NEW YORK, July 28 (UPI) -- Will Chase is no stranger to Broadway's hilarious romp Something Rotten!
The beloved stage actor appeared in workshop versions of the Shakespeare-themed, musical comedy before landing a role in the nighttime soap Nashville. With that series making the move from ABC to CMT for its upcoming, fifth season -- and shedding numerous cast members in the process -- Chase was available and pleased to once again play the Bard.
The 45-year-old Kentucky native, who is famous for his work in the Broadway productions of RENT, Miss Saigon, Aida, The Full Monty, Billy Elliot the Musical and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, returned to Something Rotten! last week, taking over the rock star-ish character of William Shakespeare from Christian Borle, the actor who won a Tony for his performance in the role in 2015.
"It's awesome. Broadway in general, but, specifically with this show," Chase told UPI in a recent phone interview about his homecoming to the New York stage.
"Just my history with the show, doing the first couple of workshops of it and then not being able to do it [because of Nashville] and then finally getting to do it. It's so fun. It's cheeky and so, yeah, it's cool to be back, especially with this kind of show."
While his return to the project amounts to something of a reclaiming of a role he originated, Chase said both the character and the show have evolved greatly since the last time he was attached to it.
"I think the last version I did didn't even have a completed second act. I remember seeing it on Broadway for the first time when it opened and I thought: 'Oh, that's what happens! Oh, that's cool!' Because a lot of it just wasn't there," he said of the second part of the musical, in which Shakespeare assumes another identity and accent to infiltrate a rival playwright's acting troupe and steal his ideas.
"I do remember the last workshop we did... the who's who were there, but, oddly, Christian was out there watching and so was Brian d'Arcy James. Danny Burstein and I had done it and I think [Burstein] was booked doing something and I was doing Nashville, so I often think back to that moment and go, 'Ah, those gentlemen were already being looked at.'"
He went on to say the timing for him to re-visit Something Rotten! now just seemed right.
"I knew what was coming down the pike with Nashville. I didn't know right away, but I knew fairly soon after this season wrapped and then, of course, we got canceled. I knew that even if we did get picked back up that my character probably wasn't going to be long for this world. TV, I absolutely love TV. As I have jokingly said in the last few days to all of my friends about going back to Broadway, 'Now I actually have to work for a living,'" he laughed. "Because Broadway, I don't think people understand, as far as acting goes, it's the hardest gig there is. I'm not complaining, but it's a lot of work. Not that TV isn't, but then when you're not working, you're just not working. I love the TV world and I want to continue to do that, so this was good timing because the summer is kind of off and slow and then when it picks back up, I'll start putting my hat in the ring for the television work."
So, did he feel his experience with Nashville had a bittersweet conclusion?
"I have a house there still because I love the city and my folks still live in Kentucky and, so, I have a place there that I am going to keep because my girlfriend Ingrid [Michaelson] gets down there a lot. She writes down there and I just have a ton of friends and, I don't know this to be a fact, I'm assuming I'll probably do a couple of episodes to tie up loose ends," explained Chase, who played Luke Wheeler for three seasons. "I don't know if that's true or not, but regardless, yeah, I loved being on that show. It kind of gave me footing in the television world and I loved the character they wrote for me, but I agree with everybody else. One of the biggest concerns for the show, as it went on, there were just a lot of characters and while that may be fun for us as actors -- we have more time off and we get to meet a lot more people -- I think they spread it a little thin, so, do I want to be the one that's not going to be a series regular? Not particularly, but if that means these other six, principle actors that are left get a little more story and a little more time for a story to be told, then I think that's important and I think the writers did a smart thing."
Something Rotten! co-stars Rob McClure, Brad Oscar, John Grisetti and Leslie Kritzer. It is playing at the St. James Theatre.