandably, they weren't paying too much attention to the audition. But bless Disney! When they say they will keep you on file, they mean it! 10 years later, my agent got a call asking for me to come back.

Andrews-Katz: How long did it take you to get used to Scar's headdress?

Brown: What do you mean, 'get used to?' It's an on-going, love/hate relationship with this costume. I hesitate to say it will never be comfortable. You just have to learn how to deal with it. The rehearsal process is six weeks of preparation and they insist you wear all the gear. That's how you learn to deal with it. It's during the run that you learn the subtleties and intricacies, all the nuances and idiosyncrasies in costume. There's a Lion King legend where Scar's head fell off in Act 2. He allegedly picked it up and sang the rest of the number to his mask, a la Hamlet. It kind of works in a cosmic way.

Andrews-Katz: What makes The Lion King so universally appealing?

Brown: A couple of things do that. I think that people come for the spectacle. It is so unique and imaginative but it's not an empty spectacle. It's like a beautifully wrapped present, but inside the box is something else that's amazing. It's a great story that deals with struggle, and we all try to find our place in the world, to stand up to be who we are. It's just a well-balanced story with adventure, love, good vs. evil; it's kind of got everything.

Andrews-Katz: Villain is defined as someone malicious. Do you think Scar is a villain?

Brown: Of course not! The reason I say that is certainly the audience perceives that, but as an actor you can't play a villain as a villain. That's only a two-dimensional character. As an actor that's boring! I find a way to make him three-dimensional, and try to give the audience clues about his actions. He's just misunderstood. No one is purely evil.

Andrews-Katz: How do you react when people 'boo' your character at curtain call?

Brown: I like it. It means I've done my job right! As far as I'm concerned, if there's no bad guy, there's no story. If there's nothing to fight against, then Simba is a hapless boob. They need something to make them look like heroes.

Andrews-Katz: Of all the roles you've played, which will stay with you the longest?

Brown: This one for sure! It really does change my life and change the way I live. I never worked so hard in my life as I am with The Lion King. And I think my body may never recover. On top of that, Frank-N-Furter was the most fun I ever had on stage. I really enjoyed playing Charles Burly (Noel Coward's Easy Virtue) and I discovered that this is my element; to play a tuxedo dressed, Champagne drinking man, plus I get to work with some amazing people.

Andrews-Katz: Regardless of any limitations, what role would you like to play and why?

Brown: I think the one role that immediately pops into my head is the MC from Cabaret. First of all, it's a brilliant show and I love the fact that there's a lot of flexibility in that role. The actor can make a lot of choices. It can be a huge challenge depending on the director. I'd love to be challenged by it! If I'm not challenged, I'm bored which is why Lion King is a constant challenge.

Known for the incredible costuming, the Lion King is Disney's most successful screen-to-stage transfer. Julie Taymor combined the use of live-action and puppets to recreate the African Savannah. The full-length cartoon was released in 1994 and made its stage appearance in 1997. It is still currently playing on Broadway where it has landed in one of the top 10 longest-running Broadway shows.

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