Billy Crystal back on Broadway as “Mr. Saturday Night”

When the movie “Mr Saturday Night” hit the big screen in 1992, it seemed to have it all: There was Billy Crystal as abrasive comedian Buddy Young, Jr., and an A-list cast as his long-suffering family. It was Crystal’s first chance to direct, and he played Buddy from young star to bust.

For Crystal, the film was a personal victory. But a blow, it was not.

Billy Crystal in the 1992 comedy-drama “Mr Saturday Night.”

Photos of Colombia

Correspondent Tracy Smith asked, “We talked about ‘Mr. Saturday Night,’ and I asked you if ‘Mr. Saturday Night’ was a mishap or a professional killer. And you said, ‘Oh, I thought he was a professional killer.'” ‘”

“I did, yes,” Crystal answered. “And this was, I thought, to me, my best work. And the fact that it didn’t do as well at the box office as we wanted was, like, oh, oh, this is your first time getting punched in the face, basically.”.

And what made it hurt even more, Crystal said, was that it came right after some big milestones in her career, like 1989’s “When Harry Met Sally” and 1991’s “City Slickers,” which was a whole new level of the box office. . success.

But even though Buddy Young Jr.’s story didn’t shine as brightly, Crystal never gave up: “So, you get up, you put it back together and you’re like, ‘Okay, what’s next?’

“So let me ask you, though, if it’s like getting punched in the face, why watch it again? What’s up with this guy?”

“Because I thought there was something more to say with him,” he replied. “There were more things to do with him. And what we learned from the movie that didn’t work as well as it could. We find that it works on the show.”

The show is “Mr Saturday Night,” the musical. It’s so much more than a reworking of the movie because, as any Broadway fan knows, sometimes you can say a lot more with a song.

Billy Crystal in the Broadway musical, “Mr Saturday Night.”Another difference is Crystal himself, who turned 74 last month. When he played Buddy in the movie, he was only 43 years old and needed hours of makeup to play a 73-year-old man. “It was a mess, I mean, just my skin, it was exhausting,” Crystal said. “Now, I just show up! They have to make me look younger now. I’m older now than I was in the movie originally!”

Bringing a movie to Broadway isn’t an entirely new idea: In 2001, Mel Brooks turned his 1967 movie “The Producers” into Broadway gold. A few years later, Crystal, who by then had her own Broadway show, the Tony Award-winning “700 Sundays,” got a call from her old friend Mel. “As I was finishing ‘700 Sundays,’ Mel Brooks called me up and said, ‘Billy, would you come across the street and do ‘The Producers’? Would you be in ‘The Producers’? Would you play Max Bialystock? is a question.'” I said, ‘Mel, I love you. And I’ve been waiting for this call all my life. But I don’t want to be the fifth person to play Max Bialystock.’ And he said, ‘You won’t; you will be 12’.

“And then, ‘But there are these people who asked me if you thought ‘Mr. Saturday Night’ could be a musical. So, I’m just writing it off.” And that was in 2005.”

And now, more than 800 Sundays later, here we are. At its heart, the show is about a man who has one last shot at greatness…and the fear of disappearing.

“It’s every comedian’s worst nightmare,” Crystal said, “waking up one day and not being funny, not being relevant, and not being needed or thought of.”

“Is that his worst nightmare?” asked Smith.

“Oh, I think everyone who works. They’re like, ‘Oh, will they ever forget me? How do you stay funny? How do you stay ahead of the curve? How do you stay with it, you know? How do you stay on the cutting edge?’ surf table?”‘

A song and dance number from “Mr Saturday Night”, with Billy Crystal and David Paymer.He has some help. In the film, David Paymer played Buddy’s long-suffering brother Stan, earning him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Now, Paymer is back for the Broadway run.

“We’re two slippers,” Crystal said. “You know, we are two old slippers. We have carried these guys in our soul for a long time.”

Smith asked, “If there was no David Paymer, do you think you could pull this off?”

“Not in the way I wanted.”

And what Crystal wants is to do the show well, and he has given himself the hardest job: he sings in no less than eight numbers.

Of course, we’ve heard her singing voice before. As the host of the Oscars, he would often start the show with a song:

“I was doing the medleys, and it was exciting to sing with a great orchestra and the great Marc Shaiman, the medleys that we put together. But this is different.”

Different, in fact: “Mr Saturday Night” opens April 27, and Billy Crystal will do seven shows a week, a tough schedule for even the youngest players.

He trained for this as an athlete, in rehearsals and on his home tennis court. He joked, “I know the Yankees are looking for a shortstop, I’m just saying.”

Smitha asked, “Are you ready for this, physically?”

“I think so. I’m in great shape. And yeah, you drag your butt home after a show, and then you wake up and the first thing you do is say, (CLEARS THROAT, SINGS SCALES) bah, bah, bah, bah, okay, I have my four – bah, bah, bah, bah. It’s okay, I’m here.”

“Is that what you do when you wake up in the morning?”

“Yeah, you want to make sure you’re not too, you know, hoarse or tired or something. Yeah. Listen, it’s the ultimate challenge. And right now, I feel really strong and ready to do it. There’s an electric feeling, already you know, when I sing that young duet, and I’m 28 years old? feel like I’m 28. If I can come back to visit seven times a week, it’ll be worth it.”

Billy Crystal plays a young Buddy Young, Jr.“Now, when you walk off stage, do you still feel 28?”No. I feel 97!” The river.

You’d never know: Billy Crystal is light on his feet, and his timing seems to be just right. He said: “So far, it’s working. It’s working and it’s exciting. Very good. It’s like, I almost laugh sometimes, because I feel like, I don’t know, I plant my feet, I got my body right, and I get there, my little 5’7″ plays these great notes. And it is a kind of joy. I smile thinking about it!”

And seeing him on stage in a role he loves, it’s hard not to smile with him.