Backstage Banter with Bradley Greenwald

Bradley Greenwald is a Minnesota staple. He has acted with just about every company in town, including the Children’s Theatre Company, the former Theater de la Jeune Lune, Guthrie Theater, Ten Thousand Things, and Skylark Opera. In 2006, he received an Ivey Award, was given a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship, and was a recipient of the McKnight Fellowship for Theater Artists.

by Drew Trampe

This month, he will be at Jungle Theater playing Officer Lockstock in the musical Urinetown. The show is set in a place in which to pee is a privilege, and citizens are forced to use public amenities due to a 20-year drought. Tucked into the silliness are stories of love, greed, and corruption, as well as a strong-willed boy who works to bring freedom to the people.

In anticipation of the show’s opening this weekend, we talked with Greenwald about his roles past and present, working at the Jungle, and why Officer Lockstock and Harold Hill have more in common than one may think.

So, why Urinetown?

Bradley Greenwald: John Command (the director) pitched the idea as the summer show, and Bain (Boelke, Jungle’s artistic director) went with it. The show is meant to be a social and political satire; it comes out of the Brecht and Weill vain. There are tributes to romantic duets, a Music Man-type rap song, Bob Fosse-style dancing, and West Side Story types of dance scenes. If you know musical theater, you will smile and giggle at these parallels. If you don’t, you will still get an adult-oriented social commentary that’s slightly naughty and meant to be fun.

Is it a smaller cast, due to the Jungle’s space?

BG: Actually we have 1, 2, 3 … 22, 23 (counting out loud). We have a very full stage.

When I saw Deathtrap there, it took me 15 minutes just to wrap my head around the intricate set. Is that the same for Urinetown?

BG: (Chuckles) The Jungle is known for their highly detailed sets. It is truly another character.

Your big song, the “Cop Song,” is one of my favorites on this soundtrack. Is it as exciting to perform it as it is to listen to?

BG: Yes, the “Cop Song” is very fun. It is similar to Harold Hill’s numbers in Music Man. I feel like eight Harold Hills at once! Actually, the “Cop Song” in our show is noted the same way as the opening train song in Music Man. Both numbers are rhythmically notated as a percussion instrument in the score.

Can you give us a little insight into your character, Officer Lockstock?

BG: The role is interesting because he not only narrates, but is a partaker of the story as well. It allows the audience to get involved in two ways: they see him break the fourth wall to talk to them, but they also watch him act in the show itself. At the Jungle, the audience is so close that we can look people in the face and talk to them during the show.

Your character in Buccaneers, pirate Captain Johnny Johnè, at the Children’s Theater last fall was fun. How does this compare?

BG: It’s always interesting working with kids. I mostly work with adults so that was the exception to the rule. For Urinetown, I’m excited to work with Kersten Rodau, who plays Pennywise. She is fabulous—just being around her is wonderful. It’s also great to work with Gary Briggle (Cladwell). Jon Whittier, who plays alongside me as Officer Barrel, is one of my oldest colleagues. We met more than 20 years ago doing a show with Minnesota Opera.

It’s Saturday night, you’ve just washed off all your makeup: where would we find you around LynLake?

BG: If I go out, it’s to Muddy Waters.

June 7-August 11
Jungle Theater
2951 Lyndale Ave S. Mpls.