Star of the Week: ‘Next to Normal’ star Brian d’Arcy James has ‘Giant’ talent

Brian d'Arcy James.

Brian d’Arcy James.

When writing about a genuinely wonderful and awe-inspiring man who has thrived in the realms of film, television and theatre, where is the acceptable starting point? It really is difficult to say.

There is simply so much to be said about Brian d’Arcy James, who has topped my exceedingly lengthy, and constantly growing list of favorite actors for years now. He is brilliant in every sense of the word, whether he is stomping around as an infamously green ogre or making a rather brief appearance in HBO’s Game Change.

As one of the classiest and most gifted actors of our generation, he still continues to achieve greatness and impact audiences time and time again.

James made his Broadway debut in Blood Brothers, where he took part in the ensemble. His talent was quickly recognized, and he went on to perform in Carousel as various characters and then, eventually took on the leading role as Frederick Barrett in Titanic on Broadway.

After this, James took part in the Broadway productions of Sweet Smell of Success (which scored him a Tony nod), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The Apple Tree. He is also noted for his performance in The Wild Party alongside Idina Menzel, for which he received a Drama Desk Award nomination.

While belting out scores by the likes of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Marvin Hamlisch, David Yazbek and Maury Yeston, James has rightfully earned his glory on the Great White Way.

The most outstanding performances by James came from the productions of Next to Normal, Shrek: The Musical, and Giant.

James originated the character of Dan Goodman, a concerned and conflicted husband in Next to Normal during some of the earliest versions of the piece, as well as when the musical came to Second Stage Theatre. He reprised the role on Broadway later on, and is still my favorite actor in the role to date. His version of “I’ve Been” brings tears to my eyes every time I listen to it. There is something so raw yet passionate about his line deliveries, and he truly transformed himself in this role.

Speaking of transformations, James took his audiences into a land far, far away as the title role in Shrek: The Musical. His hilarious and layered turn as the misunderstood monster earned him another Tony nomination.

James’ portrayal of the rich cattleman Jordan “Bick” Benedict in the off-Broadway musical Giant earned him endless praise from critics and audiences alike. This was his most recent work on stage, and it was truly exciting to see him take on the role this season.

If you haven’t been able to trek out to New York and see James perform live, you probably caught him during season one (and a bit of season two) of NBC’s musical drama Smash. He played Frank Houston, a character that truly exemplified the notion of “I am tired of your crap.”

Although his wife Julia (Debra Messing) cheated on him and lied about it, James’ character was able to find out about her affair through the gift of song (some sheet music left on Julia’s bedside table). Frank proceeded to punch Will Chase’s character in the face, which was awesome, but a sing-off would have sufficed. In season two, he makes a spectacle of himself at a Bombshell party and storms out, leaving his marriage in shambles. Even though James’ screen time may have been short, it was, amazing while it lasted.

If you ask me, James should come back to Broadway. His film and television appearances have been terrific to see, however I have been hoping to see him perform in one particular role for an extremely long time now, and that’s Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. In fact, there is a gorgeous video of him singing “Bring Him Home” floating around online, which only further proves my point. He really needs to be in the 2014 revival (alongside Norm Lewis if I’m getting picky) because he would be superb, not to mention that it could earn him yet another Tony nomination!

Do you love Brian d’Arcy James as much as I do? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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