On February 4th, Feinstein’s/54 Below will present a 20th anniversary concert production of Bright Lights, Big City. The rock musical is based on the novel by Jay McInerney. It follows the journey of Jamie, a young outstanding writer who loses himself in the chaos of 1980’s New York City. Written by Paul Scott Goodman, the first solo recipient of the Jonathan Larson Foundation Award, the musical originally premiered Off-Broadway in 1999.
The concert will feature Matt Doyle as Jamie and Christy Altomare as Vicky. We spoke with Matt about his history with this musical and advice he would give to aspiring performers.
What made you want to be apart of the Bright Lights, Big City concert?
I first did a song from Bright Lights, Big City in 2010 with Jenn Damiano at a Joe’s Pub concert, that’s when I got to know Paul Scott Goodman, the composer. He let us do the song that night and he wanted come to the concert. I think at the time no one was really doing any songs from the show, especially not publicly and so I was able to meet Paul. I said this was one of my favorite scores, the concept album came out in 2005 and someone handed it to me when it came out and I was obsessed with it, I was like “how is this not a massive hit?” I mean it’s such a smart score and the lyrics are brilliant. I couldn’t believe that this wasn’t a big smash success like RENT was, and so I kind of just stayed in the back of Paul’s mind for years after singing that song with Jenn. About five years ago they did the 15th anniversary concert at 54 Below and Paul asked me to play the role of Michael and Colin Donnell played Jamie then. It was a big night, and again I was just shocked that it didn’t turn into something more. I think the material is so smart and I’m just so thrilled that they asked me to do it this time. I know that Nick Blaemire dropped out because of the Falsettos tour, and as much as I love Nick I find it a blessing that he did because I get to sing one of my favorites now, so it’s thrilling
Jamie seems like a really hard character to portray, do you relate to him at all?
Absolutely. One of the reasons that I relate so strongly to this story, and what drew me to the project is that I have suffered from clinical depression as long as I can remember, and knew what it was and figured that out. I don’t think there is a piece, especially in musical theater that captures depression as much as this piece does. Obviously in Jamie’s situation, it’s really dealing with heartbreak, and I think a turning point in his life is that perspective and everything in his world is kind of crumbling. But depression is depression and I think it handles so beautifully in terms of the struggle and feeling buried by it. What’s so wonderful to see is the lift of that depression, and the escape of it at the end to such a beautiful moment. I’ve always been really moved by the original story and I’ve read the novel. It really captures that turning point that a lot of us experience in our twenties, when we’re going through a transitional phase. I know that I certainly have experienced James’s kind of heartbreak before, after a relationship, and I am very moved by it. I think it’s an important story to tell.
You’re going to be working with Christy Altomare again, are you excited about that?
Yes. I love Christy. Christy and I met during the Spring Awakening national tour in Toronto, and she is somebody that I’ve always really had wonderful chemistry with on stage and just adore spending time with her. Christy and I, we just click, so any time that we get to work together we get really excited because she is the most generous actress I’ve ever been on stage with. She is so present and so giving, that it’s always just a joy to be up there with her.
If this show is revived in any form, would you want to be a part of it?
Absolutely. I’m sure there will be some competition for this role, because it’s such a smart and beautiful role, but yes. I’ve said it for years that this has been one of those shows that I’m like, “how? How is no one doing it? How is no one making it work?” It is so smart and the mat