All That Jazz: Alonzo Saunders Talks "Chicago"
Hang on to your garters, San Diego. The raucous, riproarin Kander and Ebb romp "Chicago The Musical" is hitting The Birch North Park Theater through Sunday, March 3. Come join the San Diego Musical Theatre’s rag-tag band of amazing talent as they bring this oft-awarded prohibition-era romp chronicling crime, sex, booze and crazy fun-and what it takes to get away with murder.
Cast member Alonzo Saunders plays the female newspaper reporter Mary Sunshine, who at the end of the show is traditionally revealed to be a male.
He took a moment to talk with The Rage Monthly about his life’s journey and how he ended up doing drag on Broadway.
So Alonzo, tell me a little about where you grew up and how you got started.
I am completely east coast. I grew up in Atlanta and went to performing arts high school there; I did that sort of artsy-fartsy scene as a teenager. After high school I went straight to New York, to attend Theatre Conservatory.
After I finished the Conservatory, I booked a national tour of "The Wizard of Oz" and I literally saw the entire country-in less than six months-it was crazy! I ran the gamut; I have been to pretty much every major city in every state except for Hawaii!
The next big thing was Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey; they are considered a Broadway house. It was there that I got to work with some really amazing people. Shortly thereafter I got my first Broadway show, "Showboat."
I remember my first day on stage, it was just after we finished the opening number and standing there was the god of theatre, Hal Prince. (The American producer responsible for some of the most successful Broadway musicals of the past halfcentury.) He said to me, "Hello Alonzo, welcome to Broadway," it was so amazing, I was totally freaking out.
So tell me a bit about what you’re doing now? How has it changed from your earlier days?
I’m currently up for Susan Stroman’s "Scottsboro Boys" coming up at the Ahmunson
Theatre. We were in there rehearsing and tap-dancing and I remember thinking, "wow, this used to be so much easier." I can still do it, but at the same time I’m like, "oh my god, I need a respirator!" That’s the thing that’s changed, age does catch up with you. My mother says that I’m Dorian Grey, but I’m afraid to run across that attic with the picture hidden away! I hope I never find it...
How do you deal with the highs and lows of theatre?
I have been lucky, "bless the heavens." I have been fortunate enough to keep working. I got "Showboat" when I was 20 or 21 and when it closed in ’97, they had a company in Chicago doing the same show and I went there as a replacement for another actor. He was injured, so I went and stepped in for him, then that following September, I got the part in "Chicago The Musical."
Was that with Bebe Neuwirth and Anne Reinking from the original revival cast?
No, I didn’t work with them until almost six months later because I was on the road with the national tour. We had such a wonderful cast, we had to be on our toes. People like the wonderful Brent Barrett and Karen Ziemba, it was like a Broadway who’s-who.