Alex Goodrich | Performer of the week

Alex Goodrich and Erich Bergen in Hero at Marriott Theatre

Alex Goodrich and Erich Bergen in Hero at Marriott Theatre Photo: Peter Coombs

With superheroes dominating movie screens, Marriott Theatre is cashing in on the costumed crusader trend with Hero, an original musical about an aspiring comic-book creator struggling to overcome his tortured past. Playing the cousin/best friend/sidekick of Hero Batowski, Alex Goodrich gives a delightful performance as Kirk, showcasing the actor’s impressive musical comedy skills. Born and raised in Tennessee, Goodrich got his first acting experience playing the Artful Dodger in a middle school production of Oliver! After receiving a degree in drama from the University of Oklahoma, he moved to Chicago to pursue an acting career, becoming an ensemble member at Barrel of Monkeys and a fixture in children’s theater productions throughout the city and suburbs. Goodrich speaks to us about his nerd background, his favorite superheroes, and what he loves about performing for kids.

Are you a comic book fan?

Not really. Not as much as [composer] Mike [Mahler] and [writer] Aaron [Thielen] are. In the middle school time of trying to figure out what hobbies you’re into, I was “into” comics for a solid two months probably, but it was something that never really stuck. I’m more in the Star Wars/Star Trek nerd-dom. But I absolutely can see the appeal of comic books. I’ve enjoyed all of the movies, I’ve seen all of the recent big-screen adaptations.

Are you going to be seeing Amazing Spider-Man this week?

I’ll be there at the Sunday matinee. And already the band came back last night with big plans of doing a full-cast midnight Dark Knight Rises and then getting a room at the hotel so we can perform the next day. Finish the show, go see Dark Knight Rises. That plan has already been put on the table.

Who is your favorite superhero? Why?

I really like the Batman/Iron Man idea of superheroes, in that they’re guys that create their own destiny. Both have smarts and money, and I know some would argue there are other abilities involved, but there’s something really intriguing in that they’re just men who are really great at what they do. Particularly the current version of Iron Man, who is full of himself, but he’s really fun and snarky, too.

Did you do any research into the comic book references? Did Michael and Aaron help you guys out with that?

Yeah, they did. What’s awesome is that they’ve collected the greatest bunch of dorks that I’ve ever worked with, and each person is very specific on their own realm of specialization in nerd-dom. Michael Lindner is a go-to comic book guy. If you didn’t know what was going on, he would help you figure it out. Originally, the line was, “Black Panther has the only source of adamantium, the indestructible metal that covers Wolverine’s bones.” But Michael Lindner goes, “Well, Black Panther owns vibranium, not adamantium. So if we’re going to be accurate…” And then the part where Dara [Cameron] and I come in dressed in our Star Trek costumes, they wanted to do the Next Generation communicator tap on the chest, and Dara’s like, “Well, technically we’re dressed in original series costumes, so they’d be using handheld communicators.” (Laughs.) There’s this really terrific amount of knowledge within the group. For example, I had no idea who the Kree and Skrulls were, and I have this thing about Kree and Skrulls. Dara, Mike’s wife, was like, “I think they’re punk bands.” And I’m like, “Yeah, that makes total sense, that’s great.” And then I said that to Mike and he’s like, “NO! They’re ancient alien races that have been battling for Earth! What is she talking about?!” This is the best dramaturgy that I’ve ever had to deal with. We spent one of our 10-minute breaks watching Star Trek: The Next Generation bloopers on YouTube. It would be embarrassing in any other context. (Laughs.)

Why do you think superheroes have become so prominent in pop culture right now?

I don’t know, it is really fascinating. It’s hard to put my finger on it. In talking about this project with my wife, I had expressed concerns—obviously, they’re very much in the cultural consciousness with all the movies, almost a glut of movies—but I had expressed concern that some of the older audiences, the more traditional musical-theater crowd, I didn’t know if they were going to get this. I don’t know if they’re going to like this. And my wife brought up the absolutely great point that almost all of these superheroes that we’re talking about and referencing have been around for 60 or 70 years. The older crowd is almost equally, if not differently, well versed in this kind of mythology. These guys had comic books as well. The older crowd can remember this time of their youth, and the younger crowd can enjoy the current pop culture sensationalism of it.

Maybe it’s a cycle. There are some rough things going on in the world, and when you look for your escapist entertainment, there’s something really intriguing about having abilities above and beyond what you can do. So if your daily grind is that you’re in the office and you have this oppressive boss and you’re not having fun and you hate everything about it and you’re looking for something to step away from, to be able to step into someone that has some wild power given to them by the yellow sun of Earth that doesn’t have to deal with that, and can break through that everyday Clark Kent exterior and do something extraordinary, that’s always something that is fun and appealing. I’m just excited to be part of this thing that they’ve been working on for years and years, even before the super craze of comic book characters happened. It’s great that they were able to put it together in time to capitalize on that.

You’ve done a lot of children’s theater. Is there anything you like about children’s theater that you find lacking in “adult” theater?

For children’s theater, one of the great things is that a lot of the time, you’re one of their first exposures to this art form, this medium of storytelling. They’ve seen stuff on TV all the time. But your normal theater subscriber has gone to see ten shows a year and they’ve seen four different versions of Grease in the last 15 years, so you’re being stacked up against every other Danny they’ve ever seen or heard of. They get it, they get what theater’s like and what to expect. “It’s a blackout, they’re doing transitions. They’re moving set pieces.” The older crowd gets that. But then when you do it with younger kids, the thing we refer to as “the magic of live theater,” it really seems like magic to them. This is one of the first times they’ve seen this. It’s an awesome thing to have an audience completely suspend disbelief and be with you 100 percent. I’m working on Sleeping Beauty at the Marriott, and there’s a three-person dragon puppet in it. We were working with it today and it’s super cool looking. They’re not hiding the fact that it’s three guys from the play that have strapped on this contraption, but for a child, it’s going to be thrilling and terrifying. It’s super cool to be able to have that communication with the audience that is so ready and willing to have you communicate with them. They’re not cynical.

You’ve also worked with lots of kids through Barrel of Monkeys—what advice would you give a young person looking to pursue a career in theater some day?

I would say, “Do it.” It’s the greatest job you can ever have, and what’s awesome is that there are so many different aspects to theater. You can be an actor, but if you’re not a good actor and you’re good at drawing, you can be a costume designer. If you’re good with electricity, you can be a lighting designer. There are so many facets to it beyond being an actor, and it’s a fascinating business that allows you to do such a wild variety of things and have life experiences that I never would have guessed. I was able to be illustrated in a comic book, which I thought would never have been the case, but now I have a ten-page comic book with my face all over it. And that’s only from following your dreams and doing the stuff that this show talks about, which is going out there and being confident in yourself and doing it. By doing that, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and what you like to do. That’s the best. Just do it.

Hero runs through August 19 at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire (10 Marriott Dr, 847-634-0200). Read our review of Hero.

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