With his tremendous generosity, Dan agreed to respond to several questions regarding his performance and experience in Big River so that Japanese audiences will gain more insights about the show.
1. It's been 20 years since you actually performed Huck on the stage and after 20 years, what would be the change you see in your approach/performance as Huck's voice?
I kind of look at that first performance as a luxurious research period. I wanted to refresh the accent work, but really see what this new process would lend to my understanding of Huck. This task was different, because of the division of the role, but also because of the additional role of Twain, so I wanted to find the vocal range for both roles and have them contrast and compliment each other as well.
The big change was that I would essentially be following Ty's work. we certainly arrived at the interpretation together, but my job is to really follow Ty.
2. Did you discuss with Tyrone at length re: Huck's performance, acting, feeling etc.. during the rehearsal? What would you say the thing, if any, Tyrone influenced you on your performance and vice versa?
Absolutely. This was easily my favorite part of the process - sitting with Ty and the sign masters and talking about the character, the language, and arriving at the translation together. Ty's energy and vision was very clear and my perspective was appreciated as well - we made a great team and enjoyed each other from day one.
I think we influence each other every day. We kind of became creative soul-mates - we wanted this to be as seamless as possible. It was really necessary to become very close to make this role effective, and it has been a joy to work like this together.
3. What are you keeping in mind when performing as Huck's voice?
I'm really just trying to stay in the moment with Ty. To feel what he's feeling, think what he's thinking, and to match his intention with my vocal choices.
4. What would be the most challenging thing in this production?
I think the matching is very challenging. You can't wander for a moment - you really have to stay focused and follow closely.
5. How the audience responses differ comparing the original production and current one?
So, yes, the audience response is indeed different. I think people
are initially off balance about what to expect, and then very quickly
they get on board and learn that they are getting kind of two shows in
one. The emotional quality of the show is also greatly enhanced in my
opinion, and the immediacy of what comes across the footlights makes
for a real sense of community between the audience and the performers.
The response has been overwhelming from where I sit - even the most
cynical people I know have been moved and exhilarated.
6. In your opinion, have the Broadway and Broadway shows changed a lot since 20 years ago?
I hardly see myself as some kind of Broadway expert, but I feel very
positive about it. There are lots of people who are doom-sayers about
the situation - financially, critically, ets. - but I think there have
been lots of encouraging works produced. Brave shows from new artists
and not just big commercial extravaganzas. So, in general, I think
people still love to come to the theater, and love to come to New York
to see shows.
7. Do you have any message to Japanese audiences?
This is an exhilarating show in my opinion. And one that Japanese audiences should love. So many people have told me that the physical aspect of the show makes language barriers melt away - I hope that is even further encouragement for audiences in Japan.
Dan, thank you SO MUCH for answering these questions, hope you'll have a fantastic time in Japan. Break a leg!