Erich Bergen Takes on Seven Questions About Waitress on Broadway, the Jersey Boys Movie, & Madam Secretary
After starring as Bob Gaudio in the film adaptation and tour of Jersey Boys, Erich Bergen makes his Broadway debut as Dr. Pomatter (the charming OBGYN who has an affair with his married patient Jenna) in the hit musical Waitress. Bergen plays a limited summer run while on hiatus from his hit CBS drama Madam Secretary, in which he stars as chief of staff Blake Moran.
BroadwayBox caught up with Erich to hear about making his debut, the Waitress scene that still gets him choked up, and his little obsession with the musical Big.
1. What was it about Waitress that you knew this was the musical and role to make your debut in?
I’ve been away from theatre for nearly 6 years and have been dying to get back, but my time is (thankfully) limited due to Madam Secretary. When I found out my friend Drew Gehling was leaving Waitress, I jumped at the chance to replace him, because I’ve loved Waitress and the role of Dr. Pomatter ever since I saw it out of town, pre-Broadway. By the time the show was over, my stomach hurt from laughing so much and I was out of Kleenex. I love shows that can make you laugh one minute and make you cry the next and Waitress does that in spades. So, I asked to be a part of it for the summer, and thankfully they said YES!
2. What’s your favorite small moment onstage with Katharine McPhee?
The final scene between the two of us, in the hospital. I don’t want to give anything away for those who haven’t seen it. But there’s something in her voice, the way she says that final line to me, it knocks me out cold every single time that I’m literally unable to speak without bursting into tears. It’s a good thing I don’t have any lines after she says it.
3. What was the toughest thing about the Jersey Boys movie audition process?
Waiting. My audition was about 90 seconds in total with two casting associates and a tiny video camera in Clint Eastwood's office on the Warner lot in Burbank. I did a scene from the show and a little bit of “Cry For Me”, which by that point I had done for over 1,000 performances. That was it. No callback. No meeting with Clint. Nothing. I waited over a month. That was truly torturous. Then the phone call came.
4. What’s your favorite set memory from Madam Secretary?
I don’t know if I have one. Every day is a blast. Even if we’re in tough weather or we’re up at some un-godly hour, we have the most fun group of people on our cast and crew that makes each and every day a joy. Most days we’re howling with laughter over the most mundane stuff or weird cat videos we find online that we share with each other. We’re very lucky to all be working together on this show. I don’t know that I’ll ever be this lucky again. I can’t imagine it.
5. Where’s the most random place you’ve been recognized by someone for either Madam Secretary or Jersey Boys?
I was trying to cross 5th avenue one time at 72nd street, but there was a parade and you had to go many blocks down or up to get to a street where you could cross. Thankfully, one of the cops was a Jersey Boys fan, saw me, and personally escorted me across 5th avenue. That was a good day.
6. What did you learn about yourself during your cancer diagnosis and treatment?
That I was wasting too much time on things that didn’t matter. Life’s too short not to find your passion and go after it with gusto. It switched me into high gear. I’m very thankful for the extra drive it gave me.
7. What was the first musical you were truly obsessed with as a kid or teen?
I’m a bit of an obsessive person, so when I fall in love with something, it’s hardcore. The first Broadway show I ever saw was Big: The Musical. Up to that point, I was obsessed with all things MTV and Michael Jackson. That’s really all I knew. I was convinced I was going to grow up and be Michael Jackson. So, when I saw Big, and saw kids my age singing and dancing and acting on a stage, it showed me a whole other world of performing that was actually attainable. It changed my life. I cut out any mention or artwork of it from The New York Times Arts & Leisure section every Sunday (it had a short run so thankfully there wasn’t a lot of this). And if you think that I still browse eBay looking for rare Big: The Musical merchandise, there’s a possible chance you could be maybe right.
Don't miss Erich Bergen as Dr. Pomatter in Waitress at Broadway's Brooks Atkinson Theatre through August 12.