Austin Miller, the hometown boy who had all of Houston cheering for him on NBC’s Grease: You’re the One That I Want a few years back, returns to his TUTS roots to play Billy Lawlor in 42nd Street at Miller Outdoor Theatre this weekend.
Set during the depression (the other one), 42nd Street is full of recognizable tunes such as We’re in the Money and Shuffle Off to Buffalo. This Prozac-in-tap-shoes extravaganza earned the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1980. With a classic boy-meets-girl-who-becomes-a-big-star plot, it’s bound to cheer us up, or at least make us forget the rent is due. Miller took a break from a grueling rehearsal to visit with us:
29-95: I am guessing from your heavy breathing this is not a show for the faint of heartbeat. What’s the pace like?
Austin Miller: It’s breakneck; the whole things happens so fast, I can barely squeeze in a pee break and then I am bowing.
29-95: How do you relate to the character of Billy Lawlor?
AM: He’s a chorus boy. He got pushed, made it, and now he’s a juvenile star and quite proud of himself and his emergence into the spotlight. He uses his position to help out his social life. He’s prideful and a bit lecherous. So I may have gone into a bar and said, “Hey I’m on TV, can I buy you a drink?”
29-95: Let’s talk about TV. You should have won that Grease reality show over Mr. I-already-forgot-his-name.
AM: It’s not about who won, but who’s still working.
29-95: Amen, speaking of work, 42nd Street is veritable tapalooza. So what happens when you hit the boards? Got chops?
AM: I started tap lessons when I was seven, so yes, it’s in my body. I did go back to class to sharpen my skills and clean things up when I knew I was going to do the show.
29-95:You are from Houston right?
AM: Technically Alvin. We have hay and horses there, barns instead of Broadway.
29-95: Is that how you ended up at TUTS?
AM: Yes, my parents graciously schlepped me to classes. TUTS is an amazing place and one of the few schools in the nation dedicated to musical theater training.
29-95:You played Link Larkin in Hairspray on the first national tour. Do you specialize in playing the cad about town kid?
AM: Let’s just say I’ve been playing a 17-year old for a decade or more.
29-95: Aside from your mighty talents, why should we head out in Houston’s blazing heat to see a show set during the 1930s depression when we already got one going on at home. With AC, I should add.
AM: Because it’s F.R.E.E. And you can drink beer and wine during the show and have yourself a big time. The cast is phenomenal; Loretta Swit (Hot Lips on M*A*S*H) plays the role of prima donna Dorothy Brock. The sets and costumes are spectacular; I change clothes 14 times. This is a top-notch amazing production. It’s a spectacle of all spectacles and worth a few mosquito bites.
Reprinted from 29-95.com.