THE LEADING MEN: Robert Cuccioli and Marcus Lovett Test a New Musical, SCKBSTD

By Tom Nondorf -     February 1, 2011

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Robert Cuccioli and Marcus Lovett are among Broadway stars in the world premiere of Bruce Hornsby's musical SCKBSTD in Virginia.

Something sick is happening in Virginia. A normally placid neighborhood is in an uproar. There are reports of a creepy guy driving aimlessly through the suburban streets. Police are on the lookout. Gossip is in the air. Families are in conflict. Husbands vs. wives. Children vs. parents. Neighbor vs. neighbor. And songs by Bruce Hornsby.

SCKBSTD (pronounced like "sick bastard") is the show winding up its world premiere run by Virginia Stage Company in Norfolk, VA, on Feb. 6. With music and lyrics by Hornsby — the Virginian who topped the charts with "The Way It Is" in 1986, and had further pop winners like "Mandolin Rain" and "Every Little Kiss" — SCKBSTD is directed by John Rando and features several Broadway luminaries including Jill Paice, Kevin Mambo and the two gentleman I spoke to for this edition of Leading Men, Robert Cuccioli and Marcus Lovett.

Robert Cuccioli
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Cuccioli is the "sick bastard" in this show. Or is he just a bit misunderstood? In real life, Cuccioli has been quite well understood and enjoyed by audiences. He's had a Broadway career that saw him earn a Tony nomination for his dual role as a truly sick bastard(s) in Jekyll and Hyde. He has played Javert in Les Miz, and had a steady stream of roles Off-Broadway and around the world. He calls his work on SCKBSTD one of the best all-around experiences he's ever had.

This is not the first new show you've worked on, but what are the rewards to being a part of a production at this stage of development?
Well, it makes you feel like a trailblazer. There's no road map. If you're working with a group of people, like fortunately I am, that are very collaborative, you have a voice in how your character would respond, how a certain scene might want to go. This show in particular all around has been that way. Bruce Hornsby is a very daring person as far as music goes and has been very flexible. John Rando's got such a creative mind and he's been very supportive with exploring different avenues. Same with the choreographer, Scott Wise.

What is it like for you to be playing such a potentially sick bastard?
Well, it's not the first, in that regard. I think the title can be up to interpretation, let's put it that way. Certainly it's the community that this individual finds himself in that spins the fantasy of creating him into a sick bastard. It's really difficult to try to explain this without giving away anything! What I can say about him is that he's a very emotionally complex individual. I find that exciting to play. Those are the kind of characters that I gravitate toward and can find myself playing for a long time.

You grew up in Long Island. Have you experienced anything of this sort of suburban paranoia in your life?
No, not really. I did grow up in suburbia, but it's not the same thing. Of course we did have our urban legends in grammar school and things like that about certain people that would be on the street.

When you were getting involved with this show, was it exciting to think about Bruce Hornsby as someone you would be collaborating with?
I grew up listening to his music, and I have loved his music. To have the chance to work with someone who I have admired for many years, it was a very exciting thing for me.

Cuccioli in SCKBSTD
photo by David Polston

What is the theatrical environment like in Virginia?
First of all, Virginia Stage has been a godsend to work for. They can't do enough for [us]. Because we've been working so hard to develop the piece and we only opened [Jan. 21], we've been very much into rehearsals and tech and previews, and we constantly go from the living area to the theatre. There hasn't been a lot of chances to experience the community. Those locals that have been coming to the show have seemed very supportive of Virginia Stage as a company itself and also very supportive of the show, especially since their home son is one of the writers, and it takes place in this area.

What is your process in getting involved with a show like this? When you've signed on to do it, does it become 95 percent of everything you're thinking about when you're committed to it? Are you always looking for ways to make it better?
Oh yeah. You can get all consumed in it, and certainly the time commitment involved with rehearsals and previews and things like that. You're in it and constantly thinking about it. I'm constantly thinking about a certain scene or a relationship with a character or how he would deal with a certain situation. It's constantly churning in there.

Cuccioli in Les Miserables
photo by Joan Marcus

You've done so many shows and been involved in so many musicals and performances all over the place. What do you see as your trajectory? Would you like to stay involved in developing new stuff like this and working toward it reaching its pinnacle? Where are you headed right now?
That's hard to say as far as saying I have one road that I want to be on right now. I have found lately that I take a lot of different turns, and it's still the same road, but I have my fingers out. I'm spread out in a lot of different directions. I love working on new pieces, and I love starting with them in the beginning or as close to the beginning as possible and seeing it through. Sometimes that takes years for that to happen, so you obviously have to have other paths. I continue to do classic theatre and I'd love to continue with that. That just makes me better as an actor. I am trying to do more TV and film. I also have begun doing more and more of my own concert work.

Jekyll and Hyde, a great Broadway show for you. Was there a moment when you realized you were in a show that was going to alter your life?
Yeah, from the moment that I heard about the project, it was something that I wanted to be involved in. It's the same as when I first heard the music to Les Miz when I was in London still. I knew that was a project I needed to be involved in. Fortunately it worked out that that happened. But Jekyll and Hyde, I knew that was a show and a role that, if I got it, would change my life. And it did. I'm very fortunate that it all played out the way that I had hoped it would.

Were you ever in Les Miz at the same time as your SCKBSTD co-star Marcus Lovett?
No, I knew Marcus from back in '90 or '91. He came into And the World Goes 'Round. That was the first time I had met Marcus, and I think that was probably close to the last time I really saw Marcus. I sort of helped put him in to replace me, and then our careers took very different paths. I hadn't run into him since then. When I saw his name on the cast list for this, I was pleasantly surprised, like, "Oh my god, I haven't seen him forever!" It's been a great thing to reconnect with him.