Stories & Cast Interviews
The company of The Producers
Craig dishes! (p.s. he's a real dish!)
WE caught up with Craig Fols who plays Director, Roger DeBris in The Producers...read on!
Craig as Roger Debris (in gown) and John West as Carmen Ghia
I was born in Jamestown, New York, but moved to southern New Jersey when I was five. My father had left our family, and we (my mother, sister and I) moved into my grandparent's basement. That summer I put on my first play, in that basement--which I wrote, directed and starred in--(co-stars: my sister and my cousin)--and basically I've been doing the same thing ever since.
I started working in professional theatre when I was fifteen--summer stock and dinner theatre. When I was seventeen, I moved to Philadelphia and began supporting myself, working in theatres and restaurants. At nineteen, I moved to New York to study at Circle In the Square. Very shortly after that I did a new play with Colleen Dewhurst, who is/was a major hero/mentor. (I spent many holidays at her home, "The Farm," in South Salem.) I did many plays around this time that were written by Lanie Robertson, who was a major influence both personally and professionally. Another mentor was the Broadway conductor Jack Lee, who showed me how I could be a "serious" actor in musicals. Later, when I did THE MUSICAL OF MUSICALS, many of my childhood musical theatre heroes came to see the show, and I had a chance to meet them and tell them how much they meant to me: Harold Prince, Stephen Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Arthur Laurents, Carol Channing.
I tend to like shows in the classic American musical theatre mold, both comic and serious. Roles I'd really like to play but haven't played yet include Sweeny Todd, Henry Higgins, Harold HIll, and the King of Siam. One of the fun things about doing MUSICAL OF MUSICALS was that by parodying all those different musicals I really feel that I've played all those characters, from Billy Bigelow to Molina in KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN.
I do think people are either funny or they aren't.
I've always taken Mel Brooks for granted as an American comic master, but doing THE PRODUCERS has given me a new found respect and appreciation for him. (Also a deepening respect for Thomas Meehan, who co-wrote THE PRODUCERS' book.) Now that I'm in this, I'd like to revisit some of his other works, BLAZING SADDLES, etc.
Wearing the gown and especially the shoes was mainly a technical challenge. (I only wore women's clothing once before, in THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP, and those costumes were build to be worn over men's clothing.) At the same time, that dress, and that entrance, sets the tone for my entire performance. If you come in on a lift, to entrance music, wearing a $40,000 gown, you'd better bring a certain amount of, shall we say, size to the procedings.
These days when I'm not working, I'm spending time with my nephew Adam, who is 4. My sister adopted him three years ago, and since she's a single mother, I've been helping her out as much as I can. We spend a lot of time at our family beach house in Cape May, New Jersey. While I was preparing Roger, I would sometimes do some of my lines for Adam while we were building sandcastles, whatever. Something about my Roger voice always made Adam laugh, which I took as a good sign.
The Producers' Director, David Edwards had some fun tales to share!
I am basically a born and bred New Yorker, although I, mostly, lived in a commuter town in New Jersey while growing up. My mom was from Passaic, New Jersey and was a trained ballet dancer. She did Broadway and nightclubs as well, but gave it up before I was born. My dad grew up in Manhattan. I was a child actor, on Broadway in THE ROTHSCHILDS at age 12, and singing at NY City Opera at 11.
I can't remember ever wanting to do anything else--I saw Broadway shows from the time I was a toddler. My mom had been in show business, but was NOT a stage mother. If anything, she didn't want to push me into the business--to protect me from the hurt and rejection. But she certainly shared my passion for the theatre and understood my "need" to be a part of it.
Actually, I have played a lot of my dream roles already (at least in musicals) and a few of them at WBT. Don Quixote in MAN OF LA MANCHA (7 times, once at WBT), Arthur in CAMELOT (twice), Albin in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (twice, once at WBT), El Gallo in THE FANTASTICKS (I was the final actor to sing "Try to Remember" at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in the record breaking final performance, Fredrick in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (3 times), and Max Bialystock in THE PRODUCERS (on the national tour). Still have a few I'd LOVE to tackle--I guess tops would be the title role in SWEENEY TODD. Came close to happening twice--still on my wish list..and Henry Higgins in MY FAIR LADY. Have a few other favorite shows I would love to tackle as a director, too--THE MOST HAPPY FELLA, SHE LOVES ME, TITIANIC, FALSETTOS
I Stayed with the second National Tour of The Producers for 14 months. Our choreographer, Matt Vargo, was also in the company as were Bob Amaral & Joel Newsome--for a while I was Bob's understudy. I alternately played the principal character man, Roger DeBris and Max Bialystock. Nothing like touring with a show that was this kind of hit--we were front page news everywhere we went and treated first class all the way. The company was an exact replica of the Broadway version, down to the tiniest detail.
There is a certain "style" and rhythm to this kind of comedy, and it's getting to be a lost art. A lot stems from Yiddish Theatre and vaudeville and the early days of "musical comedy"--I had a big success doing a wonderful revival of the classic play ROOM SERVICE Off-Broadway last year that is based on the same type of humor and timing. It's another backstage valentine to the theatre that was made famous by the Marx Brothers in the movie of the same name. The character I played was alot like Max Bialystock, although a little more of a romantic leading man, and his sidekick was a young playwright named "Leo"--I think Mel may have gotten some ideas from this play.
Mel Brooks was at my auditions, some rehearsals, opening night and several performances, working along with us. He was very loving and protective of this show. I was so relieved to have made him laugh out loud. He said of me to the group at the audition (including Susan Stroman) "He can sing, he can act, he can move, he's funny...what more could you want?" I will also tell you that at my initial audition, they gave me the music to "Heil Myself" that Roger DeBris sings during the "Springtime for Hitler" sequence. I sang the song and gave a big gesture at the end, drawing the paper across my face and I accidentally got a paper cut just under my nose which immediately started to bleed. I told them I had just had a freak accident, and everyone was astounded that I suddenly had a red Hitler moustache. Maybe that's one of the reasons I got the job.
When I’m not on stage, I’m looking for work on the stage. (Just kidding...sorta) My partner and I love to travel. I am an ocean liner buff and I collect memorabilia and we enjoy doing things for our home and with our family and friends. We also try to go to theatre of all kinds--it's hard to separate business from pleasure in that respect.