Podcast Episode 142 – Jerry Zaks


When Jerry walked into my office to record his podcast at 9 AM last Tuesday, the smile on his face was so bright, you’d think he was a rookie director who had his first big hit.

In fact, Jerry has had fistfuls of hits over the years . . . including three on the boards right now:  Hello, Dolly!, Meteor Shower, and A Bronx Tale.  That’s right, three!  And two of them are in the million dollar club, and one in the multi-million dollar club!

But that smile he came dressed with wasn’t just about the $3mm grosses that Dolly was bringing in . . . (although that had to have something to do with it).  No, no . . . that was the smile from a man who just loves, loves, LOVES what he does for a living.

And so began one of my favorite podcasts to date.

My first Jerry Zaks experience was the 90s revival of Guys and Dolls, which shot Nathan Lane and Faith Prince into the stratosphere.  And let me tell you, I still remember some of the bits from that show, and they still make me laugh twenty-odd years later.

And he’s directed oodles since (and doctored some more – which we talk about).  He’s the go-to guy if you’ve got a musical that’s supposed to make people laugh. And we talked about what it takes to make people slap their knees, as well as . . .

  • How he agreed to direct a show even though he didn’t know what directing really was.
  • The best advice he ever got, which made him change his attitude overnight.
  • Why his rehearsal rooms are CLOSED to everyone but the actors.
  • How (and why) Guys and Dolls wasn’t working and what he and his choreographer did to fix it.
  • What a show has to do within its first ten minutes, or it’s sunk.

Here’s a little secret about Jerry that isn’t such a secret.  He loves a cigar.  And when he’s working on a show, you’ll see him outside the theater a lot, because that’s the only place he can smoke.

So the next time Jerry’s name is on a marquis, walk by the theater during the tech period . . . I bet you see him at some point.  And I bet he’ll be smokin’ a cigar . . . and smiling like a kid in a . . . well . . . a Broadway theater.

Click above to listen to my podcast with Jerry!

Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

  • Ellen Orchid says:

    I just listened to this. It is so inspiring and smart – smart theatrically, smart psychologically. Jerry Zaks’ wealth of experience and wisdom is incredible and so is yours, Ken, for creating this great podcast and making it available. When he talks about how to treat the actors to spare them any embarrassment and quotes the Talmud, when he talks about sensing the audience’s attention or waning thereof…Great skills. Thank you so much for this. It bears listening to many times. I hope to have the good fortune to act for Jerry Zaks one day.

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