A production of “The Bridges of Madison County” recently opened in Philadelphia, presented by the Philadelphia Theatre Company. I had only seen clips of the movie. And I have to admit based on that, I didn’t realize that the play was a musical — a Tony-Award winning musical at that. That was until they introduced the conductor, Amanda Morton, before the show began. The show features soaring ballads and a super-cool set.
It stars local favorite Sarah Gliko and this week’s Portrait — the handsome Gregg Goodbrod, whom one reviewer described as “the musical version of McDreamy from “Grey’s Anatomy.”
PGN: How do you pronounce your name?
GG: Goodbrod, the brod rhymes with road.
PGN: I hear you hail from PA.
GG: Yes, I’m originally from Williamsport, the home of Little League Baseball.
PGN: Were you an athletic kid?
GG: [Laughing] Not in the least. I was a band geek! I grew up mostly in Southern Virginia, but most of my extended family is still in PA.
PGN: What instrument did you play?
GG: Oh gosh. I played the flute, a baritone, then trumpet, and then I was a drum major.
PGN: When did you first show interest in theater?
GG: In my senior year of high school I took a theater class, mainly because I didn’t want to be in study hall. When my father found out I was interested, he clipped out an ad he saw for auditions in nearby Bristol, Tenn. I went and got the part, and started singing in front of people for the first time. At the time, my selected major was biology and I studied that for a few years before switching over to theater.
PGN: You got bit by the bug!
GG: Yes. It was also the first time I was aware of being around gay people. Not everybody was of course, but even those that weren’t gay were much more accepting than I was used to in a small town. It was the first time I felt like I could really be myself.
PGN: What did you do?
GG: Well, I stopped biology and went to study theater at Shenandoah University, and after that New York.
PGN: Was it scary being a kid from a small town moving to the Big Apple?
GG: Not really. My school had a summer program and it gave us a chance to work with a lot of actors from New York. I went to visit one of them and I found an agent, an apartment and a job waiting tables all in one weekend. I went home and said, Dad, I think I’m going to move to New York. And he said, “Yeah right, when?” Tomorrow.
PGN: And now you have a huge resume. You’ve traveled all over the world and been in hundreds of shows. What was a favorite role?
GG: I think “The Secret Garden” is one of my favorites. It really reminded me of why I was doing theater. That was in Lancaster. And now I’ve played Jean Valjean from “Les Misérables” five times, so that’s become a favorite too. It’s the journey of the character that I enjoy so much. [Laughing] And I did my first “Mama Mia” last summer and really enjoyed it.
PGN: It sounds like it’s a right of passage for actors.
GG: Kind of, and it was a right of passage for me in that I’m playing dad roles now!
PGN: You had some serious power ballads in “Bridges of Madison County.” What does it feel light to just let go and let your pipes ring?
GG: It’s such beautiful music. And personally, for someone who grew up not expressing himself because he was afraid to, to expose myself that way feels great. It feels like letting loose and being able to communicate my feelings through song. This musical is gorgeous. My character actually does the same thing, he starts out kind of closed off and gradually opens up.
PGN: When Rupert Everett first came out he said it was difficult to get cast as a straight man. You’ve played very masculine leads. Ever get any pushback?
GG: No. I hope we’re beyond that, or getting past that, maybe not as much in motion pictures, but on stage certainly. I mean these aren’t strictly gay or straight emotions we’re portraying. Love, fear, anger, joy, are not gay or straight emotions, they’re human emotions.
PGN: Have you had a chance to see much of Philly?
GG: I went exploring on my birthday and saw the Liberty Bell, but only through the glass because it was during the government shutdown. I went to the Terminal Market, which was fantastic. I had some sort of famous sandwich. I’ve had a cheesesteak and am looking forward to what you call a hoagie. It’s all about the food! I have to take my shirt off so I’m careful, but I look forward to those rare splurges. Standing in front of hundreds of people in your boxers is a great motivator to keep you from overindulging.
PGN: We have a bar here called Boxers and that’s the staff uniform.
GG: I know where I’ll be on Sunday night!
PGN: And while you’re out by Tavern on Camac, they have a piano bar there and would love you to treat them to a song or two.
GG: You know, I’ve worked at a piano bar for 20-something years in New York. It’s my in-between-gigs job. It’s like family there. They take in actors who they know will be going out on jobs and they let us go and come back. It’s a great place to work.
PGN: I hosted karaoke at a lesbian bar for 17 years.
GG: My sister is gay too, so I’m familiar with women’s bars. I always have fun.
PGN: Say what now?
GG: [Laughing] Yeah, we had four kids in the family — two boys, two girls, two gay, two straight.
PGN: Are you involved with anyone?
GG: Yes. My partner Barton Brooks and I have been together for over six years. We got engaged very early in our relationship and bought a house after only six months.
PGN: [Laughing] Are you sure you’re not the lesbian in the family?
GG: Could be! We’re registered as domestic partners and have a house upstate with nine chickens. Barton is planning the wedding and has some very specific ideas for it. Oh! We were featured in “People” magazine and on “The Today Show.” After his father had a stroke, his mother took care of him. When he died and she was feeling lost we took her to Europe to do something special for each of the 20 years she took care of him. There’s a website TheLittleGirlFromKamas.com where you can see the three of us on our adventures.
PGN: Speaking of adventures, what are some of your theatrical adventures?
GG: I got to be in the national company of “9 to 5.” That was pretty amazing. Traveling the country and getting to party with Dolly Parton.
PGN: I love me some Dolly!
GG: Yes, she’s hilarious! She and her friend Judy, who she’s known since high school, would embarrass me. [Using a country accent], “We thought you was just pretty to look at, but you can sing!” She’s about 10 times nicer than you’d think she’d be. She’s pretty much an angel. Having grown up in Southern Virginia and Northeast Tennessee close to where she’s from, she was always on TV. To actually meet her and have her smack me on the shoulder and say, “You were great tonight, Gregg!” I’d be just speechless. And she’d bring us things from Dollywood, fudge and other treats. I was just happy that she knew my name.
PGN: That’s always nice when people live up to your hopes of what they’d be.
GG: Yes. I’ve been lucky. I’ve met a few cool people. I met Cher. One of my friends Jai Rodriguez was in “Rent,” and on “[sic] Gay Eye for the Straight Guy” and he’d take me as his plus one to events. There was an opening for her movie “Stuck on You,” and we went. I was doing a show on Broadway and kept thinking, Oh my gosh, what am I going to say to Cher! All my friends said, Do your Cher impression! I said, No way! I’m not that tacky! By the way, I got Leslie Uggams drunk on Jello shooters. She was surprised people put alcohol in jello? Yes, Leslie, just try it! Anyway, she said, just tell Cher I said hi. We used to wait in the dressing room together for Bob Mackie! So I told Cher, and she got all excited and started saying, “Oh my God, Leslie! We used to do this and that together” and she kept going on telling me about their time together. I was swooning!
PGN: Leslie Uggams, another great one. What was her big song?
GG: I’m not sure which one you mean, but she was infamous for when she sang “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” live on TV on the Capitol lawn in D.C. The cue-card guy with the lyrics fell, and she just started making up lyrics without missing a beat! She used to sing that over the intercom when I was working with her on “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” And now it’s fun to see her as Blind Al in the “Deadpool” series. I’m a big superhero and sci-fi fan. Basically I’m a big nerd.
PGN: Okay random questions. First kiss?
GG: My first girl kiss was with a girl named Amber, we reconnected on Facebook and she just got engaged yesterday! My first boy kiss was with a guy named Bradley and we were doing a show together right after high school.
PGN: You have $20 left, what do you do with it?
GG: Since I’m in Philly, I’d get a
PGN: Best birthday?
GG: A few years ago Barton found an old Superman cake pan my mother had, so he made a vintage superman cake. And then we went to a meditation retreat at a Buddhist monastery. I find in this day and age when you turn on the news and it’s just … too much, Buddhism is very centering for me.
PGN: What super power would you want?
GG: [Laughing] I’ve thought about this extensively. At first I though telekinesis, so I could move things, but I think teleportation would be better. I’d love to be able to snap my fingers and go play with my chickens and be back in time for curtain. I could go to my favorite cafe in Paris and I’d be able to skip TSA lines!
PGN: I saw the show on Wednesday. Tell me a little about the cast.
GG: You saw it? Well, then you saw me in my boxers so you know why I have to work out! It’s a small cast and everyone is fantastic. Our leading lady Sarah Gliko is beyond wonderful, both in the show and in person. This is the third show I’ve done with the director Mark Martino. I was one of his Jean Valjean’s. He has a great way of communicating with the actors. It’s a beautiful show and the staging is incredible, but the music is what makes it. Maybe I’ll give a little sneak preview over at Tavern on Camac!
PGN: Now that would be a Philly treat!
Suzi’s Note: Gregg and some of the cast did indeed go over to Tavern and sing. I don’t know if show tunes were involved …
“The Bridges of Madison County,” produced by Philadelphia Theatre Company, runs through March 3 at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, Broad and Lombard streets. For information or tickets, call 215-985-0420 or visit philadelphiatheatrecompany.org.