Lindenhurst native is no stranger to the screen or stage, after having performed in both mediums for many years. So it’s no wonder the former star of The Wonder Years was recently part of a Drama Desk panel discussion at Sardi’s.
Lauria’s varied TV and stage roles – which most recently included the title role in the recently closed Lombardi, as well as Jack Arnold on The Wonder Years and guest roles on series’ such as Smallville and Criminal Minds – made him a natural for the discussion entitled Movie and TV Stars on Broadway.
The discussion drew many stars, including the ones who joined Lauria on the panel: Jim Belushi (Born Yesterday), Maxwell Caulfield (recently closed Cactus Flower), Stephen Kunken (recently closed High), John Larroquette (How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying), John Leguizamo (Ghetto Klown) and Annabella Sciorra (The Mother****er with the Hat).
The topic was one that clearly enervated actors and attendees alike, as the actors discussed the current trend of casting film and television stars in plays and musicals on the New York stage.
John Larroquette gave credit to Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe for his show’s success. “A lot of us [film stars] are keeping theaters open right now. You have an automatic audience.”
Lauria said the NFL was very supportive of Lombardi. “I’ve never had it so easy because of the NFL,” he said, smiling.
A star middle-linebacker at , Lauria later went on to play at Southern Connecticut State University before turning to acting.
He described one of his favorite experiences with the show in which he met a member of the Miami Dolphins. The player wanted to know if all plays were performed in a circle, as they are at Circle in the Square Theatre where Lombardi made its home.
“It was his first play ever!” exclaimed Lauria, who recently at hot-spot Italian eatery Tony’s di Napoli.
The lively bunch used colorful metaphors and personal experiences to compare working in the theater to being in front of a camera.
“I used to have a lot of performance anxiety,” shared Leguizamo. “You’ve got to be naked and raw in theater.”
“It’s fun being on that stage!” Belushi gushed about making his Broadway debut.
Larroquette, a self-proclaimed Broadway virgin, made a point of how much he prefers to be in theater: “[I enjoy] the luxury of the time you have to work on a character.”
Lauria noted that performing each night can sometimes seem like part of a routine. He recalled a specific moment when he’d been working with Jack Klugman in The Value of Names at George Street Playhouse in New Jersey: “We would walk off stage and Klugman would say, ‘Did we just have a show?’ It goes fast!”
One question elicited a very strong response from the panel: Should actors with no theater experience be given their first chance on Broadway (a la Katie Holmes)? Jokes and snarkiness abounded among serious answers.
“I don’t like that the theater owners could dictate who’s in the play,” said Lauria, who also joked, “They wanted Julia Roberts to play Vince Lombardi.”
“I’m waiting for Snooki: The Musical,” laughed Caulfield.
“No one should be excluded from the club because they happen to be a movie star,” stated Larroquette.
When it came to comparing his best moments in theater and TV, Lauria was clear about which of his experiences resonates closer to his heart.
“I was very proud of The Wonder Years, but it wasn’t while we were making it,” he said. “It was when it was shown. In theater, when you have a special night, you know immediately.”