One-on-One With Broadway Star Robyn Hurder

Robyn Hurder Interview Standing Room Only, A Beautiful Noise
Photo by Matthew Murphy

Standing Room Only has been Boston’s connection to musical theater for over 40 years, so when a new show comes to town, we put it in the spotlight! We’re letting Robyn Hurder from A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical, take center stage.

SRO host Cory Mack interviewed her on all things Neil Diamond, Boston, and her New England roots. Robyn Hurder will also guest DJ alongside Cory this Saturday, July 30th. Make sure to tune in to SRO from 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. to hear her musical picks!

Robyn Hurder is best known for her work in Moulin Rouge! on Broadway after originating the role of Nini right here in Boston. She now plays Marcia Murphey in A Beautiful Noise playing at the Emerson Colonial Theater until August 7th, 2022.

A Beautiful Noise is a musical based on the life and music of Neil Diamond. It will open on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theater on December 4, 2022.

Robyn Hurder recently recovered from COVID-19 for the third time after an outbreak took over the production, shuttering it for almost a week. 

YOU GREW UP NOT TOO FAR FROM BOSTON, CORRECT? DID YOUR LOVE FOR MUSICAL THEATER ORIGINATE HERE IN NEW ENGLAND?

RH: I was born in Nashua, New Hampshire, on January 1st. And then we moved down to Florida for a few years. Then, when I was six, we moved up to Maine and my whole family has been there ever since! 

I was a little birdie that, no pun intended, took off when I was 18 to go to college. I went to the University of New Hampshire for a hot second, and then I got too itchy and I had to try it. I left halfway through my sophomore year, but New England is just such a huge part of me and I'm so proud and honored to call New England my home.

 

YOUR LOVE OF THEATER REALLY SHOWS IN A BEAUTIFUL NOISE. I SAW IT THE WEEK IT OPENED BUT I’M CURIOUS TO HEAR WHAT AUDIENCES CAN EXPECT FROM A BEAUTIFUL NOISE, FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T HAD A CHANCE TO SEE IT YET!

RH: It's so surprising. Let me tell you, there is not one moment in my life that I would ever say, “you know what show I feel like I'm going to be in? The Neil Diamond musical.” It's not really on Robyn's track record, but I'm so grateful. I can already feel it changing my life. It's making it brighter. 

You kind of get that validation from the audience. When I tell you that first preview performance in Boston… It was insane. Neil Diamond happened to be in the audience that night, which was just like, “is this real life?” It was just so surreal. But I think it's more than that. What we've created is really special. 

People see the marquee that says the Neil Diamond musical, A Beautiful Noise. Then they hear it's about his life, but I don't think people really knew what was going on in his life or how he became Neil Diamond. I think people aren't going to be ready to feel so many feelings. Of course it's a rock concert. Of course you're going to stand up and you're going to lose your mind screaming because there's this massive band on stage with stadium lights and it's loud and you can feel the vibrations in your body. But then we're going to take your heart out and we're going to rip it out of your chest and we're just going to eat it, you know what I mean? Hey, I'm not going to knock a jukebox musical, but I feel the way this show is constructed makes it different from what people might have seen on Broadway before, when it comes to a bio musical or a jukebox musical. We really go in and it hits some real deep chords.

 

BY THE LOOKS OF IT, NEIL DIAMOND WAS A CLOSE COLLABORATOR ON THIS SHOW! DID YOU FEEL ANY ADDED PRESSURE TO MAKE SURE YOU ALL GOT EVERYTHING RIGHT ON STAGE?

RH:  I'm glad I'm not Will Swenson! He does a beautiful job! I don't know how he sings that every single night and he's so consistent. I feel like he's embodying him rather than doing an impression of him because nobody wants an impression. We're not in Vegas — we're telling stories, and I think he really does it beautifully. I say that, because when he came into the rehearsal studio for the first time, I was nervous, I was starstruck, and I don't really get starstruck. Then I look over at Will, who's just kind of like warming up with the guitar and I wonder what he's feeling. 

But you can tell Neil's energy is so genuine and so warm and so pure. He's been nothing but supportive. It's really been so wonderful to truly have his blessing. You can feel it. He's just so honored and so grateful that his story is being told. I think we're all doing it right. He's told us that he is so proud and he's so happy with everything. His wife, Katie, is just like an actual dream come true. I mean, just so down to earth, so kind, so warm and generous. It's just been kind of a dream job to be working with this entire group. 

 

YOU MENTIONED HIS WIFE, KATIE, BUT YOU PLAY HIS SECOND WIFE, MARCIA MURPHEY, WHO HAS SUCH A FASCINATING AND AMAZING CHARACTER ARC IN THE SHOW. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT WHO SHE IS? HOW CHALLENGING IS IT TO RECREATE A REAL PERSON ON STAGE?

RH: It's a quick one. It's a quick arc. That's my challenge every night of being like, well, I got a few minutes to make this happen because the show just flies. When we get into that second act, it's like “whoa!” — but in a good way.

It's been interesting creating this. I've never created a real person on stage before. [My characters have] always been a fictional character, so to speak. So I was a little intimidated coming into this because also there's not a whole lot of information about Marcia Murphey as she's a very private person. So I’m going off the material I've been given from Anthony McCarten, (Bohemian Rhapsody, The Two Popes) our book writer, and I had to do a lot of work. 

Of course, I've put a lot of Robyn in there, but I'm just trying to honor the material and honor who I'm supposed to portray on stage. She's a very warm, very strong, determined, ambitious woman that immediately saw something in Neil. She was really the one that helped him peel away these layers to reveal what this real passion was inside him, that he didn't even realize he had. He has such a deep love, even after the marriage ended, they both have a deep love and respect for one another. In the end, she's really the one that kind of helped create this. 

When I do my number in Forever in Blue Jeans, that's when I start to realize — “uh-oh, we're in trouble now.” The money and the fame and the noise becomes too loud and relationships are going to be sacrificed because of it. 

It's a fun, fast journey, but it's been the most incredible challenge. I'm not going to lie. It's very stressful. I've never been a leading lady in a Broadway show before. I am trying my hardest and

it's just a lot of material in a short amount of time and I need to make it all connect. And I'm still working. I ask myself, where can I find more? How can I create more? How can I make this deeper? How can I connect more with the audience? I want to make it as best as I can, but also as real and relatable as I can.

 

MONDAY WAS THE 3RD ANNIVERSARY OF MOULIN ROUGE! ON BROADWAY. PRIOR TO THE SHOW OPENING ON BROADWAY, YOU HELPED OPEN IT RIGHT HERE IN BOSTON AT THE EMERSON COLONIAL THEATER. NOT ONLY THAT, BUT YOU ALSO OPENED THE NATIONAL TOUR OF SPAMALOT HERE AT THIS VERY SAME THEATER. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE AN EMERSON COLONIAL THREE-TIMER?

RH: I mean, it's crazy! It's so crazy how many parallels there are, especially between Moulin Rouge! and A Beautiful Noise. They’re playing in the same time frame, the same summer block. I'm even in the same dressing room as before. They didn't even know I'm in the same dressing room as I was when Moulin Rouge! was playing. What's even more special is that the room number is 207, which is Maine’s area code. It's my lucky room.

I just feel so special and so honored. It's just such a historic theater and it's a beautiful theater. Everybody who works there is so wonderful. I've just had nothing but amazing experiences coming out of this theater — it’s just awesome. I hope I get to do another one that opens at the Colonial, but I'm just so happy to be part of the three-timers club!

 

YOU’RE HOPPING ON AS A GUEST DJ THIS WEEKEND ON STANDING ROOM ONLY! I’M SO EXCITED TO HOST ALONGSIDE YOU. WHAT MUSIC DO YOU HAVE UP YOUR SLEEVE THIS WEEKEND?

RH: I feel like the theme is things that have changed my life — growing up, listening to musicals in my life, etc. 

There is one that I would love to play. It's just me, but it's something that I don't think anybody's really heard. In 2017 we did The New Yorkers at New York City Center’s Encores! And it's an old, obscure Cole Porter musical. We got to record the album with a 50-piece orchestra and the album is just so good. I could play my song because it's hilarious and it's me to-a-tee. It's literally my theme song. It's called “Please Don't Make Me Be Good.”

I’m also obsessed with Scarlet Pimpernel. I want to play “Storybook.” That is one of the songs that literally changed my life.

I also have these stories behind every song that I'm thinking about, too. 

 

BEFORE I WRAP UP, I HAVE A QUICK SPEED ROUND FOR YOU. ARE YOU READY?

RH: These always make me sweat, but I’m ready…. GO!

 

FAVORITE NEIL DIAMOND SONG?

RH: “Forever in Blue Jeans.”

 

FAVORITE SONG YOU SING IN THE SHOW?

RH: “Holly Holy.”

 

FAVORITE SCENE IN THE SHOW?

RH: Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. It opens the second act. I'm on the side and I'm screaming and dancing with them all. It is my favorite part of the show.

 

BROADWAY ROLE YOU WANT TO PLAY ONE DAY?

RH: Lola from the Damn Yankees! They just need to rewrite the whole musical, but then just cast me as Lola, and then I can quit. 

 

LAST ONE. IF YOU WERE NOT A BROADWAY SENSATION, WHAT WOULD YOU BE?

RH: I'd be a private chef.

 

ON THAT NOTE, ONE LAST THING. I LOVE ASKING FOLKS WHO I INTERVIEW FOR SOMETHING FUN TO TAKE AWAY FROM IT (OTHER THAN THE FACT THAT THEY NEED TO SEE A BEAUTIFUL NOISE BEFORE IT CLOSES ON AUGUST 7TH). I ALSO LOVE TO COOK SO GIVE US A NEIL DIAMOND THEMED RECIPE FROM YOUR PERSONAL RECIPE BOOK TO SHARE WITH OUR LISTENERS!

RH: Forever in Beef Stew! It’s my mom’s recipe I grew up on.

[Recipe sent after the interview]

Ingredients

  • ⅔ lbs stew beef
  • One bag cut carrots
  • Fresh peas (optional)
  • One bag small potatoes (cut in half)
  • 2 cups red wine (preferably from a box)
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 container Trader Joe’s Cream of Portobello Mushroom soup
  • 1 package Lipton’s Onion soup mix
  • ¼ flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder, paprika, and onion powder
  • Canola oil

Directions

In a bowl, mix four, garlic and onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Toss and coat those delicious beef chunks all over. Get a few tablespoons of canola oil hot in a Dutch oven and sear beef on all sides (I mean… just flip them over). You'll have to do this in 2 batches. Set those crispy brown beef angels aside in a bowl. Release those crispy brown bits on the bottom of the pot with a ton of red wine. Add beef broth, cream o’ mush, and onion soup mix. Add any leftover flour mixture. Bring to a boil, drop those beef angels back in, reduce to a low low simmer…then let them get real real drunk - for like 1.5 to 2 hours. Next, add potatoes and carrots. Cook for one more hour. Add fresh peas for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Boom. You’re welcome. Enjoy 💋

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