Throughout him, Tony Award-winning actor Shuler Hensley sees repercussions of two years of Covid-19 — colleagues who haven't been in a position to return to pre-pandemic work ranges; theater productions which have closed early or ones by no means in a position to open. In his new gig, the present Broadway revival of Meredith Willson’s 1957 The Music Man, he’s considered one of solely 4 performers who has not examined optimistic for coronavirus throughout the musical’s run, even with the corporate making use of security protocols.
Hensley doesn’t know the way and even why he’s been so lucky, however he’s not complaining. As of late the Atlantan spends most of his non-performing time in New York maintaining to himself, strolling in every single place and avoiding giant crowds, in addition to sporting a masks and washing his palms. “It’s every thing my mother used to inform me as a child,” he says and laughs. “She was proper!”
His longtime pal Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster headline The Music Man, with Hensley taking up the position of former con man Marcellus Washburn. Introduced in spring 2019 and initially scheduled to start out previews in September 2020, the musical as a substitute started rehearsals in October 2021 after the trade shutdown. It formally opened in February at Winter Backyard Theatre, and has been the highest-grossing manufacturing in New York since its first previews in late December.
Jackman and Hensley first labored collectively within the 1998 Royal Nationwide Theatre model of Oklahoma!, which later went to Broadway and gained Hensley a Tony as Jud Fry. The 2 hit it off instantly and have remained shut. Figuring out that taking part in lead character Harold Hill has been a dream position of Jackman’s since he was a teen, Hensley was desperate to collaborate once more when the chance arose.
“Similar to reside theater, sure actors in your profession make issues invaluable for you as an artist,” he says, “and Hugh is considered one of them.”
Hensley has additionally appeared with Jackman within the movies Somebody Like You and Van Helsing and had a cameo in The Best Showman.
Like everybody working in Covid-era theater in the present day, although, the actor is taking it because it goes. The reveals which might be again are studying on the fly, he feels. “With The Music Man, I'm so lucky to be in as steady a present as you will get with that solid, however nonetheless it’s a weekly journey. It’s unnerving in lots of methods as a result of we don’t know the solutions to issues. It’s not a safe enterprise to start with. Add a pandemic to that and it’s about as insecure as you will get.”
Receiving a optimistic Covid take a look at presents apparent well being challenges however, underneath present Broadway insurance policies, it additionally means quarantining and lacking 10 days, which Hensley would dread having to do.
One among his targets all through his profession has been to diversify — to go from a play to a musical, to TV or movie, after which to instructing. Earlier than rehearsals started for The Music Man, he snagged a TV gig.
That half was in Dexter: New Blood, the continuation of Dexter, through which he performed Elric Kane, a backwoods gun for rent. The Showtime collection shot in Massachusetts, and Hensley drove there from Atlanta a number of instances. It was a 17-hour journey however he had audiobooks to assist him move the time. Satirically, a self-taped audition he filmed within the woods of Marietta satisfied the director to rent him.
Though there was some discuss of a second season of the collection, it’s unlikely that Hensley’s chopped-to-bits character can be within the combine, after a run-in with the titular serial killer. “I feel it’s fairly secure to say (he) is one other realm proper now,” Hensley says with a laughs.
Born in Atlanta, the performer, 55, left the College of Georgia, the place he had been attending on a baseball scholarship, to check voice on the Manhattan College of Music. Though he was energetic on New York phases earlier than, it was Oklahoma! that basically escalated his profession. Amongst his different signature reveals are Younger Frankenstein on Broadway (taking part in the Monster), an off-Broadway run of The Whale and a revival of Candy Charity with The Music Man’s Foster.
He moved again to Marietta in 2012 and lots is brewing for him again dwelling now. Hensley has been a part of Metropolis Springs Theatre Firm since its 2017 inception, first serving because the assistant creative director. He stepped as much as creative director final 12 months after founder-artistic director Brandt Blocker resigned.
“Metropolis Springs will not be essentially attempting to reinvent the wheel by way of doing new, creative initiatives,” Hensley permits. “It’s extra about discovering these requirements everyone knows, making these productions appear to be ones individuals will really feel like they’re seeing for the primary time.”
He guarantees a lineup of musicals that “everybody is aware of” for the soon-to-be-announced 2022-23 season.
Fact be instructed, Hensley by no means envisioned himself as an inventive director. His mom, Iris Hensley, was the founder and creative director of Georgia Ballet, and what him in getting concerned was wanting to make use of his connections and expertise.
“I by no means needed to cease as an actor as a result of that's my bread and butter,” he explains, “but it surely does permit me to have a singular perspective on the working of a theater, the manufacturing, directing and creating of seasons.”
The pandemic has additionally redrawn how some issues function in his life. Two years in the past he was not accustomed to Zoom; now a lot of the planning in his skilled life takes place on-line. “Being concerned because the creative director is simpler (due to that),” he says.
One other undertaking particular to him is the Georgia Excessive College Musical Theatre Awards, often known as the Shuler Awards, honoring excellence throughout the state. The 14th anniversary occasion can be offered Thursday on the Cobb Vitality Performing Arts Centre and telecast reside on GPB. Hensley continues to be attempting to find out whether or not his hectic Broadway schedule will permit him to attend.
Round 45 faculties are taking part this 12 months, and one of many adjustments is the introduction of a non-gendered award class. The supporting actress and supporting actor fields will now be in a class designated as supporting performer. The Shuler Awards are the primary awards program of its type within the nation to implement this coverage.
This system’s continued success is a testomony to the scholars who reside and breathe musical theater. “There isn’t per week the place I don’t meet somebody who was concerned within the awards. Yearly I come again, the expertise stage has one way or the other developed and is much more spectacular. It’s just like the Atlanta theater group.”
Having directed Metropolis Springs’ The Sound of Music final 12 months, Hensley would like to helm one other manufacturing quickly and act in additional. Proper now, he and his fellow performers are contracted with The Music Man till January. After the busy Tony Awards season is over in June, his aim is to get again dwelling not less than each three weeks and be bodily current as a part of Metropolis Springs.
He’s nonetheless determining logistics, however as he’s executed the previous couple of years, he’ll determine the way to make all of it work.
“We're evolving the place we're compelled to adapt,” Hensley says. “I'm making ready myself to go in a number of totally different instructions when mandatory. I'm attempting to do what I inform the (Shuler Awards) children to do — placing your hand in lots of pies and understanding you’ll must to roll with the punches with regards to one thing just like the pandemic. It offers you a flexibility that you simply wouldn’t essentially take into consideration in case you had been simply doing the Broadway job and knew that you simply had that for the following 12 months or so.”