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CMU grad Christian Borle shows lots of personality in 'Little Me'


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  • Christian Borle hasn't been himself lately. The Fox Chapel native has a starring role in New York City Center's "Encores!" production of "Little Me," which requires him to cycle through multiple personalities.

    Advertisements for the staged concert note Neil Simon's musical is "featuring a tour de force comedic performance by Christian Borle as all six men" in the life of would-be celebrity Belle Poitrine.

    Christian Borle on stage in 'Peter and the Starcatcher'

    Pittsburgh native Christian Borle is on stage Feb. 5-9 for New York City Center's Encores production of Neil Simon's "Little Me." Mr. Borle won a 2012 Tony Award as best featured actor in a play, seen here in "Peter and the Starcatcher." (2/5/2014)

    'Little Me'
    Starring: Rachel York and Christian Borle, at left.
    Where: New York City Center Mainstage, 131 West 55th St. (between 6th and 7th avenues).
    When: 7:30 p.m. tonight and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday.
    Tickets: $30-$130; nycitycenter.org or 1-212-581-1212.

    That's not quite accurate, at least as of a Jan. 24 table read.

    "Happily, they just added back the seventh character," said Mr. Borle, a 2012 Tony Award winner for "Peter and the Starcatcher." "Little Me's" run begins tonight and wraps Sunday.

    Honing so many personalities, he said, is a challenge that requires more dexterity than depth. "I'm just kind of going with my instinct. One of my characters is 88 years old. There aren't a lot a ways that it fits on me, so I think I've found THE way."

    The 1995 Carnegie Mellon University graduate lives in midtown Manhattan, not far from City Center. On a recent afternoon, he ducked home for lunch and a phone interview.

    "I'm pacing in my kitchen, which is, coincidentally, where I've spent the past two weeks doing pre-production and trying to get these seven parts under my belt.

    "I'm a pacer when I memorize lines, so this is my studio."

    Life of late has been "a whirlwind," he said. "That's just the nature of the beast. But it's fun and you have no time to overthink things. "As a kind of shallow and instinctual actor, it works out pretty perfect," he added, laughing.

    Self-deprecation aside, Mr. Borle might have won his Tony in a comedy role, but he displayed serious acting chops -- with fellow Pittsburgh/CMU actors Zachary Quinto and Billy Porter -- in a 2010-11 Signature Theater off-Broadway production of "Angels in America."

    This is Mr. Borle's second "Encores!" engagement, having done "On the Town" in 2008 with "Little Me" director John Rando and fellow "Town" sailor Tony Yazbeck.

    It's his first time working with co-star Rachel York, who tapped her way across the Pittsburgh stage last spring in the national tour of "Anything Goes."

    Mr. Borle spent large parts of the past two years in California starring in "Smash" and as Max Detweiler in "The Sound of Music Live," both for NBC.

    Michael Campayno, of Central Catholic High and Carnegie Mellon, had his first job away from a Pittsburgh stage as Rolf in "The Sound of Music Live."

    "I had never met Christian before, but he was like a big brother," Mr. Campayno said. "I remember standing off by myself on the set just to watch, and he would come over and make sure everything was OK."

    Having established a relationship with NBC, Mr. Borle said, "TV's been great and I've had so much fun with it. I do hope we can figure something out for the next year or so; that remains to be seen."

    At the same time, he added, "As any actor would tell you, I never want to abandon the stage. As someone who truly loves New York, I want to be able to be here forever, to bop in and out."

    There is certainly enough to keep him occupied on the East Coast. Beside the "Encores!" run, Mr. Borle recently was honorary co-host of American National Theatre's campaign event for its 2014 season. In early March, he'll play the "guttersnake" barber Pirelli -- his description -- in the New York Philharmonic's concert staging of Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd."

    "I can't believe this, not really ... this is my first time actually being in 'Sweeney Todd,' which has been my favorite show since seventh grade."

    It's a shiny cast, with Emma Thompson making her New York stage debut as Mrs. Lovett and operatic bass-baritone Bryn Terfel in the title role.

    In late March, Mr. Borle and a host of other Broadway performers, including Anika Noni Rose, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Steven Pasquale, will be featured in "Miscast 2014," a gala/performance event to honor Allison Janney and benefit MCC Theater.

    So, the guy has been busy. He's quick to point out, "busy, in a good way. It's been so fun. And you know, singing and dancing for a living isn't the worst thing in the world."

     


    Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.

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