By Ben Togut
Jonathan Bennett has always had his sights set on Broadway. A self-professed “musical theatre freak” who spent much of his adolescent life performing, Bennett moved to New York at the beginning of his career with the hopes of getting on Broadway. However, fate had other plans. He soon booked a role on All My Children, and later landed the part of heartthrob Aaron Samuels in Mean Girls, leading to a successful career in TV shows and movies. After putting his theatrical aspirations on pause, Bennett finally fulfilled his dream of being on Broadway when he joined the cast of Spamalot as Sir Robin on January 23rd.
“You can take the kid out of the theater, but you can’t take the theater out of the kid,” Bennett told Broadway’s Best Shows. “And my whole life has been longing for that itch that has never been scratched. And that is Broadway.”
Bennett has been wholeheartedly welcomed into the cast of Spamalot, especially by Michael Urie, who played Sir Robin in the revival before Bennett. Ever since Bennett closed the deal to take over as Sir Robin, Urie has gone above and beyond to make sure Bennett feels confident for his Broadway debut, including taking him out to dinner and personally introducing Bennett to everyone backstage.
“[Michael] has been in constant communication with me from the day that this happened to make sure that I feel comfortable because he cares so much about the show,” Bennett said “And he cares so much about the character. I don’t know of that ever happening with someone coming into a cast. And that’s because Michael Urie is a superhuman with the biggest heart.”
For Bennett, one of the challenges of being Sir Robin is playing a character who isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed yet is completely unaware of their shortcomings. Taking over the role from Urie, Bennett plans to exaggerate Sir Robin’s naïveté and to channel his feelings about being on Broadway for the first time to capture Robin’s excitability.
“I think my Robin is a little more eager for acceptance,” Bennett said. “He gets excited a little bit more than Michael’s Robin. And I think I’m going to just pull from my excitement of making my Broadway debut and my dream coming true.”
More than his time as an actor, Bennet believes his experience hosting shows like Cake Wars and Times Square Ball has prepared him most for the Broadway stage, allowing him to stay present, and think quickly and creatively on his feet. As someone who is often in front of the camera, Bennett is eager to go all out with Spamalot’s irreverent humor and make a fool of himself in front of a live audience.
“I am a gay, only-child actor,” Bennett exclaimed. “There is nothing I love more than attention, and people clapping and laughing at my stupid jokes. I can’t wait to get on stage and play and test out material and jokes and different ways to deliver lines and different improvs.”
Speaking with Bennett ahead of his Broadway debut, his enthusiasm for Spamalot’s spirit of play and the revival’s dynamic cast is palpable.
“I’ve never seen a cast that has such an unexplainable spark,” Bennett said. “It’s different every single night because you never know what the heck is going to come out of Alex Brightman’s mouth. You never know what the heck Leslie Kritzer is going to sing. And so every night the whole cast is electrified as they stand there and wait to hear who’s going to try to crack the other one up. And when you have that happening on stage, the audience just goes nuts for it. I’ve never seen lightning in a bottle on Broadway the way that you see it when you see Spamalot.”
Bennett is making his Broadway debut soon after the movie musical version of Mean Girls comes to theaters, which he finds mysterious but in no way a coincidence. As the film that launched his career reaches new audiences, Bennett will take the next step in his career, finally realizing his Broadway dreams. He hopes Spamalot is just the beginning.“My goal, with doing Spamalot, and making my Broadway debut, is to continue to aggressively work in the Broadway and theatre space, “ Bennett said. “Because, as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz once said, ‘There’s no place like home.’”