Richard H. Blake made his Broadway debut at the age of 12 and his long resume (Jersey Boys, Legally Blonde, Wicked, etc.) is very impressive. After playing a slew of bad guys, he finally gets to tackle the role of a good father in A Bronx Tale.
Joy: What was your first exposure to musical theater, and what made you want to pursue a career at such a young age?
I think the first show I saw was a touring production of Annie in Boston and I sat on phone books. I must have been five and I loved it. I started dancing and doing gymnastics when I was young because I was really clumsy so my parents put me in classes so that I would learn some dexterity. I got discovered at a dance competition. One of the judges was an agent and asked me if I wanted to go off with his show. That was my first professional job, a show called Broadway Baby at the Goodspeed Opera House.
Who were your role models growing up?
My father was my idol growing up. He was a great man. Also my dance teachers. I looked to them, they were like second mothers to me. Then as I started performing professionally, some of the people that I got to work with absolutely became idols to me. Len Cariou, who is now on Blue Bloods, played Teddy Roosevelt on my first Broadway show called Teddy & Alice and I played his son. He is one of the greatest actors there is and could not have been a nicer person to work with.
I would also say a man named Tommy Walsh who was in the original company of A Chorus Line and directed the first show that I ever did, Broadway Baby. He inspired me and he really made me think that this was something that I could do for the rest of my life.
How did you get involved with A Bronx Tale?
I was doing Jersey Boys and playing Tommy DeVito. The Dodgers are producing A Bronx Tale and they are also the producers of Jersey Boys, so when the auditions came around, they asked me to come in for the role of Lorenzo and obviously I was thrilled to even be considered. I went in and sang some songs, did some scenes and the rest, as they say, is history.
It seems like a lot of people from Jersey Boys are in A Bronx Tale.
Yes. You know, one of the great things about this business is, if you have a good work ethic and you are talented and you are a nice person, the same people want to work with you over and over again. You will find that the choreographers and a lot of producers use the same people because they know what to expect with those people. They know that they can count on them, they know what the working relationship is going to be like, and it makes their life a lot easier.
What’s your favorite part about the show?
My favorite part about A Bronx Tale is getting to play a father. I am a father of a young boy myself so this is my first father role. I really enjoy getting to portray the kind of father that I would like to be. Lorenzo is a very great man. I mean, this is Chazz Palminteri’s real life, so he talks about his dad with the utmost admiration. So to get to play that man is an honor.
Tommy DeVito (from Jersey Boys) and Lorenzo are both based off real people. How does that influence your performance?
You have to be true to the people that they were and that’s what’s important. Yet, you don’t want to obviously imitate these people because that’s not what we do for a living. We are creating art and trying to create characters and put things on stage, but it’s very important that while you are creating these characters for yourself and who you envision these characters to be that you also pay homage to the people that they are and were. That’s the trick with playing live people. You walk a thin line of making choices that are going to be too on the nose and too much like imitation and also veering too far away from the core of what these people really are.
In A Bronx Tale, you play a good guy and in Jersey Boys you played a (questionably) bad guy – how do you approach th