Matt Reece: The New Musical Wonderboy

It was bound to happen sometime. Matt Reece has been on our stage so much, the odds were in our favor that he would eventually accidentally walk into a musical. And that musical is The Rocky Horror Show. Giving the narrator a life all his own, describing something that is black and pendulous, and even laying out a high note or two, Matt Reece is alive and well in Rocky Horror. We caught up with him recently and had a little chat.

WHT: This isn’t your first rodeo on the interview circuit, so we’ll skip the Matt Reece history and get right to the good stuff. You cool with this?
Matt: Yes.

WHT: People can always look at your interview from Richard III and learn all about the Reece biography anyway. So, first real question…how does performing such an in-your-face show in an intimate setting like The Warehouse affect your work?
Matt: The intimate setting is one thing I have always loved about The Warehouse. I think it causes an actor to really embrace truth on stage. The nearest audience member is within touching distance, so you have to be on your game at all times. Even the smallest details can be noticed more. As for in the “in your face” element, after doing Angels in America here back in 2014, and having my hand down Matt Merritt’s pants, his hands down mine, and being bent over a bench by Thomas Azar…let’s just say I don’t blush easy anymore. Hopefully though, there will be at least one blusher in the audience every night because by the end of Rocky, everything you see from that point on will seem tame.

WHT: How are you preparing yourself for the audience interaction that is guaranteed to come with this show?
Matt: I don’t think you can ever be prepared for it. It will change every night depending on the audience. Some audiences will know ALL the callbacks and some may not know any. It is really just a matter of being on your toes and being prepared at any given second for anything to happen. It is a little terrifying because I break easy. One day in rehearsal someone yelled something and I think it took me 5 minutes to recover because I found it so funny. What I love though, is that yes, we have a script we have to stick by, but every show the audience will be writing its own play with us by what shout outs they choose to say or not say. You can’t really prepare for it.

WHT: How many times have you caught yourself singing Time Warp in the shower since mid-August?
Matt: I have lost count. Surprisingly, the one I have found myself singing to the most is Toucha Toucha Touch Me which can be pretty awkward when you don’t realize you are doing it until you notice someone staring at you.

WHT: How did your research for the show affect your performance?
Matt: Well, the iconic narrator of the film is older than I am…as are many of the stage versions, so I wanted to approach the role from a different perspective. I spent a lot of time watching some of the late night horror movie hosts like Elvira, Dr. Shock, and others. Also Vincent Price and William Dozier. Dozier was the narrator for the 1960’s Batman TV Series with Adam West and I loved how everything was so dramatic for him. (In his best narrator’s voice) Will Batman escape?! What will happen next?! Tune in next week. Same bat time, same bat channel!

WHT: Moment in the show that has changed the most for you from the beginning of rehearsal until now?
Matt: The song called Once in a While in Act 2. It never made its way into the movie version, but has been done in some of the stage versions. A lot of times, the song is cut or altered in some way because it wasn’t in the movie. We decided to keep it to honor the original score and book. For a while, we really had no idea of what to do with it and it has gone through about 4 variations before we finally landed on what works for our production. I used to just walk off stage and now there may or may not be something akin to singing and/or dancing that I may or may not have to do.

WHT: Greenville’s shows usually run from three to four weeks with appx. 12 performances. What have you done differently this time in order to be physically ready to perform a musical that runs for six weeks and over 30 shows?
Matt: We decided to buy a house, have some renovations done, and move right in the middle of the run. You know…just to make it more interesting.

WHT: Excellent plan! Why don’t you adopt a child just to round it out a bit? What’s your favorite part about this rehearsal process or show’s progress?
Matt: Having done shows in Greenville for over a decade, generally the number of people I have worked with on a previous show outnumber the people I am working with for the first time. Since I normally don’t do musicals, there were only 4 people in Rocky that I have worked with before: Miranda, Aaron, Matt and Giulia. And although I knew several of the other cast members, I had never had a chance to work with them. Plus, there were several new faces for me. So seeing different approaches and getting to know them more on a professional and personal level was a blast. I especially have a soft spot for the students who are involved in the show. I adore Chris, Claire, Sims, James, and Alessandro (our AD) and have been having “story time” with them where I share some stories involving some of their professors who I work with regularly. Every time I tell a story, I get an email with “What did you tell them?!” Great to see such young talent.

WHT: I think those kids have a lot of fans around The Warehouse. What’s one thing you learned during this process or something you rediscovered?
Matt: You know, this process was really unique for me. I am not a musical guy. So watching the others in the show tackle the music rehearsals and choreography rehearsals was very eye opening. Janice or April would ask questions or give notes and I am just staring at all these people wondering what language they are speaking. So, it was really exciting to get that different perspective and to see all these elements come together. And I learned some new terms along the way…I now know that when a choreographer talks about doing a “contagion” that they are not talking about a disease that will turn us all into zombies.

WHT: Piece of advice for a virgin audience member coming to see The Rocky Horror Show? Or a piece of advice for someone who has seen it a number of times?
Matt: Oh man, if this your first time seeing The Rocky Horror Show…prepare to have a an experience that cannot ever be replicated. For hardcore fans…enjoy the ride.

WHT: This show is good ole rock and roll. What’s your favorite song in the show and why?
Matt: Time Warp is obviously a classic, but I find myself wishing I was onstage during Hot Patootie simply because it has such a great dance beat. The song I love listening to the most is I’m Going Home. It is one of the few ballads in the show and Brian Clowdus just nails it every night.

WHT: If Matt Reece suddenly couldn’t break away from his auction-addiction and refused to perform in the show this Saturday, who (and you can pick anyone in this world) would you want for the Narrator?
Matt: Wait…are you trying to recast me? I know for a fact that the rest of the cast will most assuredly answer, “No one could replace Matt Reece.” They all said that didn’t they? (Pause.) Didn’t they? (Another awkward pause.) If I had to choose, I would be fine with Sir Ian McKellen. Or Jason D. Johnson. What are your plans Saturday night?

WHT: Your next production is?
Matt: Well, I get about a week and a half off after this puppy closes and then I’ll be starting rehearsals for Christmas on the Rocks right here at The Warehouse. It opens December 4th.

WHT: Any question you haven’t been asked that you want to be asked? If so, what?
Matt: Fun fact: this is my first professional musical. The last musical I did was in college. I had a small role since I was not a singer. I basically was in a band of gypsies who stole things. After the first musical rehearsal, the music director handed me a tambourine and said, “Don’t worry about the singing. You just focus on playing the tambourine.” I have not done a musical since. I almost asked for a tambourine in my contract just in case.

See Matt Reece on our stage as the Narrator in The Rocky Horror Show playing through Halloween midnight!