Will Swenson Reveals His First Impressions of His Former Co-Stars
September 17th, 2015
by Josh Ferri
Tony nominee Will Swenson makes his cabaret debut this week at Feinstein’s/54 Below, and it’s one of the can’t-miss shows of the month. One cool aspect of the show (other than Swenson on guitar) is that each night Will welcomes a new guest star. September 16 was his wife and 110 in the Shade co-star Audra McDonald; the 17th is his Les Miz buddy Ramin Karimloo; the 18th is fellow Priscilla alum Nick Adam;, and September 19 is Caissie Levy, who he starred with in Hair, Les Miz and Murder Ballad. Below, Will Swenson shares with BroadwayBox his very first impression upon meeting each of his guest stars for the first time.
With Audra it was awe—legit awe. I had seen her perform and was just so blown away. The first day I met her was the first day of rehearsal for 110 in the Shade, and we did a read-through first thing. The ensemble just sat around the table, and Audra, Steve, John Cullum, Bobby Steggert, and Chris Butler read the script. The fact that she could dive in so wholeheartedly on the first day of rehearsal just blew my mind, and I was scared to death to talk to her forever. I just wanted to stay out of her way and let her do her thing. It really was just awe.
My first impression of Ramin was that we’re going to be friends. I met him at the audition. They brought me and him in to see if we would work well together. He was in a rehearsal room, and I wanted to meet him before we went in there together. I walked in and he said, ‘Oh man, you’re kinda tall.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘I think they’re worried you’ll be too much taller than me if we’re going to play this together. How tall are you?’ And I said, ‘6’2.’ And he was like, ‘Aw man.’ Then we quickly found out we had a lot in common—we both have two boys who are the same age. So we go in the room together and the first thing Cameron Mackintosh asked me was, ‘How tall are you?’ And I go, ‘6’1.’ Ramin looked at me and gave me a nod, and I thought we’re going to be good. I knew we were going to be close.
I had met Nick around town about 12 times but always a ‘Hey, how are you? Nice to meet you.’ And I had heard that Nick was the sexy guy with the muscles; the guy who had to put on a sweatshirt 'cause he was upstaging people. Then when we started rehearsals for Priscilla, my real first impression of Nick was that I was surprised at just what a lovely guy he is. He’s just the sweetest, nicest guy.
The first time I met Caissie, she came to Rock of Ages when I did it at New World Stages. She came backstage with a friend and they introduced me. And as she was leaving, somebody said, ‘She’s the most talented girl you will ever meet.’ I was like, ‘Oh, alright; interesting.’ Then they said, ‘And she’s probably going in for Hair.’ (Because we knew they had been seeing girls for Sheila ‘cause Karen Olivo left to go win a Tony Award for West Side Story.) So the first time I actually met her was in the audition room, and she just came in and blew the roof off the place; she went all out. The most insane voice and her acting is terrific and she’s just gorgeous. I was just blown away by her talent.
See Will Swenson & co. at Feinstein’s/54 Below through September 19.