Monday, June 30, 2014

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Brian d'Arcy James!

BDJ in: Wild Party, Shrek, and
Sweet Smell of Success
Photos courtesy of
briandarcyjames.com
If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that there are a few Broadway actors to whom I'm a little ridiculously dedicated, i.e., Brian d'Arcy James, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Norbert Leo Butz, and more. (apparently you have to have three names to get onto my exclusive list). So today, I realized that  I've made a huge mistake (as GOB Bluth would say). Many of my pieces have involved Brian d'Arcy James, but none have been exclusively about his career. I know. I KNOW. I'm a total failure fan!! Anyway, since he celebrated his 48th birthday yesterday, today is the perfect day to finally dedicate a post to him.

Brian d'Arcy James is one of those actors who has quite an impressive Broadway resume and has been nominated for many awards as well, which these days seems rare. Through my fairly unscientific research, it appears that the actors with extensive (5 or more) Broadway credits are the non-nominated gypsies, while the nominees usually have about four Broadway shows under their belts. BDJ has ten Broadway shows to his name, spanning 20 years. WHEW! In addition, he has a ridiculous number of award nominations, so check out the full list on his website, but below are some highlights of his career.

On his website, Brian d'Arcy James says that his breakout role was playing the adorably lovesick Frederick Barrett in Titanic (I should clarify that he didn't describe himself as adorable. I added that because it seemed appropriate). Y'all, I think I've posted the video of his performance as Frederick, singing "The Proposal/The Night was Alive" with Martin Moran on the Rosie O'Donnell show at least twice already, because it's so beautiful and sweet! I fall in love with BDJ every time! But recently, I found a different performance video of that song. This one seems to have been made for press use back in the day, so the clip below includes the entire performance, unlike the Rosie O'Donnell show clip. So check this out!


In 2000, BDJ received a Drama Desk Award nomination for his performance in the Off-Broadway production of The Wild Party. This Andrew Lippa musical was based on a 1928 poem, "The Wild Party" by Joseph Moncure March, and oddly enough, another musical based on the same poem, with the same title, opened on Broadway in the same season. With music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa, the show received seven Tony nominations, but no awards. So in 2000, Mandy Patinkin and BDJ were nominated against each other for the Drama Desk Award for Best Actor in a Musical. For the same role, essentially. Anticlimactically, neither of them won, but rather they lost to another one of my favorites, Brian Stokes Mitchell (Kiss Me Kate revival). Mind blown.

So check out this clip of Brian d'Arcy James straying from the adorable lovesick man, to an intense, violent clown named Burrs, who was probably not hugged as a child. Y'all, these The Wild Party bootlegs are where it's at! For real. You can't beat the cast, including Taye Diggs, Julia Murney, (both of whom are in the video below) and Idina Menzel. WHAT THE WHAT?! Such a show exists? Yes. Yes it does. You're welcome.


In 2002, Brian d'Arcy James appeared in his fourth Broadway show, for which he finally received a Tony nomination. Also starring Tony Award-winner John Lithgow, Sweet Smell of Success ran for four months. BDJ, nominated against another one of my favorites, Norbert Leo Butz, lost the Best Featured Actor in a Musical Tony to Shuler Hensley (for Oklahoma!), while Lithgow took home the statue for Best Actor in a Musical. Fun fact about NLB and BDJ: BDJ actually took over for him in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels on Broadway, shortly after Sweet Smell of Success.

Check out his performance playing a less extreme character than Burrs, Sidney, in Sweet Smell of Success on the Rosie O'Donnell Show (again)!


He also played Dan ("the husband") in the original Off-Broadway version of Next to Normal before the show moved to Broadway, where it earned multiple awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. He did not end up reprising his role in the original Broadway version, because he accepted the title role in Shrek the Musical (which opened in late 2008) before it was clear that Next to Normal was heading to Broadway. So that year, he was nominated for Best Actor for Shrek against one of my favorites, J. Robert Spencer, who was nominated for playing Dan in Next to Normal. Of course they both lost to the boys playing Billy Elliot... Because 11-year-olds dancing for two hours. That's all. Not surprisingly, BDJ ended up taking over the role of Dan on Broadway after JRS left.

So check out this bootleg of the original Off-Broadway cast of Next to Normal singing "You Don't Know/I am the One," so this is Alice Ripley (who later won the Tony Award for reprising her role on Broadway), Aaron Tveit, and of course BDJ. There are some great bootlegs from this production floating around, if you're unscrupulous enough to love them, which I am.


Side note: the sad thing about Shrek is that with all of his makeup, you don't really get to see BDJ's sweet face. But the great thing about Shrek is that the whole thing is on Netflix! Yay high-quality recordings!

Among other recent projects, BDJ also appeared in NBC's short-lived Broadway drama, Smash, as Frank. I was slightly on the fence about Smash, but after BDJ's character was unfairly kicked off at the beginning of season two, I was totally done. I just couldn't handle that kind of betrayal. Actually I had many reasons to dislike it during season two, but BDJ leaving was the last straw.

Make sure to check out Brian d'Arcy James's full bio on his website, because he's done so much more on stage and screen, plus he has been involved in many cast recordings/soundtracks, and even a Christmas album.

So happy birthday, sir! You make the theatre world a better place.

Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

Read More:
Drama Desk Awards 2000
The Wild Party (Broadway)
Wild Party (Off-Bway)

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