Peter Michael Marino is a writer/performer who has enjoyed success with many of his one man shows as well as appearing in hit shows like Stomp Off-Broadway.
However. it was the musical version of Desperately Seeking Susan that he conceived and for which he wrote the book that saw his name in all the papers around the world.
Sadly, for the wrong reasons.
You see, Susan was a major flop in the West End closing after four weeks and at a loss of £4 million. Now in a unique and exciting move, Marino has written and is starring in a new one-man show called Desperately Seeking the Exit (the headline for the review of his musical in one of the national papers) that talks about the whole ordeal and also his life as an American trying to fit in to a very British culture.
We caught up with the man himself to talk about Susan, Exit...and more jukebox musicals...
Hey Pete, how are you?
Great! Summer has hit NYC early and winter never came.
For the people who are not familiar with your work, can you let us know the kind of stuff you have done before? You have quite a varied CV.
Well, I was the funny guy in STOMP for five years and toured the world, and I do voice-overs for TV and radio commercials to support my theatre habit. I also teach classes in creating solo show material, as well as comedy and improv classes. Actually, I will be at the Actors Centre this July teaching my Instant Improv classes again. I really enjoy teaching on the other side of the pond.
Your new one man-show Desperately Seeking the Exit revolves around your experience of writing a major West End flop musical Desperately Seeking Susan. Can you tell us what motivated you to write this new one-man show?
Truthfully, the hundreds of students I’ve had the great fortune to work with over the years inspired me. I’m a huge fan of solo shows and I find them to be the most organic way to share personal stories in a theatrical way. A common fear that solo performers have is that their stories aren’t interesting to anyone else but themselves. The only person who’s lived that story is the person who can best tell it – and we all love stories. I’ve told many stories about the making and unmaking of DSS through the years and everyone always told me to do a show about it, so, after five years, the timing feels right. I can now understand how that whole crazy experience has changed me as a writer, performer and human being. Trust me, I didn’t think that day would ever come!
The piece is quite a brave piece as it’s not often we get to hear a writer talk about a show that did not run long so openly, did you have any worries or concerns about what people involved in the musical might think?
I care deeply about everyone involved with the musical. They all shared their talent, trust, hearts, and wallets to make it happen. We became a real family over the course of developing, previewing and running the show. Most have remained “family” after it closed. This is not a sour grapes show… that would not be fun or funny. I don’t point fingers or do character assassinations. I simply tell the story from my own point of view, based on the daily blog I kept about the whole experience from day one. In the end, I’m still a writer and a performer, so sharing this personal story is part of my DNA. It’s a little lesson on how a big show gets made and unmade, but also the story of a novice writer navigating the highs and lows of a high-profile, theatrical venture in a foreign country.
Personally speaking I rather enjoyed Desperately Seeking Susan, what are your thoughts on the show now it’s closed?
You clearly have exquisite taste. I still get emails and tweets from people all over the world who ask when the show is coming back. I’m quite sure it won’t be in London or New York, but I do hope it gets licensed someday. The UK production had some wonderfully fun and exciting moments, but there weren’t enough of them. It didn’t have a tremendous sense of urgency or wit. After seeing the Tokyo production (in Japanese), I realized that if done right, DSS had a ton of potential to really engage an audience. I would make some sweeping changes if it ever comes back. We fixed and fussed so much during previews that the cast and design team didn't get a fair chance to make it their own. This is where I wish we had an out-of-town tryout; but sometimes, the cards don't line up that way. Theatre can be a fickle beast! But that’s why we keep doing it.