Interview: Richard Jay-Alexander says “Guys and Dolls” at Hollywood Bowl this weekend will “float two inches off the ground”
I love talking with people who love their work and Richard Jay-Alexander certainly loves his.
The director of this weekend’s Hollywood Bowl production of Guys and Dolls, starting a three-day run on Friday, called me from home in Florida earlier this month eager to talk about the production that stars Brian Stokes Mitchell, Scott Bakula, Ellen Green, Beau Bridges and … Jessica Biel!
Yeah, you read correctly!
The former 7th Heaven cast member turned movie star (Stealth, The Illusionist, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry) is making her musical stage debut and will perform the role of Sgt. Sarah Brown. Richard – who has worked closely with the likes of Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Betty Buckley and Bernadette Peters among others – says she is well up to the challenge and insists it is not movie star stunt casting.
“I’ve never seen her on film and wouldn’t know a Jessica Biel movie if it punched me in the face,” Richard said. “The fact is, she sang and I fell madly in love with her. At the end of [her song], I said, ‘Listen, I don’t know what else is going on but it looks like you’re ready to slap on a pair of false eyelashes and do a musical.”
He is also thrilled to have Miss Green in the cast, the Tony nominee who was most recently in the cast of ABC’s Pushing Daisies: “It’s her first major musical appearance since Little Shop of Horrors.”
And Beau Bridges who will be playing the same role his father, Lloyd Bridges, once played in a touring production of the show: “I’ve got big fantastic musical theater performers. Casting is everything. Beau Bridges is going to be a revelation. He isa force of nature.”
He also convinced the legendary Donna McKechnie to choreograph the show and said “She is relishing this. We have six iconic showgirls who we aren’t going to have to teach how to tip it.”
The cast has been rehearsing at Hollywood United Methodist Church under Jay-Alexander’s direction.
“It all happens so fast, rehearsing at church and opening on Friday night, it’s the craziest thing,” he said. “I’m ready. I plan on having as lot of laughs.
The director is quite at home in LA after working as executive director of producer Cameron Mackintosh’s US company in which the plays had long LA runs. He also became comfortable with The Hollywood Bowl after directing last summer’s Les Miserables in Concert.
“It’s very Hollywood,” he said of the outdoor venue. “You are in a movie town, they have those big screens, those close-ups, it’s movie star time. That’s the sort of glorious thing.”
He is confident that a good time will be had by all.
“Everyone thinks they’ve seen Guys and Dolls in high school – but not when you have major theater performers, great voices and a 60 piece orchestra,” Jay-Alexander said. “I have done my homework and I want to nail this, I want this show to float two inches off the ground. It’s highly entertaining, really do old school entertainment. I’m excited. The Hollywood Bowl is summer stock in hyperspace. Last summer, I had such a good time with Les Miserables, it was really an emotional thing.”
There will be three performances only: Friday and Saturday July 31 and Aug. 1 at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 2 at 7:30 p.m. For ticket information, go tio HollywoodBowl.com.