The Play That Goes Wrong Star Alex Mandell Takes On Seven Questions About His Puppy-Like Character, His Comedy Idols, & Onstage Mishaps
April 5th, 2018
by Josh Ferri
After making his Broadway debut understudying the lead roles in the Tony-nominated comedy Hand to God, Alex Mandell stars as Max Bennett, the hilarious, hammy young actor, in Broadway's long-running hit The Play That Goes Wrong. Alex shows off his gift for physical comedy as the limber and lovable doofus in the Tony & Olivier Award-winning farce. BroadwayBox caught up with Alex to hear about how he inhabits his character, his pre-show, his comedy idols, and more.
1. What do you love about playing a character as cheesy as Max and how he experiences The Murder at Haversham Manor?
I like to view Max as an easily distractible puppy. I’m a dog person through and through—I grew up with dogs and love them to my core—so that was my way into the character. He experiences The Murder at Haversham Manor much like he experiences life, with an open mind and an insatiable curiosity. When every tiny stimuli presents a world of possibility, there’s never a dull moment for Max, and the beauty of live theater is no two shows are ever the same. Audiences react differently to each moment, and it is such a gift to be able to experience and play with them for the first time every night.
2. How intense is your warm up for The Play That Goes Wrong? What is that fight call like?
My warm up changes based on what my body needs before any given show, but the one constant is my vocal warm up. We’re not mic’d in the show, so vocal health and stamina is crucial. I do pretty much the same Linklater warm up I’ve been doing since college—lots of humming, yawning, cat and cow. As far as the fight call goes—people are usually surprised to hear that it’s one of the simplest fight calls I’ve ever had in a show. We just run through the sword fight twice a week, and briefly work through any issues that may have arisen in previous performances. Anything else, and we may as well just run the show!
3. Who are your physical comedy idols?
Oh man, so many. Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Abbott and Costello, Jimmy Stewart, Jim Carrey. Special mention goes to Donald O’Connor in anything he’s done, but specifically his performance of “Make ‘Em Laugh” in Singin’ in the Rain. If you don’t know what I’m talking about—GOOGLE IT. His performance is masterful, and he’s the reason I learned how to do a backflip off of a wall.
4. What’s been your craziest onstage mishap?
Ya know, we’ve been pretty lucky as far as mishaps go *knocks wood*. We have, hands down, the best crew and stage management team on Broadway, and they keep our show running smoothly and safely night after night. Little flubs happen from time to time—like a few weeks ago there was a prop mix-up, and I didn’t get the whiskey I was supposed to drink, which sets up a running gag in the show. So I just mimed drinking the liquid, and our brilliant company kept going without skipping a beat. When things are going right, things “go wrong” every 15 seconds or so, so actual mishaps are almost never detectable.
5. Which TV show and which film can you watch over and over and always crack up?
I just finished watching The Office from top to bottom for the ???nth time. Steve Carrell is a genius. Film? Airplane. “And Leon’s getting LARRRGER!”
6. What’s your favorite memory of Hand to God?
Making my Broadway debut in a dream show, in a dream part, with my family and friends there to cheer me on. Literally. When the lights went to black at the top of the show and I heard the shouts and applause from the house, I about started crying in that little puppet theater. They made SIGNS for the stage door. SIGNS. I have the best friends in the world.
7. If they did a Play That Goes Wrong reality show based in your shared dressing room with Mark Evans, what should the title be and what could fans expect a lot of?
So You Want To Be The Next Musical Theater Superstar (still workshopping the title). Fans can expect some harsh judging. And nudity.
Don't miss Alex Mandell's hilarious performance in The Play That Goes Wrong at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre.