Exclusive Interview: 15 Minutes with Kathleen Marshall
Where will you be on Monday, May 4? If you want to roll with Broadway glitterati, then head to Carnegie Hall for the New York Pops’ 32nd Birthday Gala featuring music honorees Kathleen and Rob Marshall. There must have been something in the water in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the siblings grew up and first honed their theatrical talents.
Older brother Rob has had his hands (and feet) in 15 Broadway shows, along with a few films you may have heard of, like Into the Woods, Chicago, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Kathleen first began as his assistant on Kiss of the Spider Woman and has gone on to take the directing reigns for such notable revivals as Anything Goes and the Pajama Game. This season she directed the comedy Living On Love starring Renée Fleming and Douglas Sills.
The Broadway Blog had a chance to chat with Kathleen during a rehearsal break for Ever After, a new musical (based on the 1998 film starring Drew Barrymore) opening this month at Paper Mill Playhouse.
BB: Congratulations on your New York Pops honor! Since the evening will pay tribute to both you and your brother, I’m curious as to your evolutions both as directors and choreographers. Are there aspects of your training as youths that carry with you today?
Kathleen: Thank you! I think we have similar tastes because of the fact that we grew up having the same experiences such as family trips and seeing all sorts of shows like ballet, symphony, opera and musicals. We also have a similar way of working, which I learned from assisting him. It was really more like an apprenticeship. Like most choreographers from Fosse to Jerome Robbins, it’s a craft that is passed down. We both like to be prepared and go in with a blueprint. You’re actually more flexible and can adapt that way, so I’d say we’re more similar than different.
BB: How is it that you came to be known as the great resurrector (both as director and choreographer) of classic musicals?
Kathleen: I sometimes think I was born in the wrong era but I’m lucky that I get to reinvent them. It’s a combination of what you’re drawn to and projects that you’re offered. But what draws me in is the music and those wonderful scores. And I’m attracted to musical comedy. They have great plot, character and story telling. They’re serious comedies and not camp.
BB: The Tony Award nominations were pretty controversial this year and Living on Love, which you directed, is closing after just a few short weeks. How are you able to take it in stride and move on to the next project?
Kathleen: We all work on shows that we love and we put them forward in their best light. The rest is not up to us. What we control is what we put in front in the audience. We know Living On Love has a wonderful affect on audiences. It’s a comedy, so if they don’t like it, we can tell! It’s just heartbreaking in this crowded and noisy season that we didn’t get traction for a new American play that isn’t based on a film or revival. It’s hard to build an audience. You never know. But we’re very proud of it and I wouldn’t change a thing.
BB: You’re in the middle of rehearsal for the new musical Ever After. What is it about the project that resonated for you and what are you discovering in the rehearsal process?
Kathleen: Oh, this incredible cast! We’ve got Christine Ebersole, Charles Shaughnessy, Margot Seibert… it’s a new musical so they’re giving us new pages every day. The score is so beautiful and it takes a story that we’re sort of familiar with and gives it a new twist and unexpected look.
There are still limited tickets available for the 32nd New York Pops Birthday Gala, which will feature appearances by Queen Latifah, Sutton Foster, Kelli O’Hara, Alan Cumming, Brian Stokes Mitchell and more. Click here for tickets.