Andrew Lonsdale to play first bad guy in ‘Murder Ballad’
Stage Right/Wrong: Actor once flashed too much
Editor’s Note: “Stage Write/Stage Wrong” is an occasional series by Madison Magazine theater reviewer Aaron R. Conklin about those occasions when live performances do not go entirely according to the stage directions. Most actors, directors and designers have the grace and style to appreciate and/or survive dropped lines, stumbles and misbehaving props, but it’s the confident ones who are willing to relive and share those experiences with us.
Andrew Lonsdale isn’t used to playing bad boys. But that’s exactly what the local actor will do by taking on the role of Tom in Music Theatre of Madison’s upcoming production of the rock musical “Murder Ballad.” Tom is a dark and dangerous bartender who ends up in a deadly love triangle when his now-married ex-girlfriend, played by Hannah Ripp-Dieter, reignites a flame in him.
“Tom has this evil, dark side,” says Lonsdale. “How aggressively it comes in is something I’m trying to figure out.”
The show doesn’t shy from difficult and intense subject matter — there’s no shortage of lust, rage, jealousy, guilt, domestic violence and, as the title suggests, murder. MTM is staging the show in the intimate Brink Lounge, which means the audience will experience the show’s volatility up close.
To prep, Lonsdale, director Meghan Randolph and the rest of the cast sat down with Madison’s Karen Olivo to talk about her experience in the cast of the first off-Broadway production of “Murder Ballad.”
“She told us there were times when the intimacy was intense,” Lonsdale says. “We’re making sure we’re ready for that.”
Not all of Lonsdale’s stage experiences have been quite so fraught and intense. As he shared with us, he’s also had colorful and revealing stage roles.
When Lonsdale lived in New York, he often worked with a theater company called Musicals Tonight!, a troupe that specialized in reviving older and overlooked classic musicals. (As it happens, that shop is closing next month after 20 years of staging revivals.)
Lonsdale recalls being part of the tech crew for “The Rink,” a 1984 musical about a dilapidated skating rink.
“It was one of those companies where you held the book in your hand as you were singing on stage,” says Lonsdale. “We’d do maybe two to three shows a week.”
Because theater space is always in high demand in New York, Musicals Tonight! took advantage of dead nights at theaters staging other shows. That turned out to be serendipitous for “The Rink,” Lonsdale recalls. A theater mounting a show called “Pinkalicious” had a brightly colored set that fit the kaleidoscopic ’70s vibe of “The Rink” like a snug set of knee-high socks.
“All those different colors we needed were already right there,” he says. “I was able to work in each color without even having to try.”
Another piece of serendipity, Madison actor Jace Nichols — who has performed with Four Seasons Theatre and Capital City Theatre among others — was also in the cast of “The Rink.”
Perhaps you recall Middleton Players Theatre’s 2017 production of “The Full Monty,” a musical about a bunch of down-and-out working-class blokes who regain some self-respect and dignity by dropping trou (and everything else) on stage. Lonsdale was one of the show’s two main male stars.
The show’s ending, which zeroes in on the boys’ much-anticipated strip show, featured a tricky piece of risque technical timing. As the five actors reached to whip off their skimpy thongs and stand fully nude on stage, a bank of powerful backlights was supposed to flip on, shadowing the audience’s view of the actors’ privates.
At one of the show’s four performances, the light crew blew its cue, and the audience briefly got an eyeful. “To me, it didn’t matter,” says Lonsdale, who spent no small amount of his turn as rocker Stacee Jaxx in Madison Theatre Guild’s 2018 production of “Rock of Ages,” shirtless and in leather pants. In fact, he wasn’t even aware of what had happened until an audience member came up to him after the show and said, “Congratulations.”
“It was definitely not the show they expected it to be,” Lonsdale says.
“Murder Ballad” opens March 1 in the Brink Lounge. For more information, click here.
Aaron R. Conklin writes his award-winning coverage of the Madison-area theater scene for madisonmagazine.com.
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