Cynthia Nixon, photographed by Maarten De Boer.
Tony and Emmy Award winner Cynthia Nixon has played everyone from Jean Brodie to Eleanor Roosevelt, but the role that got away was Agnes Gooch. “I’m too old now, but I always really wanted to do Gooch,” she says. “Because if she sings badly, it’s fine, you know?” If the third lead in Mame seems like an unlikely Everest, keep in mind that Nixon is obsessed with musicals. She and Sarah Jessica Parker used to sing showtunes during long nights on the set of “Sex and the City,” and these days she still listens mostly to cast recordings. For her dream Encores! show, Nixon selected The Golden Apple, Jerome Moross and John Latouche’s exquisite, brainy “opera for Broadway,” which retells the Greek myths of Helen, Paris, Ulysses, and Penelope through the lens of American folklore. Although the 1954 musical closed on Broadway after four months, it has since acquired a merry, fanatical band of admirers.
CITY CENTER: How did you discover The Golden Apple?
CYNTHIA NIXON: My mother. I was very immersed in musicals growing up—which is what Steve, the play that I’m directing at The New Group, is so much about: people who live for musicals, and live through musicals. I certainly fit into that category, and I’ve done it to my children. (laughs) I’ve also done it to my wife, who was not a musical comedy person at all before she met me. My mother steeped me in musical theater, and we used to play the Golden Apple record. Then I was lucky enough to see a production of it, which is unusual, at the York Theater [in 1978] when I was still a kid. I knew the show inside out by the time I saw it.
Jesse Eisenberg, photographed by Jay L. Clendenin for the Los Angeles Times.
Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg has starred in films such as The Squid and the Whale, The Social Network, and the upcoming Batman v. Superman, but he never watches movies or television; his lone vice is musical theater. “I grew up on musical theater, so more than anything, that’s in my blood,” he has said. Eisenberg is currently starring in the Off-Broadway play The Spoils, which he also wrote. He called from the theater to discuss his dream Encores! show, Adam Guettel and Tina Landau’s beloved, harmonically transcendent 1996 musical Floyd Collins. The show is based on the true story of a 1920s spelunker who became trapped in a cave and inspired America’s first media circus.
CITY CENTER: You once said that until you were 11 you only listened to musicals. Why?
JESSE EISENBERG: Other kinds of music scared me. My sister got me a Green Day CD once and I hid in the closet from it, cause it was so scary. They were yelling. (pause) I don’t know. Growing up, I just liked musical theater. Then when I got to be a young teenager—maybe 13 or so—I found musicals that were a little more interesting than what I had been exposed to, like Stephen Sondheim and Floyd Collins.