Five Burning Questions with Allegro star Claybourne Elder

Last updated November 19th, 2014 by Josh Ferri
Five Burning Questions with Allegro star Claybourne Elder

Claybourne Elder stars as Joseph Taylor Jr, a good-hearted doctor who audiences watch grow from birth to early adulthood in CSC’s revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s rarely seen musical Allegro. It’s a John Doyle production so Clay is playing instruments, singing, dancing and serving up major star quality. BroadwayBox caught up with the Bonnie & Clyde vet [#ThatBaptismSceneThough] to talk about why Sondheim fans need to know Allegro, the young gigolo he’s dying to play and his Sex and the City spirit animal.

1. Why do musical theatre fans need to know Allegro?
After Rodgers and Hammerstein shaped the face of modern musical theatre with Oklahoma! and Carousel, they created this show, which was so unique and different and really the first concept musical. Stephen Sondheim said, ‘If this show was guilty of anything, it’s that it was ahead of its time.’ When you see it, you can see the influence it had—not just on Sondheim who was an intern on the show and it was really his first show he worked on when he was a kid—on the history of musical theatre, even though it was deemed a flop. It changed the way composers saw what was possible in the musical theatre. We are so familiar with these people’s body of work but we don't know this show, so it’s like finding out something about a friend you never knew before.

2. You’ve done Sondheim [Road Show, Sunday in the Park with George], you’re doing R&H now, so what Andrew Lloyd Webber role would you like to tackle?
I’m dying to be in Sunset Boulevard. Totally on the list! If I could go back in time and perform any one role with any one actress, it would be playing [Joe Gillis] across from Betty Buckley, who I am obsessed with. I can fall down a YouTube k-hole of watching Betty Buckley sing ‘With One Look’ for an embarrassing amount of time.

3. I loved The Carrie Diaries and your arc on it, but let’s talk about the original for a moment. Which Sex and the City character did you most relate to?
I think I most related to Carrie; is that the boring answer? Somewhere between Carrie and I wish I was more like Samantha, so I looked up to her and pretended like I associated with her even though maybe I didn't. I was more like, ‘Yeah, I’m a badass.’

4. You and your husband Eric split your time between Kansas and NYC, what is that like?
My favorite question people ask me is where I live because I truly just don’t know what to say. It’s like I live in New York and I have a country house but it’s really, really inconvenient—like I have to fly to get there. Although I love our house in Kansas City; if I could pick it up and move it with me like a turtle, I would. We go back and forth. When I have time off, I spend time there and I love it; and when I’m here working or auditioning, he spends a lot of time here. I don't know how but I think we spend more time together than most theatre couples; one of us can usually fly to the other person.

5. You spent a year abroad teaching English—what’s your best American Mormon teen abroad story?
When I was in college, I spent six months in Russia and six months in a fishing village in China teaching English. The village was called Dragon Mountain and I was the only non-Chinese person those people had ever seen, and I’m also kinda tall. So I would go jogging in the morning—just running around the community—and my translator would get calls from people in the town like, ‘Why is that white guy running? Is everything ok? What’s happening?’ They thought I was running somewhere because something had happened.

Don’t miss your chance to see Claybourne Elder lead ‘Allegro’ at Classic Stage Company through December 14.