Growing up in Fairburn, just south of Atlanta, Stacey Todd Holt would shudder when his mother would take out his tap shoes at family parties and ask him to dance. Now, however, Holt spends his days wowing audiences around the globe singing and dancing in the age-old art form of musical theatre. He’ll soon be in the spot light at Atlanta’s Fabulous Fox Theater starring as Leo Bloom in the smash Broadway musical hit The Producers, a show he knows well and holds near to his heart.
Holt started his training at Doris Roberts’ Dance School in Fairburn studying tap. Ms. Roberts, a member of the original company of the famed Rockettes in New York City, opened the door to his love affair with musical theatre. After landing the role of Christopher Robin in Southside Theatre Guild’s production of The House at Pooh Corner, he went on to attend Woodward Academy and work with a teacher named Linda Wise. “She changed my life and I knew I wanted to make this my career.”
From there Holt went to Webster Conservatory in St. Louis, which led to a student showcase in New York City, and as the saying goes, the rest was history.
“New York was a terrifying and exciting experience. My first job was a European tour of a revival of 42nd Street.” Clearly those early tap lessons paid off for Holt who returned to the states and booked another tap heavy musical, the national tour of Crazy for You (which he says is his favorite musical). A Broadway stint in the show soon followed, and close behind were productions of Big, Contact, The Producers, Cry-Baby and Elf (in both 2010 and recently again in 2012.) Of all the shows he has done though, The Producers holds a special place in his heart.
“During the run of The Producers, I lost my dad, met my partner, and bought my first house.” Holt says after all of that he needed a “fairy tale ending” to his relationship with the Mel Brooks stage show.
“After The Producers closed in NYC there were a lot of offers from smaller companies doing productions. It wasn’t until two years ago during Elf that Michael McCormack (playing Max Bialystock in The Producers) and I connected. We were Nathan (Lane) and Matthew (Broderick)’s stand-ins for the movie.” That was when Holt started studying how the comic duo worked with the material.
“Some things are out of your control. You try to come up with a bit or a scream, and if people laugh, great! The more under the microscope you are, you aren’t funny. You can’t feel like you are being watched or judged, so just go on stage and have fun. Make them forget that someone else has played the role.”
The Producers started life as a 1968 film written and directed by Mel Brooks, and famously starred Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. The film was Brooks’ directorial debut, and won him an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. The musical version burst onto the Broadway stage in 2001 and won a record-setting 12 Tony Awards. Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, Max and Leo were played on Broadway by Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick respectively. Mel Brooks adapted his screenplay for the stage and also contributed lyrics.
When asked if some may find Mel Brooks material too stereotypical, Holt says “Whether you are gay or Jewish or a Mel Brooks fan, you have to understand that it all comes from his crazy, brilliant, demented mind. He goes for the jugular. Why not have dancing Nazis? Why not have flaming queens holding out their ‘S’s awkwardly long? People think ‘Oh my God, did he go that far? Oh, he did!’ and it’s brilliant!”
“There will always be people that are afraid to let themselves go to that place and find too much truth and reality in what they see. They are missing the point. Look at what is current – yes it’s stereotypical, but it is reality. Look at Modern Family and Family Guy. That all started with Mel Brooks.”
At its core though, The Producers is a story about two unlikely friends. “It’s about two guys changing each other. One guy is pulling a littler hermit out of himself, teaching him to open himself to life. The song ‘Till Him’ at the end of the show is really what it’s all about. Sticking it out through thick and thin.” That seems a perfect fit for two performers who grew so close working together in New York and who have played Leo and Max before in North Carolina.
Holt is looking forward to performing at the Fox, which he says will let relatives and friends, who have never seen him perform, watch him do what he loves. It wasn’t always easy for a young boy who loved to tap in musicals to grow up in Georgia though.
“There is something about a musical; you’re never really in a sad mood after seeing a musical. Something about the aspect of escape.” That sense of escape may be what has drawn the gay community to musicals for generations. “Many times in gay life, even if you are comfortable with yourself you still may be trying to escape some aspect of life. It’s like a fantasy world on crack. You get to be a totally different person. And of course there are all the sequins! You could not ask for more that is right up a gay man’s lifestyle.”
The Producers is presented at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta by Theater of the Stars. Performances run January 25 through January 31, 2013. For show times, tickets and theater information visit www.foxtheatre.org.