Anton Exclusive: An Interview With “An American In Paris” Lead Brandon Haagenson

Before the Argyle Theatre in Babylon opened its newest show, An American in Paris, we had a chance to chat exclusively with Brandon Haagenson, who plays the show’s lead actor Jerry Mulligan. Here’s what he had to tell us. 

Brandon Haagenson

Q. Tell us something that would be helpful to know before coming in to see this show.
A. An American in Paris is comprised of Gershwin songs, so be ready for an incredible cast and an awesomely talented orchestra to play some of the best music ever written. Even if you think you don’t know Gershwin, every other song you’ll go, “Oh, I know this one!”

Q. What is the best thing about this show?
A. Evan Pappas and Shannon Lewis have done a stunning job of staging this story. It unfolds like a movie, with a gorgeous set and lighting that truly feels like Paris. The only downside of being in this show is not being able to sit in the audience and watch it!

Helen Krushinski and Brandon Haagenson (Richard Termine)

Q. How do you prepare yourself for such an iconic role?
A. I honestly take a lot of inspiration from the original 1951 film. There’s something easy about the way that Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron move with each other, and it was fun to find that with Helen Krashinski as we built Lise and Jerry. Our love story is told a lot through dance, so to find these moments where we move through space together was integral to what we do on stage.

Q. Did this role teach you something new?
A. This show is very demanding physically and emotionally, so to always be finding the simplest and smoothest way to embody Jerry and tell the story is probably the greatest challenge. It’s easy to bounce off the walls when you’re singing and dancing to this music, so the goal is to relax and click into what my castmates are giving me. It’s fun to try and find that and make it new every night.

Jacob Ben-Shmuel, Brandon Haagenson and Max Kuenzer and ensemble (Richard Termine)

Q. What’s the best thing about this cast/crew?
A. We laugh constantly. There are so many fun personalities in this company, and some hijinks not fit for print. I think you’ll feel that when you watch the show.

Q. Why do you act/perform?
A. There’s a feeling when you’re performing in a show like this that’s very hard to describe. Especially in this role, when the story clicks and everyone is dancing and singing and living their best life, it feels like flying. The electricity on stage is so alive, but also so focused and dropped in. Being a part of that energy is a gift, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Q. How did you get involved in acting initially? Talk about the path that led you here.
A. My first acting experience was in junior high. I played a psychiatrist who turns into a werewolf when his patient bites him. Very deep stuff. But after making all my classmates laugh, I thought, “Huh, that felt pretty great.” And as I continued to sing and perform, I realized that was where my community and my chosen family was, in the theater. I went to college for musical theater, which led to moving to New York. And here in New York, I fell in love with the craft of acting, so I went to graduate school for Shakespeare in Washington, DC. My love for performing has taken me a lot of places, and that’s possibly the most rewarding thing, is to follow your instincts and see so much of the world, all while doing what you love.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring actors?
A. No actor can do what they do alone, so my advice is to support other artists. When you’re acting in a show or a film, there are so many other people alongside you: other performers, designers, crew members, choreographers, directors. And it’s so important to be in tune with those people and remember you’re all building the same thing and working toward a common goal. So, while you’re starting out, go support them. See shows, take classes, cheer your colleagues on, and go be part of that community.

The Argyle Theatre is located at 34 West Main St. in Babylon. An American in Paris began performances on Sept. 15, ahead of its opening night on Sept. 17 and will run through Oct. 23. Showtimes are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. with one added performance on Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 7:30 p.m.

Visit www.argyletheatre.com for tickets (ranging from $45 to $79) and more information. Group rate and school trips are available.

Click here for more information about the show. 

Christy Hinko
Christy Hinko is a managing editor at Anton Media Group. She is a New York Press Association (NYPA) and Press Club of Long Island (PCLI) award-winning writer and photographer.

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