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  • Michael Urie and David Patrick Kelly in Once Upon a Time Mattress on Broadway. (Photo: Encores!)

    Michael Urie recently made a segue from a show-stopping performance as Sir Robin in Broadway’s Spamalot to Prince Dauntless the Drab in the Encores! production of Once Upon a Mattress.

    “When I was a kid, if you would have told me that when I was in my 40s, I would not only be doing musicals, but many of them at the same time, I would not have believed it,” he says in an interview.

    Rehearsing Mattress by day while performing in Spamalot at night was a feat for the multi-talented actor.

    Known for his roles in television’s “Ugly Betty” and “Shrinking,” as well as his unforgettable turn in Broadway’s Torch Song, Urie also currently boasts a cameo as choreographer-director Jerome Robins in the Academy Award-nominated “Maestro.”

    In the same vein as the energetic characters he plays, he doesn’t seem to take a breath.

    “I’m the kid who could barely get through a dance class and didn’t get a solo in his college cabaret, so to be working on two Broadway musicals was just wild,” he said.

    Michel Urie is in the spotlight for one of his numbers in Once Upon a Mattress.

    Urie spoke with The New York Independent about his whirlwind of a year, working on the Sutton Foster– led Mattress, and what’s in store for the second season of “Shrinking.”

    The New York Independent: You’re making comedic musical theater look easy because you seem to be having the time of your life on stage. What is it about theater that speaks to you in such an integral way that you’re doing so much of it?

    Michael Urie: The theater community. It’s not just the people on stage and backstage, but the people who come see theater and elect to leave their lives at the door and check out. We’re such a society of multi-taskers now; going to the theater is still one of the things that requires your entire self and all of your attention. I appreciate that an audience of people are coming to just be with us for a little while. I like that this is something we can completely focus on, and it’s a community of people willing to put their devices down.

    NYI: What have the past few months been like as you juggled rehearsing for Mattress while performing in Spamalot?

    MU: It was totally insane and crazy. I was getting to Mattress rehearsal at 9:30 am, rehearsing until 6pm, and then I usually had a 7pm performance of Spamalot. I would literally leave City Center and go immediately to the St. James and get into my wig. It was a lot! I’ve done double duty before. I was rehearsing Hamlet and doing Torch Song at night. I remember the director being like, “He’s not going to play Hamlet like he’s from Brooklyn, right?” (Laughs)

    From L to R: Harriet Harris, Michael Urie, Chyenne Jackson and Nikki Renée Daniels.

    This is very different. It was a very emotional end to Spamalot and I didn’t want to leave because I love it so much. I took a break from it to do Mattress, but then I have to go shoot “Shrinking.” I really want to come back to Spamalot. I was having a complete ball. But it was full on double duty for two weeks where I was in the last emotional weeks of one job, and the entire rehearsal process of another, and they’re both musicals! I don’t have singing or dancing training! That stuff takes me longer.

    NYI: Encores! is known for producing exceptional productions very quickly. What did you most enjoy about working on Mattress?

    MU: It’s like musical comedy boot camp, and I love the immediacy of it. When you do a comedy, you learn more from one performance in front of an audience than you do in four weeks in a rehearsal room. The great thing about doing a two-week gig like this with a two-week rehearsal process is that you don’t have to wait very long for an audience. The audience comes and tells you about the show quickly. It’s a very giving audience. They understand what Encores! is all about. It’s a high-stakes show, but it’s glorious because the orchestra is phenomenal, and you get to hear these huge, lush orchestrations that were written for big orchestras. The score is played by some of the best musicians in New York. And they got such a great cast.

    Micheal Urie and Sutton Foster take center stage.

    NYI: It seems like a rite of passage for a performer to have encountered Mattress at some point in their lives. How did you first experience the musical?

    MU: The middle school that I went to did it after I left, so I wasn’t in it, but I saw it. I just loved it. I remember when Sarah Jessica Parker did it at the Tonys. I did not see the show. I didn’t really have a recollection of Dauntless. But when Encores! came to me about Dauntless, I said, ‘Of course!’ I will do anything with Sutton Foster, Learde Bessonet, Mary Mitchell Campbell, and Lorin Latarro.

    That’s the dream team. I didn’t realize what a great part it was. When the Amy Sherman-Palladino version came in (she did the concert adaptation for Encores!), it was delightful. Since I was a kid, I’ve been tracking all of the roles I could possibly play. I had Bud Frump, Hysterium, Sir Robin, and Bob Crewe on my list. I ended up weaseling my way into all of those [iconic] roles. Dauntless wasn’t on my radar, but he would have been. Probably more than any of them, this is the best fit for me in terms of what I like doing as an actor in playing with scenes.

    NYI: Your take on Spamalot’s show-stopping number, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” is one of the most memorable numbers of the season. What will you take away from giving that number new life?

    MU: That’s one of the coolest numbers in musical theater. With musical comedies, the songs aren’t necessarily funny, but in Spamalot, the songs are hilarious and it’s exciting to hear audiences laugh over the music. [Director] Josh Rhodes created such an incredible piece. I’m so proud of it in part because Robin wants to dress up, sing, and dance, and he’s always trying to do it. When he is given the chance to do it, he knows something that no one else knows, which is in medieval Britain where everyone is Christian and there are no Jews, they’re not going to be able to put on a Broadway musical without a Jew. Robin gets to sing that! The number is like a dream. Josh’s concept is this spotlight that calls Robin and lures him in and takes him over, and we put on this big, multi-faceted number, a celebration of Jewish theater. In the end it goes away. They take away the yarmulke, the scenery, the spotlight disappears…They have to go find the Jews so they can do it. The number really became about the love of theater and the origins of musical theater.

    NYI: What can you tell us about the second season of the Apple TV+ hit ‘Shrinking?

    MU: Questions will be answered. You will be satisfied. They’re pretty tight with the scripts. I hope that it’s all juicy stuff, though. We did one table read and it was fantastic and very funny. Everything about the first season that was hilarious, gut-wrenching, and also shocking, is in episode one. I remember thinking when I first read a script for season one, ‘Holy sh*t, how did they do this? How did they make something that’s funny on this page, then I’m crying on this page, I’m shocked on this page…’ So far, that’s happening with season two as well.

    I am so grateful for the last six months when I’ve gotten to do three different shows. I did The Da Vinci Code [at Ogunquit Playhouse], into Spamalot, into Mattress, without breaks. They’ve been three completely different, wonderful experiences. I’ve made new friends for life and new colleagues who have made me a better person. After Mattress is over and I’m in L.A. shooting ‘Shrinking;’ my life is going to be very strange.To work occasionally as a supporting character on TV as opposed to working my butt off singing and dancing… I’m the luckiest guy in the world that I have all of this going on at the same time.

    Encores! Once Upon a Mattress:

    Music by Mary Rodgers Lyrics by Marshall Barer

    Book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller & Marshall Barer

    Concert Adaptation by Amy Sherman-Palladino

    Scenic Designer David Zinn

    Costume Designer Andrea Hood

    Lighting Designer Amith Chandrashaker

    Sound Designer Kai Harada

    Production Stage Manager Cody Renard Richard

    Casting by The Telsey Office

    Featuring The Encores! Orchestra Choreographer Lorin Latarro

    Music Director Mary-Mitchell Campbell

    Directed by Lear deBessonet

    For more information about Encores! or purchasing tickets for Once Upon a Mattress, visit nycitycenter.org.