CRAZY FOR CROWLE - A Conversation with Matt Crowle
Matt Crowle, the multi-talented, award-winning veteran of musical theatre in Chicago for the past decade, has a backstory worthy of a Broadway musical all its own. Born and raised in Marshall, Michigan, where he discovered his love for ballet, tap, theatre and comedy at a very early age, Crowle eventually followed a calling to New York City, grinding through years of auditions, dance and voice classes and part-time jobs to make ends meet. His first real break would come as a member of the touring company of Dr. Dolittle and stage time with Tommy Tune. And then came the Broadway megahit, Spamalot.
These stories are just part of the fascinating conversation we had on September 27th with Matt Crowle, the six-time Jefferson award nominated actor, choreographer and dance instructor. In a wide-ranging discussion, Crowle talks about who helped to shape his performance philosophy, recognizing talent, the importance of training, and, working with one of his best friends, Bill Larkin.
Matt Crowle received the 2015 Jeff Award for his performance as Hysterium in Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum and is nominated twice in 2016 -- for his tour-de-force performance as Leo Bloom in Mercury Theater’s The Producers, and, for his choreography in the Drury Lane Theatre production of White Christmas.
NEXT UP: Matt Crowle is merging all of his formidable talents and vast stage experience as director and choreographer of Drury Lane Theatre’s upcoming production of Crazy For You, running November 3rd though January 8th.
Matt Crowle on his New York miracle and unforgettable Spamalot audition:
"I was working at Ellen’s Stardust Diner and I got a call from Tara Rubin Casting saying we’d love for you to come in next week for Spamalot … and to be honest, it was an eye-rolling moment because I thought 'you’ve seen me… there’s nothing left to do.' I talked to my mom and said ‘I don’t think I’m going to go. I have a shift that night.’ My mom said ‘So, you’re going to sling burgers around when you can audition for a Broadway show !?!’"
"I almost didn’t make it … I was trapped on the N train, ran upstairs grabbed a cab and said ‘I will give you 50 dollars if you can get me to Chelsea faster than you should legally’ ... and he did … I think I was the first to go, did the first song, went well, did the first of two scenes, went well, and that was when my mentor Bruce kicked me in the back of the head and said ‘you’re not done yet.’ ... So I launched into the second one and the associate director at the time, Peter Lawrence, leaned in after I finished and said ‘I am very, very glad you did that.’ … So that was at about 11 … and at about 11:15, I had a phone call that said if you want to join the Broadway company Spamalot, you start in two days … So I went in there, quit my job at the restaurant, and there you have it.”
About physical comedy and streamlining simplicity:
"I had a knack at a very young age for falling down really well. I was doing prat falls for a very long time. My parents got a video camera … one day, when I played hooky from school all I did for the whole day was fall off from furniture or jump off of things and fall and then I’d go back and watch it in slow motion to see if it was believable enough."
"My mom found the tape. She was like ‘What were you thinking?!?!’ It was just before the night I had an opening in a show in high school. ‘And what if you had broken your arm !?!’ [I said] ‘I’m not going to break my arm. I know exactly what I’m doing. I’m a pro!’ … and she just rolled her eyes and said ‘Well, it’s your problem.’
“I think the first real exposure to physical comedy for me would have been Steve Martin. My mom and dad loved Steve Martin, listened to his stand up albums, watched Roxanne, The Jerk and, of course, Three Amigos. So much of my generation is about vulgar humor… But I thought clever always spoke to me. Clever and simple because it’s not easy. It’s not easy to weed out all the stuff you don’t need just to find that nugget, that gold nugget of truth and streamline simplicity … And then I was turned on to Keaton and Chaplin and went back over and over again saying, ‘What is it that makes it so perfect'"
Working with Bill Larkin
"That rehearsal process [for Producers] was incredible because we had so much already from day one … Bill, as brilliant as he is, can be a bit awkward physically and he embraces this … There was a day when the director was trying to get him to lean on a wall a certain way. I felt like I was watching a Steve Martin or Buster Keaton comedy bit where he seriously didn’t know how to lean on the wall ... We had to take a break I was weeping … He’s such a natural, beautiful comedian … I adore him … He’s one of my dearest friends.”
The importance of training:
“I try to impress upon my students and colleagues that you are never done training … In New York, everyone is always in class … always in voice lessons… always training … I didn’t notice that here so I’ve really tried to change that approach … All you have is your reputation and if you rely on that as opposed to committing to push forward with it you lose, and we all lose … Any time I talk to young performers I say ‘Be the best you can. Then get better.’”