When the scribes write the ultimate history of Broadway, one thing will become crystal clear: Michael Urie was destined to play Bud Frump.
“When I was 16, my sister and I went to the Dallas Summer Musicals production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” says the effervescent 37-year-old during a break from rehearsal. “It was the national tour that starred Ralph Macchio as Finch and Roger Bart as Frump. It was seminal for me. It totally changed the way I looked at theater. I loved it more than anything. I thought, ‘This is a musical I could be in!'”
Urie almost got his chance at Frump — the nemesis to window washer-turned-corporate exec J. Pierrepont Finch — in the 2011 Broadway revival starring Daniel Radcliffe. “They hired me. And then, through a series of very sad circumstances which I won’t go into, I ended up not getting to keep the job. It was like a showbiz tragedy.” Christopher Hankey took on the role, but Urie finally got his chance in 2012, replacing Hankey at the same time Nick Jonas stepped in as Finch.
“I can’t ever remember being that purely happy doing a job,” he glows. “There have been other jobs that have meant more to me or been more challenging, but doing this show is just like a big bowl of ice cream!”
Urie is feasting on another helping of that ice cream, as the hit-packed, Pulitzer Prize-winning Frank Loesser musical plays this weekend as part of the Kennedy Center’s Broadway Center Stage, a magnificent new series that has already mounted electrifying semi-staged concerts of Chess and In the Heights. Directed by Marc Bruni, How to Succeed features Urie as Frump, Betsy Wolfe as Rosemary Pilkington, Nova Payton as Miss Jones, John Michael Higgins as Biggley, and Pitch Perfect‘s Skylar Astin as Finch.
“He’s got such great energy,” Urie, last seen here at the Shakespeare Theatre in a powerful take on Hamlet, says of Astin. “He sings so well and he’s got great comic sensibility and is filled with ideas. He’s perfect for the role.”
In addition to his quick stint in How to Succeed, Urie is busy prepping for the Broadway revival of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy, part of a sudden resurgence of seminal LGBTQ plays on Broadway that includes Boys in the Band, starring Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, and Matt Bomer, and Angels in America, starring Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane.
“It seems to be something in the ethos,” he says of the perfectly-timed trio. “I feel in some ways it’s a victory lap for the LGBTQ community. But it may be a call to arms for the rights that are being stripped away by the current Administration — a reminder of what we could lose. That could be it.” He pauses. “I think it could also be coincidence.”
Broadway Center Stage: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying runs through Sunday, June 10 in the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Tickets are $59-$175. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.