On this ‘Beyond the Stage Door’ we have Marcus Paul James. Y’all Marcus has credits for days and a voice that was soaked in the blood of the lord (HALLELUJAH) and coated in vanilla. This man sing for days and is one of my biggest inspirations. If you’re like me you first saw his face in ‘RENT: filmed live on Broadway’. Marcus closed out the show and rightfully so with all he gave to the show. So let’s get into the interview
Your Journey with RENT has been extensive to say the least, what calls you back to this show after all this time?
RENT is timeless to me. Being a cast member changes you forever. I love the experience of sharing this message and tell these characters story.
How long were you in RENT? (Broadway, Tokyo, tour)
Yikes, I guess if I summed it up it would be like over 9 years. I started very young 🙂
How do you prepare for callbacks?
Callbacks are where the fun happens for me. Cause you’ve already done all the work to learn the material and pass the first audition. So, I really try to dig into the character choices and freeing myself up enough to go in and be confident in my performance.
What is the job of a swing?
A swing is a show rehearses to be ready at any given moment to play a multitude of roles. By far one of the hardest jobs in the cast.
How do you manage to separate ensemble and principle roles especially with different vocal tracks?
As a swing or understudy, you have to figure out how you learn best and translate the information given to you into things that will help you remember. I was a Universal Swing in Motown, so I would be in one week in three different productions. I have notes for every character in every version of the show. I’d take the big notes in my script, then in a spiral note card book put all the entrances, exits, and cue lines so that I can carry around with me as I go through the track.
If the show is simple enough music wise, you can clearly decipher the vocal tracks. What’s helpful is that multiple characters can be on the same vocal track, which makes the tracking of who sings what easier. I have a very firm spirit of organizing in me, so I try my best to organize my mind first which lets me eventually actual enjoying the onstage swing life.
You’re one of the CLEANEST and most precise riffers to ever touch a Broadway stage, how’d you build that muscle memory?
Wow, that’s grossly generous but thank you lol!! I come from a Gospel background so making music has always been in my life. The more you do, the more things you pick up on. I am also surrounded by the dopest musicians and singers that truly keep me always working to get better. Riffing to me on Broadway to me must be tasteful and useful, so I use that as my guide and let my voice do what it knows how to do.
What was it like being in the cyclone or talent that was ‘In the Heights’?
In the Heights was by far the hardest show I have ever done. Between Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography and Lin’s patter and music, we all were working hard from downbeat to the curtain call. And every time I felt like dying, I looked over at my cast mates who were dying too and nod and say ” …we got this!!”. Again, what a blessing to be around people that love and work just as harder or harder than you!
How do you maintain 8 shows a week (vocally, physically, spiritually)
It really is an Olympic marathon, and self-care is vital. SLEEP and HYDRATION is the utmost important ingredient to all self-maintenance. And the show schedule and life most times won’t leave you enough time to have them. Balance is the key. Moderation is the ultimate key. Your body and mind break down faster than it rebuilds. So, anything that helps you rebuild is good to make a constant in your life … gym, movies, family, church, side projects, outreach, yoga, Physical Therapy, therapy, etc… I do a lot of my own writing and music performing which helps a lot. I do try and catch a Church Service at least twice a month. Also, I have to have a chill night with friends, it literally recharges my soul.
You have recently gotten more involved in creating original music, what was the decision to create your own music instead of giving voice to other music like?
I have been writing my own stuff since before I really understood what Broadway was, so creating to me seemed such a normal habit. Deciding to share my music was something I knew I couldn’t do alone, so it took the help of some close friends to make that amazing step possible. I love making music and if people dig or can feel my stuff, it warms my heart to share. Sharing just seemed more inevitable more than decided. I still lend my voice to all kinds of music and phenomenal composer/ songwriters. People are writing some good sh*t, I’d be a fool to not want to be apart.
Your 54 Below show “where is the love” a duet concert with Crystal Monee Hall is a celebration of Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack. Could you tell us why you chose these two artists to celebrate and what you hope people receive from this experience?
Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack are American treasures and created some of the best duet tunes ever. Crystal and I have been dreaming this project up for a while and realized that not many people celebrate them enough. So, we decided now was the time. It’s literally a trip down that “good ole” soul lane, remembering their hits and classic’s. From “Where Is the Love” to ” You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” to the ever iconic ‘You’ve got a Friend”, this concert will have you bopping and swaying. Their music is timeless, and we are beyond excited to celebrate it.
Friday is show day so buy your tickets here! Take 20% off using HALLJAMES20 at checkout.