“I was telling Leslie
(Carrara-Rudolph) that I got the part,” he recalls, “And she said ‘Your worlds
just collided. The puppeteer who acts has now been hired to act like a puppet.
John Tartaglia and
Ginger in Playhouse Disney’s “Johnny and the Sprites.” Copyright 2007 Disney.
All Rights Reserved
Ah, but DreamWorks Theatrical didn’t just go after John because they wanted him to play Geppetto’s little wooden boy. No, they wanted this Tony Award nominee as part of the cast of their first Broadway show because DWT was looking to take advantage of all of Tartaglia’s talents
So who’s working the controls inside of that 18-foot tall
dragon puppet as it rolls all over the stage, singing “Donkey Pot Pie”? That
would be John. And whose voice &
facial muscles drive the Magic Mirror’s performance in “Shrek the Musical”?
That would be Mr. Tartaglia too.
John Tartaglia as
Pinocchio and the cast of “Shrek the Musical” at the Broadway Theatre. Copyright
2008 DreamWorks Theatrical. Photo by Joan Marcus
“It makes me laugh when friends come to see this show and
then complain about how little stage time I get,” he laughs. “I’m doing so much
stuff in ‘Shrek the Musical’ that I barely get a minute to breath backstage.”
That said, John is really enjoying his stint in “Shrek.” If
only because this show was the very first time that this veteran performer got
to do the whole out-of-town tryout thing.
John Tartaglia and Stephanie
D’Abruzzo in “Avenue Q” at the John Golden Theatre. Photo by Carol Rosegg. Copyright 2003
“ Working on ‘Shrek’ has
been a very different experience than doing ‘Avenue Q,’ ” he explained. “I mean, this is
a show with castles and bridges across pools of boiling lava. I remembering
reading the script and thinking how exactly are we going to do that on stage.”
Well, how DreamWorks Theatrical did that was by assembling a
team of top Broadway talents (among them celebrated performers like Sutton
Foster, Brian d’Arcy James and Tartaglia as well as great behind-the-scenes
folks like veteran costume & scenic designer Tim Hatley) and then sending
them far, far away. In this case, Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater.
Christopher Sieber as Lord
Farquaad and Gingy in “Shrek the Musical” at the Broadway Theater. Copyright 2008
DreamWorks Theatrical. Photo by Joan Marcus
“I remember what Jason (Moore, “Shrek the Musical” ‘s
director)told us when we arrived in
Seattle. ‘We’re here to make a lot of mistakes,’ “ John continued. “And the
show did change an awful lot while we were out-of-town. Pinocchio’s part used
to be a whole lot bigger, for example. But all of the changes that were made in
Seattle did result in a far tighter, much more emotionally satisfying show.”
Mind you, Tartaglia’s had experience with big Broadway shows
before. Let’s remember that – back in 2006 – John joined the cast of Disney’s
“Beauty & the Beast” and had a celebrated six month run as Lumiere. But
“Shrek the Musical” ‘s sheer size & scale just moves things to a whole ‘nother
Disney. All Rights Reserved
“It’s such a kick to stand on stage for ‘Shrek’ ‘s finale as
the confetti rains down and the turntable spins,” Tartaglia enthuses. “To be a
part of this huge spectacle that the audience is emotionally invested in.”
But how do you follow up a spectacular like this ? To John’s
way of thinking, the smartest way to do is go small. Which is why – late next
month – Tartaglia will be doing a single at Feinstein's at Loews Regency.
Photo by Carol Rosegg.
“I’m using music to try and tell my story,” he explained.
“Given what a huge influence Jim Henson had on my career, I’ll be paying
tribute to him by singing ‘Bein’ Green.’ And I’ll probably be doing ‘College’
from ‘Avenue Q.’ My goal is a show that’s both touching as well as makes you
laugh your ass off.”
This one-night-only concert
will be presented at Feinstein’s on March 30th. As for “Shrek the Musical,”
Tartaglia plans on standing on stage and letting his “Freak Flag Fly” for as
long as DreamWorks Theatrical will have him. While – at the same time –
developing new stuff for television. As well as exploring other possible venues
for his new one-man-show.
John puppeteering Ernie at
Sesame Street’s 35th anniversary celebration
So, yeah. John’s come an awfully long way from his very first
gig as a performer. Which was – at the tender age of 14 – to be the youngest puppeteer
to ever work on the “Sesame Street” television show.
But then again – given Tartaglia’s role as Pinocchio as well
as playing puppeteer for both the Magic Mirror & the fire-breathing dragon
in “Shrek the Musical” – maybe it’s really not that far at all.
(L to R) Brian d’Arcy James
(Shrek), Daniel Breaker (Donkey) and Sutton Foster (Princess Fiona)in “Shrek
the Musical” at the Broadway Theatre. Copyright 2008 DreamWorks Theatrical.
Photo by Joan Marcus
For further information on "Shrek the Musical," please click
on this link.
Brian d’Arcy James
(Shrek) and Daniel Breaker (Donkey) in “Shrek the Musical” at the Broadway
Theatre. Copyright 2008 DreamWorks Theatrical. Photo by Joan Marcus.
I'm very impressed with the makeup and costuming for that musical. I'd like to get a look at the dragon puppet!
On another note, I'm really surprised Sesame Workshop let an Avenue Q cast member perform Ernie. =)