“It’s all about fatherhood right now,” declares Joshua Henry. The actor received his third Tony nomination for playing Billy Bigelow in the current revival of “Carousel.” The concept of fatherhood has recently landed in his life, both onstage and off. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
Henry and his wife Cathryn welcomed their son Samson into the world while “Carousel” was still in previews. The experience ended up drastically affecting Henry’s performance of his character’s signature song ‘Soliloquy.’ “It’s like running a marathon,” admits the actor of the seven-and-a-half minute Rodgers and Hammerstein tune. “’Soliloquy’ is all about what your kid is going to think of you and do in the world.” That experience became all the more real once he was able to hold his son.
The lush score of “Carousel” is also a departure for Henry. He has previously made a name for himself in Kander and Ebb’s “The Scottsboro Boys” and spent 15 months touring with “Hamilton” as Aaron Burr. Though the versatile singer notes, “It was nice to get back to this sound.” In order to prepare his instrument for the task, Henry brought his first high school voice teacher up to New York to help him train.
There have been plenty of think pieces which wondered how Billy Bigelow would register for contemporary audiences. The carnival barker engages in plenty of problematic behavior over the course of the show, including hitting his wife Julie (played by Tony winner Jessie Mueller). So Henry had to find a way to “humanize” him. His way into the character was Billy’s “eventual determination and passion to do something great for his family.” An aspect this new father can connect with deeply.
Henry is the first black actor to portray Bigelow in a Broadway production of “Carousel,” and the first actor to ever receive a Tony nomination for the role. But between performing eight times a week, spending time with his family, and navigating Tony season, the actor doesn’t have much time to take in those feats. Though he does appreciate the moment he finds himself in. “I’m aware that me doing this role right now will open up other doors. And I think that’s one of the biggest things I’m grateful for.”
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