Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Casting Call: Taking on Salieri and Mozart

Actors Talk About Taking on Iconic Roles in Amadeus

Marco Barricelli as Salieri and Asher Grodman as Mozart in Amadeus.

Marco Barricelli
Asher Grodman
Asher Grodman starts the conversation with a secret: for years, he has wanted to work with actor Marco Barricelli. Both are cast in Sir Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus (Segerstrom Stage, May 6-June 5, 2016)—Barricelli as Antonio Salieri and Grodman as Mozart.

“This is a dream come true for me,” says Grodman. “Marco is amazing because of both the ease and power that he works with.”

As for a revelation from Barricelli, read on to find out about that and more as the actors talk about taking on the iconic roles in Sir Peter Shaffer’s award-winning play.

On what drew them to the play

Barricelli: I had never considered playing Salieri until SCR offered it to me. But I had seen the original Broadway production a dozen or so times, with Sir Ian McKellen as Salieri, Tim Curry at Mozart and Jane Seymour as Constanze. It is a great play—and we all want to do “great” plays, right? The role of Salieri also is one of those unscalable mountains: one can never satisfactorily scale it; it is the attempt that is all important. I also enjoy hearing all of the glorious music.

Grodman: The play is brilliant and the role of Mozart is like a playground for any actor. He's like a rubber ball being thrown against a jagged wall: You don't know where it's going, but you know it's going there fast! He's filled with contradictions—he's genius, child-like nature, rebellion and desperate need for approval.

On what’s challenging and fun about their characters

Barricelli: The truth is that I am not a person who likes sweets, but Salieri does and he uses sweets as his substitute for sex, at least to begin with. I think the most challenging thing for me has been the stamina it takes to get through the whole performance; it’s a long play and Salieri never leaves the stage.

I used to think that acting was being unrecognizable on stage; now I know it to be revealing who and what you are. If you can honestly reveal yourself, then it has some truth, and truth allows you and the audience to believe. That’s our job: we make belief—we “make believe.”

Grodman: The play, the cast and the director ar the best things about coming to work each day. In terms of my own work, the most challenging and the most fun have been working with the breadth of the story and and navigating the twists and turns. So much happens: Mozart goes through numerous life-altering moments and responds to them in big ways, but they go by quickly (in the blink of an eye). In addition, the dynamics of the relationships are constantly shifting throughout the play, often because Mozart is so impulsive.It's a bit of an obstacle course for an actor, that that's a lot of fun! I also love the moments when Mozart gets the approval he so desperately needs and when he watches his own work come to life. For me, that's a wonderful feeling.

Characters inspired by actual people

Barricelli: Frankly, as Shakespeare says, “the play’s the thing.” I’m not on stage to perform historical research; I’m performing Mr. Shaffer’s play. It may be interesting to learn some things about the real Salieri, but at the end of the day, we are doing the playwright’s image of Salieri.

Grodman: The play isn't the history, but because there are so many resources out there—like Mozart's music and his letters—I feel that there's a lot of fuel to broaden my own imaginative landscape. I've found that those resources have helped me fall in love with the man.

My favorite line in the play—”My tongue is stupid. My heart isn't.”—is him in a nutshell. He doesn’t know how to communicate, but he knows when he has something that is worthy to say through music; it is pure and it comes from his heart.

If you could share a meal with Mozart or Shaffer

Barricelli: Oh, I’d be too intimidated to have any sort of intelligent conversation!

Grodman: I don't think I'd be invited, but I wonder if Mozart—at least Mozart as he appears in Amadeus—would tease Shaffer for needing five drafts for his play!

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  1. Marco Barricelli as Salieri at the SCR Performance last night was magnificient. He has a captivating intensity and truth in his performance that was very moving in it's clarity. This entire production of Amadeus and all of the actors were absolutely mesmerizing. Fantastic work and truly the best production I have ever attended at SCR. Congratulations to you all!

  2. We loved the play! The role of Salieri was really well done. The costumes, characters, music... we spent an hour the next day discussing all the things that came up! It was a large cast and a huge amount of effort went into it. Especially Marco Barricelli. Well done.