Paul Castree is has one of those theatrical careers that most actors want when they think about how they want their own careers to go. Currently, he is playing the scene stealing Simeon in the national tour of “Joseph and the Amazing technicolor Dreamcoat.” Castree has performed in revivals such as Joseph and the 1994 revival of “Grease”, but also in original casts such as “Footloose” (1998), “Saturday Night Fever” (1999), “All Shook Up” (2005), “High Fidelity” (2006), “Young Frankenstein” (2007) and “9 to 5” (2009).
Castree describes himself as “one of those kids that was always performing for fun in high school and community theater, and even in college I was in a lot of singing groups and spring musicals and musical revue”. But the truth is that he got his degree in Psychology, and really decided to give performing a try before he went to graduate school.
“A friend of mine had talked me into flying to New York to go to an open call, an open non-Equity chorus call for the national tour of “Bye Bye Birdie”, (with Tommy Tune and Ann Reinking) and talked me into it and…to this day I don’t know how I had the nerve, but I flew to New York and went to the audition and that night it was on the stage of the Gershwin Theatre at the call back and they told me that I had the job.
So…just like that, I had my Equity card, and I toured the country for a year and that led to my next few jobs because by then I moved to New York.”
So how did the role of Simeon come to him? “The boring answer is my agent submitted me and I went in for an audition, “ Paul says on a laugh. “But the more interesting answer is I had worked with our director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler many years ago in 1999 when we were both performing in the Broadway show ‘Saturday Night Fever. I played Bobby C and he played Double J. We were both part of Tony’s Gang and we got to be really good friends. And it was clear even then, I remember him talking about his plans on becoming a choreographer and director. He continued to perform on Broadway for a couple of years, but he already started transitioning and of course then he won the Tony Award (for ‘In the Heights’).”
So what is it like working with a friend once they have moved into the director/choreographer role?
“This is the first time I have ever worked with him as a director, and it’s fantastic. I hope we get to do it again. It’s nice when can work with friends that you’ve known in the business for quite some time and you already have a rapport and a respect for one another and friendships…so it’s been great.”
“Joseph” is one of those shows that usually people have a passing familiarity with, thanks to how long it has been around and the popular tour with Danny Osmond that played for many years. So, it begs the question, how does one re-imagine something that popular? “It’s sleeker…I think it’s been brought up to date beautifully. Not only in the tone of it, but also choreographically and the direction of it by Andy. He has used a beautiful design of this show, which uses a lot of state-of-the-art projection and animation, which audiences seem to really like….I do some dancing, we all dance – everyone in Andy’s shows dance – but most of the brothers are really proficient dancers, and obviously singers as well, but there’s a lot of dancing and there’s a lot of different styles of dancing; there’s tap, there’s a lot of hip hop, there’s a touch of a hoedown number with splits and lifts and cheerleading lifts and it’s got everything you want, really, dance-wise so it’s got a lot of energy. It moves really quickly and it’s fast-paced.”
Yet Castree is quick to point out that those changes don’t detract from the story that people have come to know and love. “At the same time, it’s still JOSEPH that keeps all those things that you love about it, the comedy of it, and the beautiful story of it, and the warm, family-friendly tone of it as well. It’s just been updated. And the audiences so far absolutely love it because it’s a fresh take on an old favorite.”
Castree is also a fan of the shows two American Idol alums, Ace Young and Deanna Digarmo at the helm, as the title character and the narrator of the story. “We’re so lucky to have them. Not only because of the fans of course who will come to see the show for them but because they’re super super talented performers and great people. They are both just models of how one should, as far as their concerned, conduct themselves after you get a lot of national attention on something like “American Idol” because they are so professional. They never miss a show, they’re so gracious, they’re such team players, and that affects the whole company…it all trickles down and it’s just been wonderful working with both of them, we’re really lucky to have them. They’re so fun; really wonderful people to be around.”
Having gone from a touring show to the Broadway stage, what is it that Castree likes about being on the road? “I like all the cities, people, different climate, the different food. And you know, you get to see the people that you know that live in different parts of the country. The people around the country that I get to see, like family and friends…and even people I don’t know, it’s nice to get out of New York every now and then. So that part of it’s been great.”
You only have through Sunday, June 29th to see Paul and the rest of the colorful cast of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” playing at the San Diego Civic Theatre. For ticket information and show times go to www.Broadwaysd.com
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