by Parker Slaybaugh
I performed in my first musical when I was five years old. I played Young Eric in Phantom by Maury Yeston. Since then, I have made my principal National Tour debut, started to step behind the table into the choreography/directorial world, made my Broadway debut, and fulfilled a life-long dream of performing with my brother, Blakely Slaybaugh. We both are currently performing as the Gangsters in Goodspeed Musicals’ production of The Drowsy Chaperone.
It’s been 20 years - almost to the date - since we’ve last shared the stage, which was in Miami City Ballet’s The Nutcracker. The roles of the Gangsters in Drowsy were originated by brothers, so it is neat to get to continue that. The most fun has been approaching the scenes Blakely and I have to do because of the synchronicities we created to perfectly find beats that would lift the words from the page. Hunter Foster (our Director) allowed us to explore and push barriers every day. It was a fearless room. If there ever was a challenge, it was in staying in perfect synch with Blakely… while never knowing if we were because we mostly stare out towards the audience, not at each other. It’s very precise. If it ever were to not work, it would not look that pretty and would be very noticeable. It would be pretty funny, though.
I am so thrilled to finally be working at this theater with this lovely company and team. The creative team is one-of-a-kind. There was such a freedom to Hunter’s direction. You would think it would become even more chaotic, but that’s what speaks volumes about how Hunter works. It never became false. Finding the truth was key and he always helped maintain that. You would think that with choreography, it would be a little more rigorous or exacting. While it was, to some calculated degree, Chris Bailey (our Choreographer) works very much in the vein of staying true to the character. While the moves were specific, he allowed us so much room for our characters to breathe in the choreography, without losing the integrity of what the story calls for. Hunter and Chris both stayed true to the story and the material. I think our show succeeds because of them grounding us and sticking to that fundamental idea. There is so much freedom within this story, but there is a precise line to ride in order for the truth to ring out. But, oh, when it rings, it is a sweet sound. I also need to give so much love to the Tony-Winning costumes by Gregg Barnes which speak for themselves. You look good AND you feel good. That is a winning combination.
This process has been very special for many reasons, but a big one is because of this cast. It really is such a great group of people to be around. You need a certain sort of allowance with this show. And this is definitely a “Yes, and…” kind of cast. This show has been fascinating to work on because once it starts, it can’t stop and the momentum needs to stay lifted and driven. It has this old vaudeville style billing where you high-five your cast mates when the other enters/exits and to maintain that momentum individually before it all comes together is such a fun challenge.