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« Box Office: Animation of 2017 | Main | Kill Bill Vol. 3: Uma Thurman Speaks Out »
Sunday
Nov262017

Stage Door: The Hilarious Cast of "Desperate Measures"

by Nathaniel R

Before we plunge into the deep end of movie awards season, which tends to consume our every waking moment from right now through Oscar night each year, a wee theater break.

Though we love movies with all our hearts, the one thing live-action movies don't really have an equivalent of is the grand theatrical tradition of the musical comedy. I'm talking inspired silliness as goddamn raison d'etre. I recently fell hard for Desperate Measures, a hilarious wild west riff on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. The show has now been extended three times at the York Theatre in Manhattan and will close on New Year's Eve so get to it! (The York specializes in helping develop new musicals and I'm happy to call attention to this noble cause as a bonafide fanatic of the genre.)

I sat down recently to talk to with two of the musical's stars, strapping Peter Saide and rockstar feisty Lauren Molina, who both really "outta be in pictures" as they say though we're happy they're killing it on stage, don't misunderstand! The interviews are after the jump... 

Lauren Molina & Conor Ryan in "Desperate Measures"

Lauren Molina
Molina's Broadway credits include such major shows as Sweeney Todd and Rock of Ages, but the thing she's best known for is being one half of the popular NYC band The Skivvies, who perform in their underwear. The mood is joyful slumber party at their shows with musical theater guest-stars stripping down to join them in song. "I'm obsessed with our band and what we've created," she says with passion but readily admits that it is a bit funny that that is what she's become most known for. 

"I love playing characters. Music has always been in my life but I'm an actor first." Molina says when our conversation shifts to Desperate Measures.

Lauren Molina in character for Desperate Measures (from her Instagram account)

She plays a randy saloon girl (aka prostitute) who agrees to pretend to be a pious nun and sleep with a dirty politician to save her jailed boyfriend... who happens to be the nun's brother. Molina calls the audience response "boisterous" but that's how I'd personally describe the acting! The comedy is infectious, you laugh even harder when you see actors having this much fun on stage. 

"There’s this 'lift' that we all bring to the show," Molina agrees. "Everyone provides a different color to the comedy but we’re all just kind of bouncing it around and having a blast. There is some science to comedy and figuring out the rhythm of where the laughs will land but audiences don’t laugh at the same parts every night." 

Molina and I share a favorite scene in the show, a number called "For You" in which Bella and her boyfriend attempt to one-up each other by listing all the ridiculous things they're willing to do for the other. It's quite insane and Molina and the actor Conor Ryan mug their way through it like zealots whose only religion is comic abandon.

 “This role is catered to my strengths as a comedienne, singer and actor," Molinda says matter-of-factly. "It wasn’t specifically written for me it but it feels like it was. It fits me right!”

[The Skivvies welcoming Peter Saide to their show to sing an Australian medley]

Lauren Molina and Peter Saide on their first day of rehearsals this summer (from Peter's Instagram account)

Peter Saide
Aussie actor Peter Saide who'd look great on movie screens (hint hint Hollywood) plays the sheriff who falls hard for a nun. He cuts a tall classically handsome figure so it doesn't surprise anyone to hear that he's toured as Gaston in "Beauty and the Beast". But the role that served as his big break was playing Bob Gaudio in the Vegas production of "Jersey Boys". Naturally I had to grill him about seeing the film versions of those hit shows. Is it hard to watch other actors do those roles? 

Seeing a new Gaston was easy, he says, since the movie was so different from the stage show. But Jersey Boys was more difficult he admits, thinking the question over. "Erich Bergen did beautiful lovely work as Bob Gaudio" he explains (we agree that he was the standout in the film adaptation), but adds "but, you know, I did a 1000 performances, give or take, of that role in Vegas so it does become a part of you. It's strange to watch someone else do it."

We have a laugh when I ask him why he's not in movies, given the marquee idol looks. "I made the mistake of going into theater...and then doing well," he jokes. The plan, though, is to diversify. He's "keen" to try film and television but is quick to point out that he feels incredibly lucky already. "I could never imagine not being on stage!"

Peter Saide with Emma Degerstedt and Conor Ryan in "Desperate Measures"

Given that "Desperate Measures" is such a silly show, what's it like to play the straight man amidst so many broadly comic bananas? His answer surprises me. "It's fun to be grounded in a world that's so outrageous," he explains citing his passion for storytelling. And though he thinks that the musical is a wonderfully buoyant diversion, the themes are resonant "We're really talking about the spirit of the law versus letter of the law. What is right and what is just? It's an important time to be telling a story like this."

Desperate Measures is playing at the York Theatre "where musicals come to life" through December 31st.

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Reader Comments (2)

I'll always remember Measure for Measure as the play where Meryl Streep met John Cazale from HER AGAIN

November 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

craver -- i really need to read that book.

November 27, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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