When Gordon Greenberg isn’t busy on Broadway or London’s West End, he spends a little time in Albany at the Capital Repertory Theatre.
He’s directed a number of shows there over the years for creative artistic director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, including “Edges: The Musical,” “Song of Singapore,” “The Blue-Sky Boys” and “33 Variations.” But he also was actually on stage once at Cap Rep, landing a role in Elaire Berman’s “Peacetime” during the 1991-92 season when Bruce Bouchard was running the theater.
A Texas native, Greenberg was fresh out of Stanford University and a newcomer to New York City when he had his first job at Capital Rep. He hasn’t acted much since, spending his time instead as a director and writer. Along with numerous off-Broadway and regional theater credits on his resume, Greenberg is coming off two huge successes in 2016. He directed a revival of “Guys and Dolls” in London and directed and co-wrote a revival of “Holiday Inn” on Broadway which closed earlier this month.
This month at Capital Rep, he’s directing a new play, Bob Morris’s comedy, “Assisted Loving: Dating with My Dad,” starring Barry Pearl and Brian Sills. The show begins next weekend.
Q: “Assisted Loving” is having its world premiere at Capital Rep. How long have you been involved?
A: Bob had written a memoir almost 10 years ago and he was doing a solo version of it in Manhattan. [Producer] Daryl Roth saw it and told me I should connect with Bob and help him develop it. We did it six or seven years ago and got a very nice review from the New York Times. Bob played himself, it was a ‘smallish’ experience, and we ran into each other again in Williamstown three years ago. He still had the stage rights, so I suggested we unpack it and turn it into a real play.
Q: Why do you continue to do regional work at Capital Rep?
A: I have a long-standing affection for this theater. I got my first job out of college here. So it all started here for me, and every time I come back to Cap Rep it’s a return to that true spirit of worrying about nothing but making good art. Maggie has become a dear friend, and I feel like she has that purity of spirit, and almost an ivory-tower belief in the power of art and narrative. Sometimes when you’re working in a commercial environment things can get cluttered and you might lose that love for deep process you go through putting on a play. But I don’t feel like that here.
Q: Why did you want to direct and write a new adaptation of Irving Berlin’s “Holiday Inn”?
A: First of all the score. Having all those wonderful songs by Irving Berlin, and secondly, the estate very generously allowed us to use four more songs from his catalog. So I knew we were starting with a diamond necklace, we just had to find the right container for it. It’s based on the film, and these days the film can feel like it’s very much from a different era in its construction and some of its content. I was actually quite inspired. I realized there was a job to be done. How do we restore this? How do we re-imagine it? We felt like we were unearthing this gem from 1946. We did it with a slight wink and a modern lens, but at the same time respecting and embracing it with deep affection.
Q: And you also struck gold in London’s West End last year with “Guys and Dolls.”
A: Working in London had always been a dream of mine. It just felt so glamorous, like I was living in a movie. Of course there is a cultural divide in some instances. I felt like I needed a decoder ring to properly communicate with some of the people, but I really enjoyed the challenge. It added a degree of interest in the whole process, and “Guys and Dolls” is pretty much the perfect musical. It’s beautifully constructed.
And while I was there living in and around London, it allowed me the opportunity to write “Holiday Inn” in a solid and successful way.
Q: Were you surprised by the success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton,” a musical based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury?
A: I wasn’t at all surprised. Lin-Manuel is a pal of mine and we’ve worked together on other projects. He works incredibly hard and he’s very smart, with huge generosity and spirit. More than anything else, he knows how to make the political personal. It may be history, but it’s personal, from somewhere deep down in his soul, his depth of humanity and truth, and that’s what the people are responding too.
Q: You’ve been up in the Albany area the past month working on “Assisted Loving.” Did you go to Proctors and watch “Something Rotten!” launch its national tour in Schenectady?
A: I saw it in New York and I went to Proctors and watched it, too, and I loved it. Broadway is actually a pretty small community, and I feel it’s extremely important to support one another. Being an artist of any sort can be a lonely business because you’re often creating on your own. Then you get to the rehearsal room where your friends and piers work with you with blind faith.
Going to somebody else’s show is an opportunity to bolster your colleagues, and remind them that what they do an say really matters. As for “Something Rotten!” it was done with great intelligence and craft. The show is a complete pleasure trip.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]