‘A Quick 5′ with Mark Waldrop

Mark Waldrop

Mark Waldrop is currently the director of Little Shop of Horrors at Olney Theatre Center where he directed last year’s production of Annie (Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Resident Musical). He directed Bette Midler’s 1999 Divine Miss Millennium Tour. On Broadway Mark directed Bea Arthur in Just Between Friends (2002 Tony Award nomination, Special Theatrical Event.) Off-Broadway credits include Howard Crabtree’s When Pigs Fly, (1997 Drama Desk Award, 1997 Outer Critic’s Circle Award, OBIE) Newsical, Game Show, Pete ‘n’ Keely, Listen to My Heart, Inventing Avi, My Deah, and Capitol Steps. Also: Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 (City Center Encores;) Hey, Love! the Songs of Mary Rodgers, starring Faith Prince (Rainbow & Stars.) Regional work includes Into the Woods (Seattle’s 5th Avenue,) Souvenir (Greenville, SC CentreStage,) Russian on the Side (Chicago’s Royal George,) and Cinderella (Olney Theatre Center.) At New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, where I first met Mark he directed Gypsy (starring Betty Buckley), Little Shop of Horrors, Romeo & Bernadette, and Forum. He is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. I have been watching Mark’s work for a long time and it is always enjoyable.

What was your first professional job in the theatre?

My first paid job was as a Muleteer in Man of La Mancha at Burn Brae Dinner Theater in Burtonsville. I was still in high school at the time and doubled as a busboy and doing coat check. My first Equity job was as a singer in the chorus of Carol Channing’s first Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly!

You co-wrote and directed a show called When Pigs Fly with Howard Crabtree and Dick Gallagher. What are your memories of working on that show and with your collaborators?

I love you for asking about Howard and Dick. They were two of the funniest, sweetest — and most talented — guys in the world. Working with them was pure joy for me. We laughed a lot. Howard was a humorist whose medium was costumes — sort of a cross between Jim Henson and Bob Mackie. Dick was a supremely gifted pianist/composer/lyricist with a wickedly dry sense of humor. They’re both gone now, and I miss them every day.

You directed Little Shop of Horrors at Paper Mill Playhouse a few years back. What do you like most about the material and is the approach to the Olney Theatre Center production going to be different?

Little Shop is one of my very favorite shows. There’s so much there. The cleverness and humor are right there on the surface, and any production of Little Shop will be entertaining because of that. Coming back to it for a second time I feel I’m better able to dig into the darker side of the story and the deeper emotional aspects of the lead characters. It’s the darkness juxtaposed with the humor that give this show it’s unique flavor. I think a lot of productions of it miss that.

Of all of the shows you have directed what are some of your favorites?

I loved directing Gypsy at the Papermill Playhouse with Betty Buckley as Rose. I think it’s probably the best musical ever written, and Betty gave a ferocious performance. We were lucky enough to assemble a perfect cast, and they were all great. Directing Bette Midler’s Divine Miss Milennium tour was also something I’ll never forget, because I was on the road with her for several months playing giant arenas. The final show was New Year’s Eve 2000 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. I loved working with Bea Arhur on her one-woman Broadway show. I’ve bee really lucky in the jobs I’ve had. All things considered, though, When Pigs Fly would have to top the list.

After Little Shop of Horrors what is next for you?

This fall I’ll be directing a reading of a new play called Damage Control in New York. I’ll also be writing a new lyric for The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, for which I’ve been the writer for he past ten years or so.