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Lazar: Role in Sondheim show is a dream

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International   |   April 21, 2010 at 9:29 PM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, April 21 (UPI) -- Broadway actor Aaron Lazar describes as a career highlight the moment when composer Stephen Sondheim told him he wanted him for a pivotal role in the revival of "A Little Night Music."

"It's any actor's dream to be part of a Sondheim show on Broadway, let alone with (director) Trevor Nunn and this cast and to have Mr. Sondheim get in touch with me (and tell me he wanted me to join the ensemble) was icing on the cake," Lazar told UPI in a recent phone interview.

Set in early 1900s Sweden, the musical comedy co-stars Angela Lansbury, Alexander Hanson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Erin Davie.

The show is about what happens when nostalgic widower Fredrik (Hanson) visits his old flame, the always-traveling actress Desiree (Zeta-Jones,) and realizes he still loves her even though he is newly re-married and Desiree is involved with the fiercely jealous Count Carl-Magnus (Lazar.) Lansbury plays Desiree's wise, but weary mother, while Davie portrays the count's long-suffering wife.

Asked how he manages to keep a straight face through some of the musical's most hilarious scenes, Lazar laughed and admitted: "I'm so on the edge of cracking up because Alex, Catherine, Angela and Erin are so funny sometimes. It's hard, but that's my job."

And what of Carl-Magnus, a character who has some of the sharpest comedic lines of dialogue in the show? What does Lazar make of him?

"He's very hard to describe," the actor said. "It's right there in the script -- a civilized man can tolerate his wife's infidelities, but when it comes to his mistress he becomes a tiger. You just sort of embrace that and go with it ... . It's written so well and the costumes are great and we did a lot of work in rehearsal to make him a real guy, a 3-dimensional person and not a cartoon because I have no interest in making him just a caricature. It was difficult earlier on, but then you do a show eight times a week and you get to explore (who the character is) ... . I basically get to live as this guy for 3 hours a day every day but Monday... and it makes it a little bit easier than it was earlier in the run when it was still a new character."

Lazar -- whose other Broadway credits include "Impressionism," the "Les Miserables" revival and "The Light in the Piazza" -- said he is enjoying his break from the dramatic roles he frequently plays.

"It's so much fun," he said. "I haven't done a lot of comedies, so to go out there and just sort of have a great time and be the foil to Alex's Fredrik. Carl-Magnus really becomes the driving force of the plot in the second act, pushing things farther and farther into the land of farce, so to be the engine for that is just great; it's really fun."

"A Little Night Music," which was nominated this week for the Drama League Award for distinguished revival of a musical, began performances last fall at Manhattan's Walter Kerr Theatre.

© 2010 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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