Bradley Allan Zarr got his big break fresh out of school at 19 when he was offered the role of Robert Martin in The Drowsy Chaperone. Since then, the North Carolina son of theater veterans has played in five different Broadway touring productions including Spamalot and Anything Goes.
Later this month, Zarr returns to Houston's Hobby Center as Warner Purcell is Woody Allen and Susan Stroman's Bullets Over Broadway. The show, based on Allen's 1994 film by the same name, follows the machinations of an emerging playwright in the 1920s trying to get his show staged on Broadway. Zarr spoke with Visit Houston about the touring life, keeping the show's dancing on track and the next role he would love to play.
My Gay Houston: Talk about landing your first big role.
Bradley Allan Zarr: I was just 19 and graduating from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City when I got cast in the national tour of the Drowsy Chaperone...It was such a shock for me. I had had a few really bad auditions before that. I went to a dance call thinking it's really just a free tap dance class so go do it. I just went and had a good time and then I started getting call backs for this role. It was such a huge deal for me. Typically you're called later on after the auditions and offered the role, but I was asked in the room, and it was a dream come true-one quickly ruined by them asking me to lose 10 lbs!
MGH: You grew up in theater with both your parents in the biz. Did they encourage you or discourage you?
BAZ: Definitely discouraged me. They didn't want me to do it for a long time, because they knew how hard it is. Both of them went into nonperforming careers. My mother is a high school drama teacher and dad is a executive director of performing arts center. So they drifted out of the performing aspect. Still, both of them know how hard it is to keep your head above water and there have been lots of moments in my life where I've struggled to do that. But you keep pushing forward.
MGH: What would people be excited about in this version of Bullets?
BAZ: Of course Bullets was a movie before it was a musical. So there is that transition from screen play to stage where you lose dialogue to make room for songs and so forth. But what's great is Woody Allen, who wrote the screen play, actually wrote the libretto, so you get his style of writing, his wit. This is the kind of show you really have to pay attention to, to get the writing, which is just so clever.
MGH: In addition to your on-stage role with Bullets, you also serve as dance captain on the tour. What does that entail?
BAZ: Basically my job is to oversee the dance side of the production and solve problems that may arise on the road in different venues. In some theaters where we're performing, we can lose up to seven feet of stage space. In those situations, I'm working with the stage manager who lets me know which set pieces and props are being cut to make it work. I take that and make a choreography plan that stays true to the production. I'm also responsible for holding clean up rehearsals and generally making sure the show stays pristine.
MGH: What about this show resonates for a gay audience?
BAZ: I think the LGBT community has a higher sense of cultural awareness and sensitivity around the topics presented in Bullets. The main theme of the show revolves around this writer David who wants to get his play produced. His idea at the start is he won't make any compromises or lose integrity to get it staged. But of course as the play progresses you see the many sacrifices he makes, how he has to do more and more and gets deeper and deeper. It's very funny, but at the core of the show you have this question: what sacrifices would you be willing to make to realize your dreams? I think everyone, gay or straight, has had to deal with that question. But I think in the LGBT community, we often struggle with it a bit more, being something we're not, compromising a bit of who we are to "fit in" or get ahead.
MGH: What role has been your favorite so far and what's the one role you haven't played yet that you really want?
BAZ: So far as an overall show, Spamalot was my favorite to do every day. But I really like the role I'm doing now, it's so much fun. I've never worked with such a talented team in any of the five shows I've done. The dancers are phenomenal; they really bring the story and the atmosphere to life. They literally stop the show every night.
I have to say, the one role in particular that I want to play right now, King George in Hamilton. I haven't even seen the show yet, but a while back a friend said "you'd be great as King George." So about month or so ago I listened to the recording and just loved it. Loved that role especially. I mean, the crown and the wig and the jewels-that's any gay man's dream.
MGH: You've played Houston before in other productions. What are you looking forward to here?
BAZ: The Hobby Center is fantastic. I hope Houston knows how incredibly lucky it is to have the Hobby Center. From a touring perspective, everything is up to date and modern from the time you walk in. They really take care of the facility. Then, during the show, you look out at that house and it's just gorgeous, breathtakingly tall. I love playing there.
Bullets Over Broadway runs Dec. 27 through Jan. 2 at the Hobby Center.