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PopWrapped | Fandom

Darren Criss Opens Up About His Reluctance To Jump On The Musical Theater Bandwagon

PopWrapped | PopWrapped Author

PopWrapped

Updated 11/8/2013 7:36am
Darren Criss Opens Up About His Reluctance To Jump On The Musical Theater Bandwagon

Dani Strehle

Content Editor

Are you ready, Readers? I’m about to make all of your Darren Criss dreams comes true. Okay, not really. I mean, I don’t have him packaged up, ready to ship to your house or anything. But, an extended interview where he lays it all out there is the next best thing, right? Right???? Broadway World’s InDepth InterView got the chance to sit down with Darren and really get to the bare bones of what makes him tick, plans for Blaine on Glee, his new HBO drama SIX BY SONDHEIM, where he wants to take his career next, and so much more. So buckle up, Criss fans; it’s sure to be a bumpy ride! Of all the projects Darren has going on at the moment (and they are numerous), he positively lights up when discussing his involvement in SIX BY SONDHEIM; you can feel the pride jumping out at you from the screen. In case you’re not familiar with this production, SIX BY SONDHEIM is a documentary centered around the life and work of Broadway mastermind, Stephen Sondheim. The official synopsis is as follows: "'Everybody has problems. Nobody goes through life unscathed, and I think if you write about those things, you're going to touch people,' says Stephen Sondheim at the start of Six by Sondheim, an intimate look into his long and prolific career creating ground-breaking work that has redefined the musical theater. Directed by award-winning Broadway director and playwright James Lapine, and predominantly told by Sondheim himself, this 84-minute film weaves together dozens of interviews of Sondheim, conducted throughout his illustrious career. Archival performances of Sondheim classics by stars like Bernadette Peters and Ethel Merman are interspersed with new performances produced exclusively for this feature documentary, showcasing such stars as Audra McDonald, Darren Criss and America Ferrera. Blending theatrical footage with rare interview footage and Sondheim's candid anecdotes, the film underscores Sondheim's unique, conversational songwriting style, and focuses on Sondheim's experiences writing six songs: "Something's Coming," "Opening Doors," "Send in the Clowns," "I'm Still Here," "Being Alive" and "Sunday." Art and life are intertwined for Sondheim, and Six by Sondheim is a story of both." It’s not hard to understand why Darren is so thrilled to work with a legend like Sondheim. In the film, he sings “Opening Doors” from MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG; a personal favorite of his. He struggles to find the words describe his love and ardor for the film; truly, it’s endearing. “I’ve been raving about this thing for so long and now we are finally talking about. I can’t even begin to…” And he trails off.
Photo courtesy of Broadway.com Photo courtesy of Broadway.com
He explains that any musical theater fan worth their weight knows what it means to be asked to participate in this particular project. He’s so smitten, in fact, that he claims that working with Sondheim was a bigger deal than meeting President Barack Obama. Yeah, the love runs that deep. “…But I honestly put meeting and interacting and conversing with Stephen Sondheim up there, if not higher, than meeting the President of the United States of America (something Darren recently did; check the pictorial proof below!).
Photo courtesy of Darren Criss Photo courtesy of Darren Criss
  Criss explains that, while it sounds cliché, Sondheim inspires him. He credits Sondheim for his passion for musical theater, and as the reason that he chose to pursue this arduous and tempestuous business. I'm sitting there playing the piano - his music - for him, on the piano, and he sort of leans over, and, first, he says my name - which is f*cking crazy - and he says, "Darren, so, do you write?" And, I said, "Yes, as a matter of fact I do!" Then, we talked about music and what it is like to write music for actors and the joy that that is. Oh, my God - I just was in heaven! Criss also shows some love for costars America Ferrera, Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan. Audra McDonald and Bernadette Peters will also be featured. I believe the only beef Darren may have with this project was that it took only two days for him to complete his portion. I don’t believe he felt this sufficient to truly absorb the magic.
Photo courtesy of Broadwayworld.com Photo courtesy of Broadwayworld.com
Criss gets so excited when he’s talking about this project. You honestly can feel it through his words. He positively gushes about Sondheim’s secret performance in the documentary, and refuses to give too much away; lest he spoil the surprise for other true fans. But the interviewer presses him a bit, and he folds under the pressure and reveals the number. Spoiler alert! “They split "Opening Doors" into two parts and the second half is where Frank and Charley are kind of pitching their show to the producer, so Sondheim himself sings and performs that part - it was unbelievable!” One can only imagine. Sondheim also pays tribute to his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein, in the documentary; performing his iconic song, “Some Enchanted Evening.” When viewing the final product, Darren would literally get angry when he saw himself walk on the screen, as it interrupted Sondheim. Something Criss does not condone. He even believes that Sondheim’s commentary and words overshadow the songs in this film. And, they are all lovely performances, but, even so, sometimes I was like, "Get back to what he was talking about!" I mean, the best part really is just seeing him talk - personally, I could just listen to him talk forever.
Photo courtesy of Ebay.co.uk Photo courtesy of Ebay.co.uk
The interviewer makes a brilliant suggestion next: why not pitch an all-out Sondheim Glee tribute to Ryan Murphy, and really bring it on home?! Criss points out that they’ve actually covered some of Sondheim’s work on Glee already (“Something’s Coming,” “Tonight,” “Not Getting Married”), but that he would love to see more of it in the future. Darren also admits that he never really thought of himself as a singer. He describes himself as “an actor who sings.” He never aspired to be on Broadway, he “just really liked it.” Well I for one am thrilled that he has embraced his proclivity for musical theater and music in general. His analogy is better than anything I could paraphrase, so I’ll just share that with you now: “Yeah-the comparison I like to make is that I like the food, but I don’t want to be a chef!” It’s just not something he ever saw himself in. His opinion of his voice and abilities are much lower than, well, anybody that’s ever heard him. He has, in my esteem, one of Glee’s strongest voices; one that is versatile and able to take on so many different personalities. His performance of “Cough Syrup” during the scene where Dave Karofsky is in the middle of a suicide attempt is sincerely one of the most powerful performances I have ever witnessed, bar none. He believes his typical “folky/pop voice” limits his ability to take on the big songs. But we know better, don’t we?
Photo courtesy of Crushable.com Photo courtesy of Crushable.com
No matter what Darren believes his limitations are, it never stops him from giving every project he works on his undivided attention and whole heart.  But he does admit to finding more comfort within the walls of a recording studio, rather than the open space of a Broadway stage. I mean, I don't think I'd ever be able to play Tony onstage; there'd be a vocal prowess that was missing. So, I feel like that's why I have the best of both worlds with Glee because that is done a recording studio - a place where I am really comfortable - and I can really perform it. One of the reason Criss loves Sondheim so much is that he feels that the characters he writes focus as much, if not more, on the acting than the singing. “I think that, for actors - and he [Sondheim] mentions this in the documentary himself - we love singing his stuff because there is a real sense of performance dialogue and an arc to everything.”
Were Criss ever to agree to star in a musical, MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG would be the one to capture his attention. His affection for that piece is palpable. He loves that, even though the book that inspired the musical wasn’t a perfect creation, it has “stood the test of time somehow and there is really something to all that. I think it would make an interesting film.” Criss also admitted that he’d love to do ASSASSINS. The interview segues into a bit of conversation about the freedom working with HBO permits. With Glee being filmed on Fox, the content is heavily regulated and must remain family-friendly. With HBO, no such restrictions exist. “And, it was amazing - getting to work with HBO; meeting Frank Rich and Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine and all these iconic dudes; and, how kind and how gracious they were to just let me be a nerd.” Oh Darren. You’ll always be our number one nerd. Darren continues to reveal his hopes, dreams, thoughts and goals for the rest of his career. He touches a bit more on Glee and his short tenure in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying; and, yes. He continues to gush about Sondheim. If you’d like to see what else Darren has to say, and read the interview first hand to see how truly charming, down-to-earth and humble he is, you may do so by clicking here. I can promise you one thing: You won't be disappointed.
Photo courtesy of Fanpop.com Photo courtesy of Fanpop.com

 

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