After 10 years away, Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts alumnus Ben Roseberry will be visiting St. Louis. But, it is not just a regular visit. He will be performing on the Fabulous Fox Theatre stage as a cast member of the first US national tour of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.
“I’m thrilled beyond belief to come back to St. Louis,” Roseberry said.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is a musical comedy that follows the character of Monty Navarro, who finds out he is eighth in line to a family fortune. Fearing he will not outlive his successors, he uses charm and murder to speed up the process.
The production, which won four Tony awards, was preparing to go on its first national tour and was looking for an understudy for the role of the entire family, which is played by one person.
That understudy would also perform in the ensemble as multiple characters, including Inspector Pinckney.
Roseberry attributes his success to Webster, calling it a training program unlike any other. He called the experience intense.
Roseberry asked his agency to submit his name for consideration, feeling that he would fit the part because his specialty is playing multiple characters. After a week-long process, he got the part. Two weeks later, he was in rehearsals, the last person to be cast.
“There are very few projects that have come along that I just knew in my gut that I was right for it,” Roseberry said. “I walked in with that sort of confidence … It’s been a dream come true since.”
The tour held previews at Proctor’s Theatre Sept. 19, 2015 and officially opened at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre Sept. 29, 2015.
Roseberry graduated from Webster with a BFA in Musical Theatre in spring of 2003. After graduating, he said he knew he wanted to live in New York because it had the opportunities he wanted.
Within a summer after graduation, Roseberry was already living in New York with several other classmates. He said it was about eight months before he got his first acting job, so he waited tables during that time. Being a server gave him more flexibility with auditions, since he could leave and arrive at work in a moment’s notice.
“My success was not immediate,” Roseberry said.
After those eight months, Roseberry started doing more regional theatre, one of the first being a six-month engagement of Forever Plaid in Michigan.
Other regional theater productions Roseberry has been involved in include The Little Mermaid, Guys and Dolls, Company and Godspell.
His big break happened in 2006 when he joined the tenth anniversary national tour of Rent as the character Steve and others.
Roseberry said his career has a trend: a featured role in the ensemble and an understudy for a larger part. He performed as the hyena Ed and understudied in the The Lion King. Roseberry understudied for the character of Mark in Rent. The Rent tour was the last tour Roseberry was in that visited St. Louis.
“If you have a niche, go for it,” Roseberry said.
In the spring of 1999, Roseberry began applying for different musical theatre programs, including Webster’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts.
In order to audition, he flew to St. Louis from his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he attended Northwest School of the Arts during his high school years.
“Webster makes you a good actor,” Roseberry said.
Roseberry said he does not believe he would be in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder without his professors’ teaching, such as Bruce Longworth, who is the head of the acting program at Webster.
Roseberry cites Longworth’s dialect and Shakespeare courses as particularly influential. Longworth said Roseberry was always curious to learn more to grow as an actor, in addition to having great talent.
“He was diligent, applied himself and saw tremendous growth over the four years that he had here,” Longworth said.
One fellow performer Roseberry has worked closely with is Kristen Mengelkoch. Mengelkoch plays Lady Eugenia in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. They first worked together in a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company at the Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York. Roseberry and Mengelkoch played Paul and Amy, respectively.
“Immediately, I was blown away by his voice, by his acting talent and he quickly became one of my very good friends,” Mengelkoch said.
Roseberry said the most important thing he learned from Webster was to be his own actor. He said many other programs try to make their actors fit certain types, but Webster encourages individuality in their actors.
“I’m not like anyone else,” Roseberry said. “If there’s one thing I learned from there [Webster], it’s to be my own actor, to be my own self and own that.”
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder will run at the Fox from Sept. 13-25. Showtimes vary. Tickets can be purchase on the Fox’s website.