Douglas Sills Makes Some Noise
Tony Award nominee Douglas Sills has been away from Broadway for quite a while, although fans remember his acclaimed performances in such shows as Little Shop of Horrors and The Scarlet Pimpernel. He has returned to the world of musical theater as the ruthless record producer Max in the world premiere of the Broadway-bound musical White Noise, which begins an eight-week run at Chicago’s The Royal George Theatre on April 1. TheaterMania recently spoke with Sills about the show.
THEATERMANIA: How is Chicago treating you?
DOUGLAS SILLS: So far, so good. I haven’t been able to see much. My days are like this: sleep, theatre, theatre, sleep.
TM: How would you describe White Noise?
DS: It’s a meditation on modern media. I would describe it as an unstable mix of commerce, art, and politics. It has to do with the morality of not doing wrong, but stepping up and saying something when something isn’t right. The time period of the piece is current. It’s exciting.
TM: You play Max, a record producer who grooms a pop group with white supremacist leanings into blockbuster stars. Can you tell us a little about your character, and some of the methods he uses?
DS: Max is a cross between Karl Rove and Simon Cowell. He knows the business and he will shift into anything he needs to be. Whether it’s bribing, seducing, emotionally abusing, forcefully domineering, calling on sexual favors, there is very little he wouldn’t do. Max feels like he is a pioneer, a groundbreaker.
TM: Did you do any research into the music industry in preparation for your role?
DS: I didn’t have a ton of time to prepare. I read Simon Cowell’s autobiography, as well as Brian Epstein’s book; he was the manager of The Beatles. Online research has been a big help. I had a great deal to learn once I started rehearsals. I have been speaking to the creators about their intentions and expectations. They have been a great resource to me. I’m not sure they knew fully who Max is, so we are creating this character together. I also watch a lot of television and have a sense of people like Quincy Jones and L.A. Reid.
TM: Does the show parallel or relate to the atmosphere in the industry today?
DS: Oh, yes. I have been speaking to the composers. There is no gap between reality and what we are doing here. I think it is exactly the same. We might exaggerate some things, but I think it parallels and connects.
TM: Other than the character, what appealed to you about the production?
DS: You have very modern music; it’s a current piece. I had heard a lot about Sergio Trujillo, who’s directing and choreographing it. But I didn’t know anybody in the cast, besides Luba Mason.
TM: What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?
DS: I hope they are disturbed. I hope they are thrown off-balance a bit. I want the audience to feel the same that they would after watching a disturbing documentary about something you care about.
TM: The show is being described as Broadway-bound. Do you think it will make it to New York?
DS: I sure hope so. I think that’s a lovely thing to fantasize about. I am eager to see how it goes here. I think it needs to have its day on the ground here. You need the input from the audience to see if they are going to be shocked, offended, or if they will just be rocking out to the music. It is very important to see how this audience reacts. I get the sense that the producers want there to be life for this musical after Chicago.