For Daniel Radcliffe, musical comedy was murder -- and well worth it.
The 24-year-old actor, who stars in the Broadway premiere of The Cripple of Inishmaan (opening Sunday), says that the decision to take on the title role in Martin McDonagh's acclaimed play was an easy one -- and not just because he loved the writing, and wanted to work with the director, the Tony Award-winning British veteran Michael Grandage.
Radcliffe's last outing on the New York stage was a 2011 revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which required him to sing, dance and lead an ensemble for two and half hours, eight times a week, for eleven months.
"If you can do that, you can do anything," Radcliffe says, chatting before a recent rehearsal. "I've done really big-budget films that have taken 18 months, and I've done really small-budget films that had to get done in 23 days; and I feel that I can definitively say that musical theater is the hardest work an actor can do. After that, when someone asks if you can do a 14-week run in a play, you go, 'Yeah, fine - I could do that in my sleep!'"
Not that Radcliffe is downplaying the challenges posed by Inishmaan, which casts the young man who rocketed to fame in the Harry Potter film series as Billy Claven, a physically disabled orphan whose small town off the coast of Ireland is visited by a Hollywood film crew. Billy sees their arrival, to shoot a documentary, as his chance to escape the drudgery and isolation of his life.
"Obviously there is a physical aspect to the part of Billy, and you have to understand the mechanics of his body and get them right," Radcliffe says. "But the bigger challenge is the challenge you have with any part, which is to get inside the mindset of the character."
Radcliffe was especially keen to convey that this character "is not just his disability." After accepting the role, he "spoke with friends and sought out other people who live with a disability, and the thing that came up again and again is the gap between who you are and how other people perceive and treat you. It can be the source of so much loneliness and anger; and I think that it, rightly, infuriates actors in the disabled community when people like me do parts like this as if we're putting on a costume. It was important to make (Billy) as authentic as possible."
The production originated on the West End, where it received rave reviews; but Radcliffe insists, "The goal in doing this show again is not to repeat what we did inLondon, but to make it better."
Once he achieves that, Radcliffe would consider tackling a musical again -- "I'd love to," he says -- but probably not right away. "I'd have to put in some long hours of serious vocal training first."