Bryan Batt Press - The Times-Picayune
The Times-Picayune
The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, October 23, 1999

New Orleans Actor Catches "Saturday Night Fever"


As Monty the DJ in
"Saturday Night Fever"
Photo credit: Joan Marcus
"You know, it's kind of scary," said Bryan Batt. "The show is already starting to get repeat business. There are people who've seen it three and four times! It's crazy. And audiences are just loving it. I mean, they jump to their feet and dance in the aisles; standing o's every night and cancellation lines for every performance. It's not 'Medea,' or 'My Fair Lady,' but then it's not trying to be. What it is, though, is this great kick-ass evening in the theater."

The show is the just-opened Broadway (via London) musical version of John Travolta's disco movie hit "Saturday Night Fever," in which New Orleans native Batt plays Monty, the disc jockey. "Fifth billing in the New York Times ad," said Batt. "Don't think my mother didn't notice! They've built the part up and I've got two numbers - 'Disco Inferno' and 'Disco Duck,' of all things.

"My character's wonderful - a real Bay Ridge sleazeball. The first time I auditioned, they said, 'That's perfect! He can do the New Jersey accent!' I didn't have the heart to tell them it was New Orleans 'yat.' The show is so much fun to do. These guys are all potty-mouthed misogynists and their whole world is get to the disco, get high and get laid.

"I wear the grossest permed wig you have ever seen and mine are the highest platform shoes in the show. The platforms are two inches and the heels are four inches. I'm signed for a year, if the platforms don't kill me first.

"And they're introducing a new rhinestone on my costumes. It's called a 'casino jet' - a black rhinestone! And I've got 'em all over me! I'm like, one step short of Elton John.

Tops in Fops: Batt starred
earlier this year
on Broadway as
"The Scarlet Pimpernel."
Photo credit: Joan Marcus

"'Saturday Night Fever' is my fourth show at the Minskoff Theater. All the stagehands and ushers know me. They say, 'Bryan, you're the house actor; you come with the theater.' I just did 'The Scarlet Pimpernel' there - I was playing the principal role while I was auditioning for 'Fever' - and 'Sunset Boulevard' and 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.'"

After a dozen years in New York theater, Batt has become, if not a star, then at least a known quantity. He got rave reviews creating the role of Darius in Paul Rudnick's "Jeffrey," and was the only major member of the stage cast to re-create his role in the film.

He played Joe Gillis to Betty Buckley's Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard" and he was singled out for praise in two editions of Gerard Alessandrini's "Forbidden Broadway" spoofs ("Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up Its Act" and "Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back"). In fact, Batt has somehow managed to stay steadily employed for most of his professional theater life - remarkable in a notoriously dicey profession.

"That's what I enjoy most, to tell you the truth," said Batt, "just being able to work. I have friends who are very, very talented - brilliant, some of them - and they're not always working. So I don't believe it's just talent. It's some sort of combination of energy, desire, keeping your health and keeping your reputation as a dependable professional who can deliver a performance night after night. Some people screw themselves that way and I was determined I wasn't going to be the kind of actor where people would say, 'Oh, I could never work with that person!'"