An American in Paris - London

The Academy Award-winning film is born anew on stage.

West End Star David Seadon-Young on the Joys of An American in Paris, Not Skyping with Brandon Uranowitz & More

West End Star David Seadon-Young on the Joys of An American in Paris, Not Skyping with Brandon Uranowitz & More
David Seadon-Young in "An An American in Paris"
(Photo: Johan Persson)

David Seadon-Young’s performance as Adam, the piano-playing narrator of An American in Paris, has been one of the musical theater glories of this year: an unwavering presence across the four times I’ve seen the West End premiere of the acclaimed Broadway musical, adapted from the 1951 Oscar-winning film. Broadway.com caught the English performer backstage late one afternoon at the Dominion Theatre to talk about playing American, talented friends and his forthcoming visit to Broadway.

Did you manage to catch the Broadway run of the show before being asked to play Adam in the West End?
I actually auditioned out there and they told me 10 minutes after the audition that I had got the role, which meant I was able to see the show the following day. It was lovely to sit there and watch this stunning piece of theater unravel knowing that I would be doing it in London.

Was Brandon Uranowitz on as Adam and, if so, did you approach him for advice?
Brandon had left by then, so I saw Matthew Scott. I decided not to Skype Brandon simply because it was the script I was in love with. This particular part in my humble opinion is the best part in the show and certainly the one most suited to me: I sure as hell couldn’t dance the role of Jerry [Mulligan, originated by Tony nominee Robert Fairchild]. With any part, you want to find your own way there, and I knew if I went too far off track that Chris [Wheeldon, the director-choreographer] would give me a little nudge in the right direction.

What do you love about playing Adam Hochberg?
I love that he gets to build that bond, as narrator, with the audience and break the fourth wall. And then you’ve got “But Not For Me,” which must be one of the most beautiful Gershwin songs ever written, alongside some lovely book scenes that you can really get your teeth into. There was so much there in the writing that from the minute I got the part I couldn't wait to do it.

As an Englishman, were you nervous at all about capturing the American rhythms of the part?
I knew there was no getting away from the fact that comparisons might be made but all I could do was find the personality of Adam and do the accent work and put my own stamp on it a little bit. It was daunting, of course, but that’s what acting is.

Given that Adam addresses the audience directly, do you ever witness odd behavior in the audience?
There are days when you want to “go LuPone” on a few people [laughs], but I definitely don’t have that stature; if I did, I would. The worst for me is the texting where all you can see are the heads down and the lights glaring in your face. At least when they take your picture, they’re looking at you—which I suppose is a compliment in its way.

Did you manage to get the night off the other week to see your brother Matt open opposite Kelsey Grammer in Big Fish at The Other Palace? [The Seadon-Young sibling plays Grammer’s son in the show.]
Unfortunately not: I wish it was that easy to take the night off, and I didn’t know Matt would be doing that [musical] until I was wrapped up in this contract. But I heard it went down very very well.

Is it odd having a brother so near you in age [the two are 18 months apart] who is in exactly the same line of work?
You’d think it might be but I guess we’re lucky in that there’s never been any rivalry or anything like that. There was one time when I did Assassins—which is Matt’s number one favorite show whereas mine is Sweeney Todd—but he couldn’t do [Assassins] because he was in Jamie Lloyd’s production of Urinetown. And then a month later he got Sweeney Todd at ENO, playing Anthony opposite Emma Thompson.

Did the timing there feel almost surreal?
It did but it’s good, I think, that it feels as if we are doing our own thing even though our paths run pretty parallel. Matt does like to remind me that he has done more West End jobs than I have, but I let it go [laughs].

On the other hand, weren’t you in the now-notorious Trevor-Nunn directed musical version of Gone With the Wind in 2008?
That was my first job, and a helluva one to be a part of! It was crazy, that show, and had everything, starting with a short run and coming down at 11:45PM to proposals onstage to a fire. That was where I met Jill Paice, who I then saw playing Milo in An American in Paris in New York. Jill was very much the soul of Gone With the Wind and has become a good friend.

How did it feel to get time off to play Jud Fry opposite Robbie Fairchild’s Will Parker in Oklahoma! in concert at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall last August?
That was just amazing. The John Wilson Orchestra is second to none when it comes to that music and the sound he gets from his players. It was great, too, that I got to meet Shuler [Hensley, a Tony-winning Jud Fry from years back] who was working with a good friend of mine, Summer Strallen, who had come to see her sister Scarlett play Laurey. I’d seen Shuler on YouTube performing the role so he was my point of reference, and it was really lovely to meet him. He’s huge, in terms of talent, he really is.

What are your thoughts on Robbie’s ongoing career transformation from ballet superstar to Broadway and West End leading man, including just this month in Brigadoon in New York?
Robbie’s got a joy for performing and he’s a joy to watch. Very quickly when we met I knew I was going to be able to bond with this person and to have fun, which is always important, and to create a chemistry, which he made it very easy to do. I’m actually going to New York in a few weeks for vacation but will have missed I>Brigadoon. But as a performer, Robbie is quite remarkable.

Are you looking forward to seeing anything in particular on Broadway?
A friend of mine, Michael Arden, is directing Once on This Island, so I’m going to go to the opening of that on December 3. I met Michael when we were appearing at the Menier in Aspects of Love [in 2010], and I am eager to see his work as a director. I’ve never been to the opening of a Broadway show before, so I’m really looking forward to the trip.