With Broadway roles as a munchkin Boq in WICKED, candy obsessed Augustus Gloop in CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, or Quasimodo in THE HUNCKBACK OF NOTRE DAME at the Ogunquit Theatre, F. Michael Haynie is no stranger roles that come from a fantastic and fictional place. Now he steps into the (snow) shoes of one of the most beloved snowmen ever, Olaf in the national tour of Disney’s FROZEN coming to Broadway San Diego March 26th – April 12th.
Before Haynie and the rest of the cast bring some snow to San Diego, I had a chance to chat with him about all things Olaf, working with this amazing cast, and returning to San Diego.
First things first, what is it like bringing an animated character like Olaf, one who is beloved by all ages, to the theatre stage?
The original onstage Olaf is the remarkable Greg Hildreth who is a friend and idol of mine. He is such an amazing theatre actor and he created Olaf on stage with Michael Curry the puppet designer, and Lorenzo Pisoni who is the best puppet coach. It’s so much of a family of people who helped work to create different versions of this guy.
On stage is this hilarious responsibility -a lot of times I walk on to entrance applause. But not for me, for the small puppet man standing in front of me. It’s my first time puppeteering and playing this iconic character and most people don’t know what to do when they look up and see me. It’s a very particular style, so it’s my goal to make the audience struggle with which of us is Olaf and which of us to look at.
While Olaf may be all fun and games, the rig that Hyanie has to wear to bring Olaf to life is no joke. He has a harness around his waist, a back brace, boots with steel rods and small bungees that connect to his shoes, and that’s just to get the puppet to move!
I love this puppet so much; I love operating it every day. I really want to stress that this is the hardest physical job I’ve ever had in my life. With my right hand for him to talk, blink, eyebrows, and my left hand are both of his arms, and my feet are his legs, and it’s this daunting physical thing. I’ve had such amazing people help me learn how to synthesize the things I’ve done as an actor into this really amazing puppet. Truly the most expensive toy I’ve played with in my life.
Haynie has had a chance to discuss playing Olaf with the film Olaf, Josh Gad who most recently saw the show at an LA performance.
We had such different experiences we had in creating Olaf – there are certain nods I do to his vocal style because there is no one in the world who talks or sings like Josh Gad. He is a comedic beast. That is the gift I think I was given, was to really lean in and no one asked me to be Josh Gad or Greg Hildreth. They’ve done nothing but ask me to be me which is a gift.
Working every day on the show has not lessened Haynie’s excitement for the magic or the talented cast that brings this show to the stage.
This show is a big beautiful Broadway production. When you see Wesleton coming down, played by Jeremy Morris, he’s just the funniest, most amazing and generous comedian. When Hans walks on stage and some people know what’s going to happen for him and some people don’t, and Austin Colby is just this amazing Han.
Then to have Mason Reeves as Kristof walk in with this unbelievable reindeer Sven. Not a cartoon reindeer but this beautiful and realistic puppet that is alternated by Collin Baja and Evan Strand, and both are such unique actors and bring Sven to life in such amazing ways.
Our amazing leading women, Caroline Innerbichler and Caroline Bowman, to have them on stage with this ensemble that is oozing with talent, it’s a big beautiful Broadway show. It can be a little intimidating to be a part of that but also people are going to use this show as their first piece of theatre and that’s a really amazing and terrifying thing to be for someone.
Besides the sunny weather (let’s face it, the cold does bother us) Haynie is happy to return to San Diego who was last seen in THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL at The Old Globe.
San Diego is the one place I’ve been on tour and I can’t tell you how excited I am to come back. Oh man, I really loved San Diego. I can’t wait to rent a bike and ride around San Diego and explore.
While there is no official word on that hitting Broadway, Haynie has nothing but amazing things to say about the experience.
The creators are still really, really passionate about it and Huey (Lewis) was literally one of the best bosses I’ve ever had in my life. He was nothing but kind, he’s an amazing human being, and he was not a celebrity at work he was a really kind and generous artist.
Haynie says that part of the joy is bringing this magical show to people in their hometowns.
While the movie is very exciting and the genesis of this story, our production is a big beautiful piece of Broadway theater with costumes and magic and stage effects and beautiful sets and props and orchestra. It is stunning.
Follow his adventures on the road go to his Instagram @fmichaelhaynie
For more the last review of a Broadway SD show click here