Former American Idol contestant Todrick Hall has hit the stage at the Patchogue Theatre, playing the charismatic Seaweed in the Gateway Playhouse production of John Waters' Hairspray. The Texas native, who got his start as a theme-park performer has starred in the Broadway production of The Color Purple and in the national tour of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Patchogue Patch sat down with Todrick Hall backstage before a performance of Hairspray to talk about his experiences on Broadway and on the Patchogue Theatre stage.
Patchogue Patch: How has your experience been while performing at the Patchogue Theatre?
Todrick Hall: It's been a blast. Like, the audiences here have been hilarious and we've just seen a lot of people come out whose lives have been changed. We actually had a patron call the other day and say that after watching Hairspray he's committed to equal rights now, and it's kind of sad in a sense that in 2010 we're having to even preach that message, but the fact that it's even moving people and making people change their lives and the way they look at racism and judging people based on size and stuff, they're looking at it differently so I think that this has a greater message than just being a musical..
PP: How did you go from American Idol to the Patchogue Theatre? What made you want to audition for Hairspray?
TH: Well, I actually didn't audition. I had done Broadway shows before in New York, and so they talked about that on American Idol. One of the daughters of one of the producers here, she saw American Idol, she's a huge fan and as soon as I got voted off, she was like, 'maybe he could come be our Seaweed' and they were like, 'oh my gosh that would be perfect, let's see if we could get him' and they called my agent and the rest is history and I was here.
PP: Have you been having fun playing the role of Seaweed?
TH: Yeah. It's just very demanding because you know, you have to give every audience 100 percent and it's just when we're human, everybody's so vocally tired. But every day when the curtain goes up and you see the kids smiling and people are laughing and stuff, we know we've gotta give them all that we've got. So I think everybody in this cast has done a great job at giving 100 percent every night even though we're all exhausted. All of our voices are gone but we're all backstage drinking tea, sipping on honey, sucking on a ricola tablets – anything we can do to get our voices together so we can give the audience the Hairspray they deserve to see every night.
PP: It sounds like you and the cast have really had a sense of camaderie. How have things been going from the first rehearsal to now where you are about to close?
TH: Well the weird thing about being a performer is that it's kind of one of those things where you can be as prepared as you want to be for this experience but until you get to the room and meet the rest of the cast members, you don't know what it's going to be like, and I have to say that this is one of the best casts that I've worked with. I've been on Broadway, I've been at Disney, I did American Idol and stuff, and these people are such a family and this experience overall has been such a family-oriented experience. [Gateway] does barbeques for us and stuff for Fourth of July and June 14th, things that a job doesn't have to do for you but they do things to make you feel welcome. We all share a kitchen and we all live in a house and so on top of being performers at this show at night, we're all like a big family and we all help each other out and share food and give each other medicine and take care of each other when somebody's sick. If somebody needs money someone loans them money. It's very rare to find in this day and age a cast that is so willing to pitch in and lend a helping hand, and I think that the people at Gateway are the reason why there's such a camaderie between all of the cast members.
PP: So what are your next steps?
TH: I'm doing the cast of Memphis on Broadway right after this. I start on August 3rd and I go into the show on August 17. Memphis just won the Tony award, so I'm really excited. I was in The Color Purple on Broadway and that was a really fun experience, but this is going to be a totally different experience because this is one of those shows that have a lot of hype around it right now, so the shows are always sold out. It's just a cool thing to be a performer and know that your show is sold out, you know what I mean. Like every day you go, you're going to be performing for a full audience that is really, really wanting to be there. A lot of people have never been to New York so it's like the tourist kind of feeling on top of the fact that they're excited to see sometimes their first Broadway show.
PP: Now about your time performing at the Patchogue Theatre, your fellow American Idol contestants visited you a few weeks ago. Did you guys go out in Patchogue?
TH: Well, we went back to New York and hung out, but it was so awesome. They were so excited to be here because they've been traveling to all these big cities, and Patchogue showed them so much love. I tried to get them to come backstage at intermission, and they couldn't even move because all of the Patchogue people were around them getting autographs, so it was really cool of them to be here. I really appreciated them taking the time out of their horrific, horrendous schedule to come down to see me and show me some love. I thought it was really nice and considerate of them.
PP: Have you had an opportunity to explore Patchogue?
TH: We are just so beat after every show, no pun intended. You can't stop the beat and we're beat after every show, so every day I just pretty much sit at home and work on music, I'm writing an album and stuff like that. I'm extremely busy but also when you go out you end up talking and doing a bunch of stuff and getting worn out and exhausted, and I want to be able to give 100 percent to each audience. We have to kind of rest and watch movies and do lots of low-key things during the day so we can be full energy at night.
PP: How are you enjoying Long Island so far?
TH: I've never been on Long Island before and I'm loving it. I'm from Plainview, Texas, actually, so I'm from a Southern-y small town that's kind of like with the wilderness and stuff, so where we're living at Gateway is my kind of place. There's a few too many mosquitoes but I love the rabbits running around. I'm really, really enjoying it. I feel like I'm on vacation.