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THEATER BUFF: Brian O’Brien from “Chicago”

August 24th, 2011

Every third Wednesday (OK, it’s the fourth Wednesday this time), a fabulous actor/singer/dancer currently on Broadway will fill out my nosey little questionnaire and offer a glimpse of what they look like from a bit closer than the mezzanine. For August, we’re skipping the chorus “boys” and heading for a “man” of the theater…

Photo by John Ganun.

Name: Brian O’Brien. It’s real…..My parents were Irish history buffs and decided to name me after the High King of Ireland at the turn of the first millennium, named Brian Boru.

Hometown: Monmouth Beach, NJ

Current Show/Role: Chicago, The Court Clerk/Bailiff and Understudy to Billy Flynn.

The best part of show I’m in now is: Dancing in the iconic wedge of the “All That Jazz” number. Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse shows the power of stillness in dance by having 14 people simply doing the motion of turning a key and twirling a finger during ‘Start the car, I know a whoopy spot’ while, as they say, burning a hole in the back of the theater with intention and intensity in their gaze.

The most challenging  job in show business I ever had was: Dancing in a gold lame costume, with a Carol Brady pixie wig and beret, holding a cane sized tooth pick, with a five-foot knife on my back…at 40!!!  This was in Beauty and the Beast, but the pay off was to be doing an amazing kick line in a big splashy Broadway Musical with confetti cannons going off and seeing the joy on kids faces eight times a week.

If I wasn’t an actor, I would be: An architect. I just got my first smartphone, yes JUST…I’ve had phone shame for years but loved my old Sanyo Kitana and at times even lied, feigning I left it at work so as to not have to pull it out to ‘bump’ some high-tech gadget. Anyway, the first app I added was one that tells you about all of the architecture around you and around the world.

Pick a Stewart: Jon, Rod, or Martha? I appreciate Jon but at times he laughs at us, and not with us. Rod’s humor has always perplexed me…so I must go with Martha. Some time back in the 80’s I caught a public television showing of a younger Martha, shoulder length tresses and all, doing a special on Thanksgiving at Turkey Hill I believe, and by the time she finished ladling the Pumpkin Bisque into the turkey-shaped candy dishes at each setting, I looked like the OMG Kitty of YouTube fame!

Photo by Jeremy Schaffer.

Best post-show cocktail: The $4 frozen Margarita at Mother Burger in World Wide Plaza at 49th between 8th and 9th. They pack a punch but likely have as many calories as a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. During the week in the Summer is a great time to sit out in the plaza (but get there before 10:45 P.M., they close early) and in the winter, it is very charming with its interior done in reclaimed barn wood.

After you’ve hit all the traditional sites of New York City, you should totally go: Grab the Acela Amtrak train to Philadelphia. It’s closer than you think and is packed with great history, neighborhoods, and Rock Star Chefs that have restaurants there….and, with planning, it all can be done in one day.

If I could live anywhere in the world it would be: Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Such a great, green, beautifully designed city.  I toured through there a couple times and I loved it. Not sure how well I’d make it through the rainy season, but the summers there are worth the wait.

Cape, Mask, or Spandex: Cape. It offers functionality, style, and flexibility without hiding too much or giving it away.

Image via Brian O'Brien.

My workout “secret” is: Convenience! Make sure your Gym is with in eye shot of your daily routine. Getting there is half the battle, but if those hefty membership fees are staring you in the face (and gut) each time you pass, you are more likely to go.

When I’m looking for a date, nothing attracts me more than: A solid individual with a great sense of humor. The sound of either me laughing at them or vice versa has to illicit great joy in both of us.

When I’m websurfing, the site I’m most likely to be on is: Facebook, there, I said it!!! It is great for e-mail, pictures, updates blah blah blah. Although, I haven’t used it as a dating site as many have it seems. You can tell a lot about someone based on how many of their friends have shirtless profile pics…It’s not TORSObook for god’s sake! (Although I have some ‘vacation’ shots.)

Book, book on tape, or e-book: Book. Nothing better. Tapes are fine for long drives I suppose and e-books affect me the same way that the new ‘lawful’ light bulbs do. On a recent rained out visit to the Cape it was the musty books at a friend’s rental that saved us…and the aforementioned fondness for margaritas.

People would be surprised to learn that: Before becoming an actor, I was pursuing my MBA degree and had no formal training in theater so I was able to get to where I am by paying my dues (so to speak) for many years and observing all of the amazing talents I have had the honor of working with over the years.

When I was ten, I wanted to be just like: Lee Majors, (The Six Million Dollar Man). Those in the know, know why. Those who don’t, let’s see…..Track suits, Farrah, really good vision, good runner, former astronaut, cool apartment…the list goes on.

Ten years from now I’d like to be: Come to think of it, Lee Majors, for all of the reasons mentioned.  No…honestly, I have worked very hard in my career, and I know that no matter how talented you are it takes personality and charm and kindness to be truly successful. A close friend always hates when I use the word ‘lucky’ to describe my resume, and ‘blessed’ is too liturgical but still, I hope that I continue to follow the path that seems to have been laid out for me.  As my mother once said, “You never want to be the person that anyone says ‘Oh shit, here comes Brian’…”

Astronomy, Astrology, or the Houston Astros? Astronomy. Nothing is more breathtaking than the sight of a clear, night sky in Maine or wherever reflective urban light can not be found. One is forced to ponder the Sondheim song “No One is Alone”.

Photo by Jeremy Schaffer.

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