Bryan Batt Press - Scene Magazine
Scene Magazine, February 2006
Scene & Heard: Bryan Batt

Broadway veteran Bryan Batt and partner Tom Cianfichi relocated to Batt’s hometown of New Orleans two years ago (keeping a small place in New York), opening the gift and home furnishings store Hazelnut. If all goes according to plan, Batt will soon begin filming a TV series right in New Orleans. All the better to participate in the city’s revival.

SCENE: When did you open the shop?

Bryan Batt: Two years ago. It quickly became one of the city’s favorite gift and home furnishing design shops. For the shop I’ve designed a New Orleans toile fabric. Instead of a regular French toile fabric, where they have country scenes or sometimes they’re Asian scenes and drawings, ours has scenes of New Orleans. It became very popular amongst natives. One thing about New Orleans, it’s like New Yorkers too, we love the city. New Orleanians really love their city. And for people who have moved away, we still have it. That’s why I came back to open up my shop, because I do love it here. In the wake of Katrina, it became so much more important to other people. The New York Times did a little piece on New Orleans toile, because a portion of all the profits goes to different charities down here, like New Orleans Task Force and Second Harvest of Greater New Orleans. We have all different products made from the design. It comes in five different color waves. I’ve always been drawn to design and home furnishings.

S: Tell us about your partner.

BB: He’s from Pennsylvania. We’ve been together 16 years. We met doing Evita in Akron, Ohio, when we were mere infants.

S: Did he always love New Orleans?

BB: He grew to love it. It was quite a shock to him at first. He does love it. When we decided to open a shop, he said, ‘Let’s do it in New Orleans. I think they really can use what we can offer.’ That’s been the consensus. People have been very pleased at the style and the uniqueness of what we have here. We’re very, very happy that the New Orleanians have embraced us.

S: Is he also an actor?

BB: I guess once an actor, always an actor. He was in Forever Plaid forever. And did some other things. Then he got into retail on Madison Avenue. He really runs the show down here. I come in, I help buy, I help sell. Then I get to do both. When I have a show, I go to New York or L.A. to do a show or to film. It’s the best of both worlds. I’ve got the Mississippi and the Hudson.

S: What is going on right now in New Orleans?

BB: What I think people don’t understand is that all the historic districts, the French Quarter, the Garden District, all along St. Charles, all through uptown, what people come to New Orleans for, what everyone comes here to see, to hear, to eat, is still here for the most part. I would say 90 to 95 percent of what tourists come to see is standing and fine. Unfortunately, a lot of residential areas have been devastated by the flood waters. Another misconception is who received the damage. Everyone—from the wealthiest to the poorest—all across the board everyone got it. It showed no mercy and no prejudice in terms of flooding.

There’s a lot of residential that’s fine. All of St. Charles and to the river.

S: Your last Broadway gig was La Cage aux Folles?

BB: I stood by for my friend Gary Beach who played Albin. I didn’t want to stand by, but the director called and wanted me to do it. Because Gary was filming the movie of The Producers, they assured me I’d go on. I said yes, because I would have at least 35 performances that I was going on guaranteed. It’s a role I never thought in a million years that I would have played. I’m 6'1", 185 lbs. I’m a big guy. You put heels on, I look like a truck in a wig. But they worked some magic. I must say, the makeup artist and William Ivey Long, the costume designer, are geniuses. It really was a fun, fun production.

S: How has this changed you, reconnecting with your roots and now being part of the rebirth of New Orleans?

BB: I think it’s an honor. It’s something I look forward to. Nowhere in this country have we ever had to do something like this on this scale. Although it’s daunting and it can be a frightening thing, it’s also exciting. Thinking that we can possibly make a difference. New Orleans had a lot of problems before this happened. I would love to see a lot of those problems rectified.

I’m hoping a lot of good can come out of this. Rebirth and rebuilding is definitely a positive.

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