by Kevin Shaw | photos by Jeremy Daniel
Very few character actors have had as satisfying a career as Blake Hammond. Over the past twenty years, Hammond has performed on Broadway in such hits as Hello Dolly and Elf-The Musical and even starred as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray and Pumbaa in The Lion King. But it’s perhaps his role as Nostradamus in the national tour of Something Rotten! (coming to the Orpheum Theatre April 10th through the 15th) that has Hammond most excited. This hilarious new musical surmises what Shakespeare’s literary counterparts did to compete with the Bard’s overwhelming and voluminous success. Perhaps, that’s when the musical was invented? Perhaps? Of course, not, but it’s fun imagining and Hammond gets to steal all the scenes and then cap it all off with a show-stopping number that you will have to see to believe. Focus Magazine caught up with Hammond as he enjoyed a week off from the national tour at his home in Inglewood, NJ.
Focus: How long have you been a part of this tour?
Hammond: We started rehearsals December 5, 2016 and we opened on January 10, 2017, so it’s been about 16-17 months now.
Focus: Is this the first or only tour out right now?
Hammond: Yes, this is the first national tour since the Broadway production closed in January of 2017.
Focus: How long will this tour be out?
Hammond: We close May 20th of this year and then the tour will stop for a while, they’ll “retool” it, and send it back on the road with a non-equity cast. That tour will play smaller cities and only stay in them for one or two nights.
Focus: How are you enjoying being in this show compared to other tours you’ve been in?
Hammond: I’m having such a ball! This is a great, funny, funny show! It’s really a lot of fun to do! Plus, this part (Nostradamus) has been a dream come true. I have a show-stopping number (“A Musical”) that so rarely happens to a character actor like myself. The song is about an 8-minute musical number that spans the history of musical comedy. It’s such fun for the audience to see.
Blake Hammond and Rob McClure in Something Rotten
Focus: Did you see original Nostradamus (Brad Oscar) do your role on Broadway?
Hammond: Oh yes! I saw it twice.
Focus: Is this show for people who love Shakespeare or hate him?
Hammond: You can hate Shakespeare and think it’s hilarious. You can love Shakespeare and also think it’s hilarious. It’s a spoof of him—he wrote a lot of plays (laughing)!
Focus: How are audiences receiving this show since it doesn’t have the same name recognition as a show like Wicked which recently played Memphis? What kind of crowds are you getting?
Hammond: Honestly, it depends on the city we’re going to. A lot of the cities have been completely sold out because some cities are known for their love of the theatre, whereas other cities become sold out by the end of the week due to word of mouth. What we’ve heard over and over from audiences is, “We didn’t really know what this show was about, and yet, it’s been our favorite show of the season!” I’ve heard that all year long. This little gem of a show shows up on people’s season subscription and they say, “I laughed for two and a half hours!”
Focus: Is this show appropriate for kids?
Hammond: I would say 10 and up. The show is not “dirty,” but there’s some language and lots of sexual innuendo, but nothing a 10 year old hasn’t seen on a tv sitcom.
Focus: How do you enjoy being on the road compared to staying in New York and performing on Broadway?
Hammond: Truthfully, I prefer being out on the road. My manager and agent don’t get it. I love seeing the country! It’s one thing to do the same show 500 times in the same theatre with the same dressing room, etc. There’s really not much change to that experience. With touring, at least I get to have a new dressing room and meet a new dresser every week (each city hires a local person to help backstage on certain shows), etc. It’s fun to travel the country. For example, I LOVE Memphis! I can’t wait to play Memphis.
Focus: You’ve toured here before?
Hammond: Yes, I played Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and I played Sebastian in the most recent tour of Cinderella.
Focus: What’s next for you after this show closes? Do you know what you’re going to do?
Hammond: I don’t. My first order of business is taking a two-week vacation to Europe. I haven’t done that in a long time. Then, I’ll come back and see what happens.
Focus: Do you have anxiety about finding work as an actor?
Hammond: I usually don’t. I’m almost 55 and I’ve had a pretty full career. I’ve learned that something always comes up for me. (Plus, I’ve learned to save my money—by doing things like going on the road!)