The Interview: Matt Harrington
Conducted by Michael Raver
Actor Matt Harrington (Matilda) has been busy making audiences laugh as part of the cast of The Play That Goes Wrong. The California native had been on the company’s radar for some time before landing in the production in its Off-Broadway run at New World Stages. Leading the show’s bombastic charge as director/producer/star/everyotherglamorousjobthereisinashow-er, Chris Bean, he is also a co-founder of the Wheelhouse Theater Company.
How did this role come to you? What was your audition experience like?
MH: I initially auditioned when they were casting Broadway replacements back in Spring of 2017, and auditioned a couple more times after that for the tour and for replacements here in New York. So all said, it took me about a year and half to land here. The auditions themselves were unlike any I’d experienced. The callbacks were essentially a Play That Goes Wrong bootcamp, which makes sense given the ensemble nature of this play and the extreme physical elements. Our callbacks took place onstage at the Lyceum, and they brought us up in various groups to do scene work, mixing and matching to try to find the right group fit. It felt old school to audition on the actual set.
What was your first impression of the play and the role? How has that evolved?
MH: The first time I saw the play I was in heaven. I hadn’t laughed that hard in the theater, possibly ever. I was immediately drawn to Chris Bean as a role. I knew that if I was going to do this play, he would be the part I’d want to play. Fortunately, the creative team felt the same way. They initially had me read for Robert as well, but the fit just wasn’t right. I’m a Chris Bean at heart. As the run of the show has gone on, it’s been fun to continue mining the character for more detail, more nuance. That’s the joy of a long run, you get to keep digging, keep playing with where the funny lives.
What is the biggest challenge about piece?
MH: Endurance, and dealing with tension. Chris Bean is a walking ball of tension, and playing that eight times a week can really take a toll. I joke with people that performing this show is like the polar opposite of taking a yoga class. So as the run has gone on, I’ve learned ways to deal with that tension, and to find physical and vocal ease while still conveying tension and living in the truth of the character. Lots of stretching, lots of breathing. It’s also important that I find ways to unwind and relax when I’m not onstage.
What is the most rewarding part?
MH: Without a doubt the most rewarding part of this job is the audience every night. That laughter is so infectious, and it’s medicine for the soul. As hard as this show can be to execute eight times a week, the payoff of getting to be in a room with that much joy and laughter makes it all worthwhile. We’re also fortunate enough to have a great group of people working on this. There’s a true sense of fun and play every night, both onstage and off.
What do you wish more actors knew about the industry?
MH: That careers aren’t linear. And that rejections aren’t personal. It’s a marathon and it’s vital that you find the joy in the journey, otherwise you’ll burnout fast.
What do you wish was different about the industry?
MH: I often wish we had more time to rehearse. Economic factors have forced producers to get a play up and running in the quickest amount of time possible. It’s not uncommon to go from first rehearsal to first preview in under three weeks. And it works, don’t get me wrong. But it always feels a bit rushed. But hey, compared to TV work it’s a huge amount of time. I’m always shocked when I’m on set at how everyone just dives in with zero rehearsal. If you’re lucky the director will let the actors read through the material once before rolling, but even that is rare.
The Play That Goes Wrong is currently in performance at New World Stages. To purchase tickets, visit
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For more information about The Wheelhouse Theater Company, visit: