Bobby Cannavale discusses Broadway, Chris Rock and memorizing huge chunks of dialogue

"I don't think it's a secret that if we didn't have a star as big as Chris, this play might not be on Broadway."

The Motherf— With the Hat, has gotten a lot of press not only because of its name but because it’s also Chris Rock‘s Broadway debut.  Bobby Cannavale, who plays a man just out of prison in the show, recently talked with Speakeasy about the show and his well-known cast member.

Cannavale says having Rock as a member of the cast made all the difference for the show. “I don’t think it’s a secret that if we didn’t have a star as big as Chris, this play might not be on Broadway. Having said that, he doesn’t have any experience on the stage, outside of his stand-up. If we need a big guy like Chris Rock, thank God we got someone who works hard and really cares about the play. His enthusiasm has been evident from day one. That guy never leaves the theater. Instead of going home, he wants to be there and run lines.”

Having worked in film, television and theater throughout his career, Cannavale admits he has a preference.  “There’s nothing like working in theater. I started doing plays when I was 10, and one of the things I loved was precisely how ephemeral it was; when it’s gone, it’s gone. I’m very proud that I saw “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea“, starring a young John Turturro when I was 14 years old. If you missed it, you missed one of the great performances in my mind.”

Despite his love of theater, Cannavale says he has yet to find a shortcut when faced with memorizing his lines, especially several monologues he tackles in this play. “If I think about it too much, I feel like I’ll jinx myself. But what I do is read the play every day. I had the play for about four or five months before rehearsals and read it every day. I always wished I could be the guy who says, “You know, W.H. Auden once said…” I can’t remember people’s names, but for some reason I can remember dialogue. After the play closes, I’ll have forgotten my lines the next day.”


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