In-your-face isn’t Eddie Korbich’s style. He’s a kindler, gentler citizen provocateur.
The openly gay Broadway actor doesn’t think he has to be aggressive or confrontational to be seen and heard as an out and proud American.
“Just by living, I am making a statement,” he says. “Openly married to my husband, raising our adopted daughter from birth, we go along as if it’s the most normal thing in the world.”
Korbich and his family’s dog, Buddy, motored from their home in Maplewood, New Jersey last month for Korbich to begin rehearsals as Maurice in Theatre Under the Stars’ Beauty and the Beast December 8-23 at the Hobby Center.
Maurice is Belle’s father, an eccentric inventor in the French village where they live. Some of his neighbors call him “Crazy ol’ Maurice,” while he’s disparaged as a “crazy old loon” by flamboyant LeFou, who was outed as gay in last year’s movie version. (Kevin Kline played Maurice.)
The Broadway musical of Beauty and the Beast was based on a 1991 movie that became the first animated film nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Its music by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman (who died from AIDS before the movie was released) won Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Original Song.
When the Walt Disney Company decided to produce a stage musical based on the film, TUTS collaborated on its world premiere at Houston’s former Music Hall, where it ran in November and December 1993 before premiering on Broadway in April 1994.
Korbich wasn’t in that production, but he did originate several roles in the musical Jekyll & Hyde when it premiered at the Alley Theatre in May 1990 before bowing on Broadway. The show, starring Linda Eder, was a big hit in Houston, and its cast became the toast of the town.
“We were invited everywhere. It was absolutely magnificent,” Korbich says. “Boy, oh boy, it was really cool.”
The actor, who was born in 1960, wasn’t out yet, and he wouldn’t be until two years later, after a quiet revelation while sitting alone in his New York City apartment.
“That year, I had gone through a series of infatuations, three in a row, boom boom boom,” he says. “They were all unattainable—they all had partners—so we didn’t do anything, but I was majorly infatuated. In my apartment in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, I said, out loud, to God, ‘What is going on? You are trying to tell me I’m gay? You made me this way and it’s okay?’ It was like the weight of the world was lifted from me. I remember being so happy. Five times I said, ‘I’m gay.’ I didn’t shout it from the top of the Empire State Building, but I began living day-to-day as gay. I decided, ‘I’m not going to look for a boyfriend. I am just going to enjoy life and Thanksgiving and Christmas.’”
Two weeks later, Korbich says, “I found the person I married.”
Three Thanksgivings ago, their wedding was held at their home, officiated by actress Christine Ebersole, the winner of two Tony Awards (for 42nd Street and Grey Gardens).
Korbich has performed on Broadway in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, A Christmas Story, The Little Mermaid, The Drowsy Chaperone, Wicked, Seussical, Carousel, Singin’ in the Rain, and Sweeney Todd. His off-Broadway credits include Assassins, Godspell, The Gifts of the Red Menace, A Little Night Music, and Eating Raoul.
In addition, he sang a novelty song, “The Nail and the Horseshoe”—in drag—in Taking a Chance on Love, a 2000 revue that wove together songs depicting the life of the late, gay Broadway lyricist John Latouche.
“That got me my Obie,” he says, referring to a prestigious award that salutes excellence in off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway theaters.
Korbich praises the TUTS production of Beauty and the Beast for its diverse casting, including an Asian-American actress as Belle, a black actress who is entrusted with the title song, and Brennan Emneka, a disabled student at The River Performing and Visual Arts Center, as Chip.