Ron Bohmer as Percy
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The Scarlet Pimpernel : Broadway's Most Intriguing Musical.

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Interview with Ron Bohmer

I guess you could say that Ron Bohmer received good news and bad news last spring. The good news was that he was finally going to get the chance to play Percy Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel and the bad news was that by playing Percy, he was going to step into a role that very likely would be identified with his predecessor for many years to come. A less daring actor might have considered that too difficult of a challenge, but Ron accepted it with aplomb and made the role his own.

I interviewed Ron in between shows on a Saturday. His ever-present dog, Griffin, was with him, and we were later joined by his girlfriend, actress Sandra Joseph.

NR: I understand you grew up in Ohio.

RB: Cincinnati.

NR: Can you tell me something about growing up there?

RB: I could never live in Cincinnati because it's a little too conservative for my tastes, but the heart and soul of the people there are wonderful. I love it. The great thing for me was it was a wonderful, safe environment for me to develop as a kid who wanted to be a performer, who wanted to eventually become an artist, and just have a safe place to do it. I was very lucky to have parents that supported me in it. I had a teacher there named Jack Louiso. I started taking dance from him when I was six and continued with him all the way through high school. He was one of the best influences on me. He was one of the first people that ever made me sing. We would do these dance recitals and one year he just said, "OK, you're going to sing this year."

NR: How old were you?

RB: I must have been eight or nine the first time I sang. I think I sang, "I'm Late" from Alice in Wonderland. You know (singing) - "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date." All the girls were dressed as the White Rabbit and I was dressed as the Mad Hatter. I had this giant hat on my head and you know what they wear at dance recitals. I had this ridiculous shiny, satin costume. I was not happy about it so I had this scowl on my face while I sang. It was not the most inspiring debut. (laughing) I don't think anyone who saw that thought, "Oh, a star is born."

NR: Did that give you any idea that you wanted to do this?

RB: Totally. When I was a kid, the dancing thing was always a little weird to me, and the live stuff initially was really freaky to me. I got really nervous being in front of a live audience, initially. But, what I began to realize about it is that once you relax and accept it, and don't try to do everything that you've planned but allow yourself some freedom out there, the spontaneity of it is wonderful, and that was the thrill for me. That made me think, "Hmm, let's see what happens when I do this, and let's see what happens when I do that." That made it fun. I always thought I would do TV or something like that, but then I got bit by the "audience bug."

NR: Did you know going into college what you wanted to be?

RB: Pretty much. I went to a performing arts high school in Cincinnati. I went to The School for the Creative and Performing Arts. It was wonderful. It was one of the best things that could have happened to me. All of a sudden I wasn't a freak anymore. I was going to these classes. I was taking drama in school, I was taking dance in school. People weren't making fun of me because I wore tights to ballet class - I was wearing them AT SCHOOL for ballet class. It was wonderful.

NR: You did Enjolras on Broadway and then you did the BIG leads on the tours. What's better? Being a big lead on a tour, or being a small part just to be on Broadway?

RB: (laughing) The best is being a big lead on Broadway!

NR: (laughing) I know, but that's not what I asked you!

RB: It's an interesting thing about touring. The dynamic for me is just the quality of the audience. The way I mean that is on the road, you get a very pure audience. You get people who come in. Either they're season ticket holders, or they bought their tickets fresh and the reason they're coming is because they just want to be entertained. They don't have any criteria. If they're interested in theater, they do it peripherally. They're not professional. So, they're just there to have a good time and you get a much more honest response, which I think we did with this show when we were in Atlanta and the other two cities. The New York audience, particularly for us the first two weeks, is a critical audience. It's an audience that says, "Show me. I'm going to review you. As an actor who's come to see the show, I'm going to see why I'm not in it. Why are you better than me?" So you get that kind of energy. There's a lot to prove. It's a little tougher.

I think there's a lot more safety in a small role on Broadway. It's not all of you hanging out there taking a risk. If it's a great role you can enjoy it a little bit more. But, (laughing) this is really better. I like risk. I must like risk to take over this role from Douglas (Sills). For me the challenge is always just how high can you make the stakes. To carry the weight of a show, to me, is always much more interesting.

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Interview conducted and photographs by Nancy Rosati.

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