I had a chance to sit down with John Arthur Greene, currently on Broadway as Theo in School of Rock the Musical. We discussed his former and current shows, as well as what it was like to be a contestant on American Idol.
Joy: What was your first exposure to Broadway, and how did that influence you?
John: First shows were Les Miserables and Phantom Of The Opera. I’ve seen Les Mis 13 times and Phantom 14 times and that was over [a period of] 28 years but those shows really allowed me to understand what music was and how beautifully it could touch and impact somebody’s soul.
Do you have any pre-show rituals you do? What are they?
I always warm up. At least a half hour before, I start my warm‑up. With Matilda, my warm‑up was an hour before. With West Side Story, my warm‑up was an hour and a half before.
Well, you had a really big part.
Yes. I had to dance and get my body and spirit ready. So it’s just a constant upkeep.
You were on American Idol’s last season?
What was it like to audition for that?
Well, one of the executive producers knew my guitarist and asked me to audition.
What’s more nerve‑wracking? Auditioning for American Idol or a Broadway show?
I think they are one and the same. Although in a Broadway show you can hide behind a character, so that’s fun and that’s not as exposing. American Idol– you are representing yourself. You know, you got to be honest about who you are because the world is going to see. So I think it’s weighed and balanced differently. They are both terrifying because you are being judged. So you got to walk in, leave your emotions at the door and say; you know, if this is meant to be, it’s meant to be. If not, I am [still] going to show up and put my best foot forward. Because this is what I love to do.
Have you always wanted to do Broadway? If not, what did you want to do instead?
I wanted to be a baseball player.
You played it a lot when you were little?
I played a lot of ball. Yes. I was an All‑Star center fielder. I was a big baseball player, and when I was 14 I had to make a decision between playing the Leading Player [in Pippin] or going into a Triple A [baseball] team in North Carolina. I [chose] the Leading Player. I guess I had magic to do. (I can’t believe I actually said that)
Did you see the last revival on Broadway?
I did. I loved it. It was really beautiful.
You were part of the original cast of Matilda on Broadway. What was it like to originate the role of The Doctor?
Originating the role of The Doctor was fun. I originated it on Broadway [not West End]. So technically I did not originate…. Still waiting for that!
On Broadway, right.
And the revival of West Side Story I was part of the original cast, but then I took over for Riff because I was a standby.
God, that was eight years ago. But it’s amazing. It’s amazing to be able to start a show and be the original cast. I am really itching to do a show that has never ever been done before and then nobody has any preconceived notions allowing me to really create a character from the ground up.
How did you keep a straight face with Lesli Margherita when she goes “I am going to have a baby!”
She is a very funny lady, and I love her dearly. But, we are acting so we have got to keep a straight face, on a side note there are definitely times where we have all either fibbed a line or something has gone wrong on stage that we had to turn and try to keep a straight face, but you pick up, move on and keep on going.
What is your dream role?
It hasn’t been written yet. But right now one that I have been dying to play is Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar.
So write the role for yourself. Write the music.
Yes. That’s what I am trying to do. I have three shows that I am writing. I have three shows that are coming out. One in January and then later 2017 and 2018.
You were also in Peter Pan Live as a pirate.
How was that?
That was fun. It was a blast. It was just a blast. I got to not only play a pirate and understudy Christian Borle, but I got to understudy all of the Lost Boys which was a headache and also fun. Got to work with a lot of cool people. Really [a] beautiful, beautiful time.
What is your favorite role that you played so far?
I loved playing Riff. But Jonathan in Tick, Tick…Boom! is really one of my favorite roles.
Now you are in School Of Rock. It’s your second show with kids. What’s it like working with kids?
It’s fun. I love kids. I work for Music for Autism which is a nonprofit organization. And I teach kids. I mean, I have my studio that I teach voice, acting and dancing. It’s interesting to see them grow and develop. The kids I have had the blessing [of working with] have all been super professional. They have been all incredibly talented, and they all handled their work very, very well.
The kids in School Of Rock are really great.
Yes. They are musicians. They are not [just] actors, so you know, that’s cool.
What is your favorite part about being in School Of Rock?
The underlying message of listening. Listen to people. Parents listen to your kids, kids listen to your parents. Some people have a dying need to be heard, and sometimes you don’t always have to have the last word.
Did you have any funny mishaps on stage with School Of Rock?
My pants split from my groin to halfway down my leg, in the middle of my number.
Oh, yes. I bent down to point at a girl with “Face it, baby” and it just split. What can you do?
What about in Matilda? Any crazy mishaps then?
I was giving my big monologue and I [had just] gotten back from vacation. I came back “Like a baby, Mrs. Wormwood. A child…” And Lesli just looked at me. And suddenly I was like “Oh, a miracle.” And then just went into song. It was just very funny. You know, when those things happen, you just gotta roll with it. I lost that entire monologue which is pretty important to the story plot. But you know, these things happen.
Have you had a chance to see it since you left?
I went back in for one week in the beginning of June because they [needed] people and they had a lot of injuries. So I went back in to help them out for a week, but ever since then I haven’t gone back, no. I played for the [Broadway] softball team.
Why didn’t you play for the School Of Rock team?
Because I just started School Of Rock. I would have had to play three preseason games before playoffs, and I was already on Matilda’s team. So we are [the one’s to] beat, we are league champions right now. I have been with them for three years and we have been league champions for three years.
Yes. Broadway softball. We beat Hamilton 20 to 2 last week.
Who has been your inspiration growing up, who inspired you the most?
Gosh. So many people! But my grandmother is a huge inspiration in my life. She is 95 years old.
Is there anybody you really want to come to see School Of Rock?
Everybody. Everyone come and see it. There is no specific person that I can think of off the top of my head. I want everybody there. It’s a great show. You should see it. It’s fun. Would you rather sing than talk, or would you rather dance than walk? Both, I want to do both of those things. Groups talking and walking. Let’s run down and do cartwheels in the halls and dance and sing and shout and go crazy.
What is your most‑played song on your iPod and go‑to karaoke song?
Oh, go‑to karaoke song. Definitely “Right Here Waiting For You,” – Richard Marx. And then most‑played song “King For A Day” – Pierce The Veil. That makes [more] sense.
How do you feel social media has affected your career? Do you feel it helps you? And what’s your favorite platform?
I hate it but I think also it’s –– it’s super important. People want to feel involved. People want to feel included. So I try my best to do it. I suck at social media. I am the worst. I don’t get notifications on my phone.
Favorite guilty pleasure
Every one. I love them all.
Hidden quirky talent?
That’s a fast one. I can write a song on command.
The Giving Tree.
All‑time favorite show?
Favorite thing about NYC?
Favorite thing about NYC is definitely just the smell.
I love the smell. It’s unique and nasty.
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