Broadway’s Patrick Cassidy embraces ABBA in ‘Mamma Mia!’
Sometimes you get blessed by the gods.
Patrick Cassidy, who plays one of three possible fathers to soon-to-be-bride Sophie Sheridan in The Gateway’s new production of “Mamma Mia!” has a list of credits including Broadway shows (“42nd Street,” Elton John’s “Aida,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” “Leader of the Pack,” “Assassins” and “Lady in the Dark”), with national tours, regional theater, television series and appearances, film credits, awards and nominations about a mile long.
So add this to his roster: It’s his first Long Island appearance. Also, besides acting and singing, the other family business includes engineers for the Long Island Rail Road. His grandfather and great-grandfather steered the trains; he has about 20 LIRR relatives coming to the show.
Cassidy is the son of Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy, the gorgeous singing and acting couple who excelled in continuing meaty projects on stage, television, film and in recordings. (Jack Cassidy’s work spanned 30 years, with a Tony before his death; Jones’ work spans 65 years, with an Academy Award; Jones appeared in a Hallmark television film just last year.) In a Broadway first as mother and son starring in a musical, Cassidy also appeared with his mom in “42nd Street.” This popular, open, leading man sat down with the Long Island Advance earlier this week. “My son is more famous than I am,” he joked before the interview started. (Jack Cassidy appeared on “The Voice” this year.)
Long Island Advance: Had you seen “Mamma Mia!” during its runs in London and on Broadway?
Patrick Cassidy: I never saw it until last year. Everybody I worked with told me, ‘you’re perfect for Sam.’ I see a lot of theater here and in London, but I just had no interest; I wasn’t an ABBA fan. I was drawn to the music of rock and roll, Motown. I got offered it on Broadway and in Las Vegas. When I was playing Zoser in “Aida” at The Muny, the show preceding us was “Mamma Mia!” I saw it then and still wasn’t a big fan. Then Ogunquit offered me the role (Cassidy is just coming off his “Mamma Mia!” lead at Ogunquit Playhouse). I started listening to the music and within the first rehearsal, I couldn’t get the songs out of my head. They completely overtake you. When I saw the audience’s reaction — they absolutely stand and cheer — then I got it. It’s total entertainment. Also, I get to use all my dance moves from the ‘70s and ‘80s (check out Cassidy’s dancing on the 1985 Tonys YouTube clip; he also played in the television series of “Dirty Dancing”). Now I’m an official ABBA fan.
LIA: You sing several songs with Donna and the cast, but “Knowing Me, Knowing You” is yours alone. You’ve been lauded in reviews on your voice. You must have a voice coach?
PC: I’ve had many voice mentors. I have been so blessed to work with pioneers in voice in New York. Joan Lader is one of the premier voice teachers; Eric Vetro is the top one to the stars. But I never in my whole career thought of myself as a singer; I think of myself as an actor who can sing and I think that’s why I can do such an array of shows, like “Aida” and then jump into “A Little Night Music.” It was always about transforming myself as an actor physically and vocally. I teach singing and teach at a lot of universities. It’s the best thing that I do. I started with a little class at my wife’s dance studio because I wanted to do something with my craft and give it back. I teach voice, musical theater, auditioning [at my acting company, Hollywood Stage Academy]. I got my Actors Equity card when I was 15, playing Rolf locally in “The Sound of Music.” My mom wouldn’t allow us to enter show business until we graduated from college, but none of us wound up attending. Had I gone, I would have played football; a broken collarbone changed that trajectory. When I got out of high school, I was offered a contract from every record company but went into theater because I loved it. My first job on Broadway was in “The Pirates of Penzance” when I was 18. That put me on the New York market. When the shows were over, I went back to California, so that became my career. I’ve had an incredible run on TV with lots of series, guest spots, movies. (Small sample: ABC Family’s “Ruby and the Rockits,” NBC’s “Bay City Blues,” HBO’s “Perversions of Science” and WB’S “Smallville.”) When those fiscally ended, I’d go back to New York and theater.
LIA: You tackled tough stuff like “Longtime Companion,” a breakout movie in 1990 about the devastation of AIDS. (It was hailed in Rolling Stone magazine, and Rotten Tomatoes critics gave it an overall thumbs-up. Critic Roger Ebert wrote, "Longtime Companion" is about friendship and loyalty, about finding the courage to be helpful and the humility to be helped.” It shows the life of the characters from 1981 to 1989.)
PC: It was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I worked with stars like Dermot Mulroney and Mary Louise Parker. We all knew we were doing something that was a first and you don’t get these opportunities often. I was offered a role as a gay man. After the movie came out, I was inundated with positive comments. Actors like Sean Penn and Robert Downey Jr. came over and hugged me at events, thanking me. When I teach at college I’m astounded at the 22- and 23-year-olds who don’t know or understand the history and what happened. It was the black plague of the time.
LIA: Where do you live when you’re not on the road?
PC: I live in West Lake Village, Calif. It’s very rural, out of the basin of the valley. There’s the Santa Monica mountains and deer there. I moved there so our kids could go to a public school where it was safe. If my mom gave me anything, she gave me the importance of priorities. You have to put your spouse first because eventually your kids leave, and then who do you look at when they’re gone? So it’s wife first, kids and then career. (He’s been married to Melissa Hurley Cassidy for 24 years. His children, Cole and Jack, were in the chorus when he did “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” on a national tour in 2006.)
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