After playing the role of the weatherman on NBC’s Today for so many years, Al Roker has decided to stretch his wings and has soared to Broadway for the role of Old Joe, owner of the pie diner, in the critically acclaimed musical, Waitress, replacing Bill Nolte until Nov. 11.
“It’s kind of like what we do on the Today show, in that it’s an ensemble. It’s a family,” Al, 64, pointed out to Playbill. “And this is me trying something new for the first time, so you don’t know what to expect. I guess that’s what I’m most looking forward to: finding out what this is going to be like. Because right now, I don’t know.”
In speaking to Billboard, Al was asked if this has been a secret desire of his, to which he responded, “No, no, no. I suppose, maybe in your deepest fantasies if somebody were to wave a wand… in the past, there were only two different plays where I thought, ‘Oh, if I could do that.’ I remember my mother taking me to see Zero Mostel in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and The Producers. Those two roles — but I would have never, ever, ever attempted something like that. So when this came up it was like, ‘Well, what the heck?’ It’s a small role and it doesn’t make or break the show. Thank God.”
As to how this opportunity presented itself, he added, “[The Waitress team] reached out to my agent and said they thought I’d make a great Old Joe. After I got off the initial chagrin of somebody thinking I’d be perfect for a character named Old Joe, I was kind of flattered. My daughter, who went to LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts, is the one who really wanted me to take the role — ‘Dad, you can do this! It’d be great! You can talk in pitch, it’d be fine!’ Of course, she’s away at school now so she won’t be able to see her father get humiliated every night. But that’s okay.”
Needless to say, Al reaches out to a huge audience every morning as part of Today, but in this case — outside of the people gathered in Rockefeller Plaza — this is the first time he’s actually seeing his audience. How daunting is that?
“There’s this rush when you look out and you get a laugh from an audience,” he said in a separate Playbill conversation. “It’s just, wow. It’s crazy. We kind of get the best of both worlds on the Today show because we’ve got our Plaza audience. They’re two different animals, but both exciting in their own right. But I’ve only done it on stage on a one-time basis each time. This is going to be a different kind of experience. If you’re not nervous about stuff, you’re not excited about it. And then you’re taking it for granted. I still get nervous every morning when either Savannah [Guthrie] or Hoda [Kotb] says, ‘And now, let’s get our first check of the weather with Al Roker.’ Because I’m thinking, ‘I could blow this whole thing right here.’ But that’s what anybody who loves what they do feels.”
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