| BURN, BABY, BURN
In Theater Magazine, November 29, 1999
"Every show needs a clown," says Saturday
Night Fever's Bryan Batt, from his dressing room, located just
off the stage of the Minskoff Theatre. Certainly, Batt's character
Monty ("a dog" in the actor's words) - who spends his
days picking up female students in his dance class and spinning
records at the local discoteque, clad in the tightest of tacky outfits
- would fit the bill. "Audiences want somebody to laugh at," he
admits with a shrug. Luckily for Batt, even SNF's harshest
critics seemed to laugh with rather than at the Broadway
vet, who has walked away with some of the best reviews of
his career in the least likely of roles.
|Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Perhaps one reason for the critical and audience
approval is the fact that Batt lept into the tackiness of Monty head first: "The
first time I met [SNF Broadway costomer] Suzy Benzinger, we just
clicked, and she said, 'How high can the platforms go?' I said, 'As high
as you want, baby. Go nuts!'" Batt soon found himself cutting carbohydrates
out of his diet in order to lose a few pounds to accommodate all that clinging
polyester. A permed wig and fake moustache were also brought in to transform
this nice boy from Louisiana into Brooklyn trash. "When I first walked
around with my wig," he laughs, "everyone said I looked like
John Oates from Hall and Oates, or even Yanni!"
For Batt - who first came to New york theatergoers' attention as former Cat Darius,
the emotional centerpiece of Paul Rudnick's Jeffrey on
stage and screen - Saturday Night Fever has offered a rare opportunity
to create a role in a Broadway musical. Although Batt has worked steadily
since Jeffrey, his biggest jobs have been as standby for other
leading men - Alan Campbell in Sunset Boulevard and
Douglas Sills in The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Of course, he also earned a Drama Desk nomination last season for his
razor-sharp spoofs of Barry Weissler, John Davidson, and Mandy Patinkin
in Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back!.
These days, Batt is settled in at the Minskoff
(his fourth appearance at the theater: "Maybe I'll get a plaque in the men's room," he
quips), and he's a bit amazed at what he's doing on stage eight times
a week. "When I was back in my 'serious actor' mode, if someone
had told me that I was gonna make money on Broadway singing 'Disco Duck'
and 'Disco Inferno,' I would have laughed in their face," he says. "But
I'm loving every second of this." - Paul Wontorek