The only downside to Martin Samuel's performance as Rum Tum Tugger in Cats is that the make-up covers his handsome mug and the costume isn't as revealing as it could be. But nothing can eclipse his showstopping smile as he struts, preens and hip thrusts his way through his big number and the rest of the show. "Memory" may be the big song but Rum Tum Tugger is the big character.
"He's a playboy," laughs Samuel. "He's the one that people actually like. He's a rock star adored onstage by the fans and the girls." Samuel flashes that smile and adds modestly, "Like any role it's a character. I take a playboy and add cat character to it - we had to learn cat language - but he's the one who's less cat, more human. He's always standing up and proud."
Samuel is familiar from Queer As Folk, One Life to Live and many commercials, and this is his third time playing the sexualized cat. "I saw Cats just out of high school and wanted to play Rum Tum Tugger. It looked like so much fun. And it is. Cats is an icon, it was always a dream of mine. It's the second longest running show on Broadway and full of classic songs. Who doesn't know Cats? And this is such a talented cast who are working so hard, everyone wants it to be great. And we have a surprise at the end that drags Cats into 2013."
Samuel, originally from Montreal but now based in New York, speaks multiple languages and works worldwide. "I just try to go day by day and do my best with what comes up but there are special roles like Rum Tug Tugger. I'm often cast as the bad guy, I don't know why," he laughs. "But then I just shot a commercial where I'm a clown. I'm happy to be in Toronto, I do a lot of film and commercial work here but the last time I was on stage here was with Donny Osmond in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Things have changed so much since then! But I'm still looking for a sublet or else by next month I'll be a cat in the street." Not likely, a wandering stray with this much charisma will always find an open door.
Cats continues until at least Sun, July 28 at the Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge St. catsto.com, mirvish.com, martinsamuel.net
Naked Empire Bouffons join in the Festival of Clowns
Laughter and joy - with the occasional frisson of terror and/or intellectual thought-provocation - run rampant during the Festival of Clowns that runs Wed, May 29 to Sat, June 1. The festival is packed with gay content: as well as The Lunacy Cabaret featuring Light Switch and Sketchy the Clown; The Foolish Cabaret curated and hosted by the irresistible Foo; The Melancholy Follies of Clarence & Desolita starring theaward-winning Sean Michael; Lindy Zucker and Mariko Tamaki in A vs B; the genderbending Dapper's Big Day, the festival also features the Toronto debut of the Naked Empire Bouffon Company presenting You Killed Hamlet, or Guilty Creatures Sitting At A Play before they head across Canada on the Fringe Festival circuit.
The naked bouffons, Nathaniel Justiniano and Ross Travis, proved are not only hilarious on stage, but also make for a delirious interview.
What do you expect from your first visit to Toronto?
If the theatre scene in Canada is anything like what we’ve heard, we expect some very well behaved white folks in the audience politely clapping and complimenting our work as “neat,” “neato” and “swell.”So don’t disappoint.
Is a major festival like this a good chance to network with other artists or an excuse for a lot of carousing and partying?
Both? We like meeting people and finding out about the profound complexities and intricacies of their artistic process. We also like getting really drunk and making out and having sex with complete strangers and then puking all over the place while singing '80s power ballads: Bryan Adams forever!
Why will "You Killed Hamlet!" be the highlight of the festival?
Um duh, Hamlet is only the best known play in all the world and his name is in our title. If that isn’t a recipe for being the best show ever, then...um. Well, crap, that’s kinda all we have.
What festival shows are you two looking forward to seeing?
There are other shows? No no, we’re kidding. We know there aren’t any other shows.
What advice do you have for those of us eager to hook up with a participating artist? (And what is the most effective way of getting greasepaint out of sheets?)
Well, every artist is different, so we can only speak for ourselves.
Ross loves being picked up by a gaggle of ditzy little blondes with size four waists and double D melons, but if we’ve learned anything from our artistic partnership it’s that he’ll do anything for you if you promise him the sweet caress of a weighty schlong on his nose.
Nathaniel charges $20 for hand jobs. $50 for a BJ, but $1 gets you his piggly wiggly. Don’t know what a piggly wiggly is? Well, now you’ve got conversation starter.
And why are you all prejudiced against greasepaint?
Why is clowning such a subversive art? Is it difficult to counteract the effect of children's party clowns and killer clown movies in order to get your art respected and taken seriously?
Well we kill and eat party clowns for breakfast. No, no, for real. We have a dungeon underneath our home in San Francisco where we collect them. We stick them down there with TV screens playing IT on repeat. When we eat them their naive buoyancy about the world fuels our satirical rage. Oh, and we’re supposed to be taken seriously? Shit, we’ll get on that.
Who designed the penises that are so prominent in the trailer for You Killed Hamlet!?
God, of course. But even God gets it wrong sometimes. Patches, played by Nathaniel, recently went through sexual reassignment surgery turning his 11 inch, 6 pound (27.94 cm, 2.72 kg for you Canadians) trouser snake into a flappy roll of fat. Patches will have to undergo several more expensive flab-enhancements before he feels like his external body matches the beauty of his soul, but perhaps while we’re in Canada we can score some free surgery?
More importantly, who designed your penis?
The Toronto Festival of Clowns runs Wed, May 29 to Sat, June 1 at the Pia Bouman Studio Theatre, 6 Noble St and Unit 102, 376 Dufferin St. torontofestivalofclowns.com, nakedempirebouffon.org