Thursday, July 09, 2009

Austin Miller on 42nd Street

Courtesy photo: Austin Miller

Courtesy photo: Austin Miller

Austin Miller, the hometown boy who had all of Houston cheering for him on NBC's Grease: You're the One That I Want a few years back, returns to his TUTS roots to play Billy Lawlor in 42nd Street at Miller Outdoor Theatre this weekend. Courtesy photo: Austin Miller

Set during the depression (the other one), 42nd Street is full of recognizable tunes such as We're in the Money and Shuffle Off to Buffalo. This Prozac-in-tap-shoes extravaganza earned the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1980. With a classic boy-meets-girl-who-becomes-a-big-star plot, it's bound to cheer us up, or at least make us forget the rent is due. Miller took a break from a grueling rehearsal to visit with us:

29-95: I am guessing from your heavy breathing this is not a show for the faint of heartbeat. What's the pace like?

Austin Miller: It's breakneck; the whole things happens so fast, I can barely squeeze in a pee break and then I am bowing.

29-95: How do you relate to the character of Billy Lawlor?

AM: He's a chorus boy. He got pushed, made it, and now he's a juvenile star and quite proud of himself and his emergence into the spotlight. He uses his position to help out his social life. He's prideful and a bit lecherous. So I may have gone into a bar and said, "Hey I'm on TV, can I buy you a drink?"

29-95: Let's talk about TV. You should have won that Grease reality show over Mr. I-already-forgot-his-name.

AM: It's not about who won, but who's still working.

29-95: Amen, speaking of work, 42nd Street is veritable tapalooza. So what happens when you hit the boards? Got chops?

AM: I started tap lessons when I was seven, so yes, it's in my body. I did go back to class to sharpen my skills and clean things up when I knew I was going to do the show.

29-95:You are from Houston right?

AM: Technically Alvin. We have hay and horses there, barns instead of Broadway.

29-95: Is that how you ended up at TUTS?

AM: Yes, my parents graciously schlepped me to classes. TUTS is an amazing place and one of the few schools in the nation dedicated to musical theater training.

29-95:You played Link Larkin in Hairspray on the first national tour. Do you specialize in playing the cad about town kid?

AM: Let's just say I've been playing a 17-year old for a decade or more.

29-95: Aside from your mighty talents, why should we head out in Houston's blazing heat to see a show set during the 1930s depression when we already got one going on at home. With AC, I should add.

AM: Because it's F.R.E.E. And you can drink beer and wine during the show and have yourself a big time. The cast is phenomenal; Loretta Swit (Hot Lips on M*A*S*H) plays the role of prima donna Dorothy Brock. The sets and costumes are spectacular; I change clothes 14 times. This is a top-notch amazing production. It's a spectacle of all spectacles and worth a few mosquito bites.

July 9-14, 8:15 p.m., at Miller Outdoor Theater. Free. Call 713-558-8887 or visit

Reprinted from