Robi Hager: ‘Theatre is still alive and it’s excited to come back’

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Robi Hager has already had quite the career starring in a variety of Broadway’s biggest shows (“Spring Awakening,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Dr. Zhivago” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” just to name a few) but the musical whiz will now be spotlighting his talents through a cabaret filled with his original music for Philly audiences. 

With ‘Robi Hager: So Far’ viewers will get to indulge in a journey through Hager’s original work, from his instrumental pieces to music from his wickedly popular musical ‘Basic Witches,’ which he co-wrote with lyricist John Egan. According to a release, there will also be visual elements by some artists and designers picked by Hager, as well as a guest appearance by Melanie Hsu, whose work was featured at WNYC, the SXSW Film Festival, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Poetic License Theater Festival, Source Festival, NY Indie Theatre Film Festival and the BAM “Puppets on Film” Festival. Additionally, audiences will also get a glimpse of the latest musical Hager has been composing, ‘Little Duende.’

Hager’s latest show will premiere digitally on April 5 and will run until April 18, but the connoisseur of tunes gave Metro a sneak peek into what to expect. 

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How and why did you get your start in the theater world? 

It started at a very early age. My older brother introduced musical theatre to my sister and I. He brought home a CD of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ and I must’ve played it over 100 times. I remember looking at the pictures in the little booklet with all the lyrics and trying to memorize every word. Then my parents took me to see the international tour when it came to Mexico and I was blown away. About a year later a family friend suggested I audition for this new Christmas show that was coming to Mexico from NYC, the show was ‘Radio City Christmas Spectacular.’ I auditioned, got the part and loved every second of it. After that I wanted to audition for more and more theatre, and when we made our move to the U.S., I got even more interested in theatre as an actual career and began auditioning in NYC. Then the phone call came. I booked my first Broadway show with ‘Spring Awakening’ in 2006.

What are some career highlights for you?

Wow, there are so many. One of my favorite and most cherished memories is performing at the Tony Awards with ‘Spring Awakening.’ To be in the room with so many artists who helped shape theatre in so many ways was a dream come true. Another highlight was when I did my first regional show, ‘Next to Normal’, at the Arden Theatre Company. I discovered so much beautiful art in Philadelphia and such a warm sense of community. And I think my third highlight was the ambitious production of my musical ‘Basic Witches’ in 2018. I remember turning to my now husband and saying, “I have no clue how to do this but I wanna produce this show here in Philadelphia,” to which he replied, “Let’s do it!”

What can you tell me about your new show ‘Robi Hager: So Far’? What inspired this particular show? 

When Terry Nolen (Artistic Director of the Arden Theatre Company) called asking if I would be interested in doing a virtual cabaret for them featuring my original music, I immediately said yes. This has been a very introspective journey for me. The show features all original music composed by myself. Audiences will hear some of my earliest compositions, some of my instrumental work and music from ‘Basic Witches.’ I am also super excited to share new music from my latest musical, ‘Little Duende.’ 

What went into composing the music? 

It’s sort of a full time job in its own way. I’ll sit at my piano and my computer in the mornings with my coffee and before I know it, it’s 5 p.m. I’ll usually start thinking of an idea for a show, an emotion of a moment, what color it gives. I then go to the piano and I match a chord to the color, which then leads me to a melody. Maybe I’ll add a few lyrics, and as soon as I have something that makes me feel something, I write it down.

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What can audiences expect as far as the visual elements?

They are going to be blown away with what we have in store… The designers and visual artists that collaborated on the show are phenomenal and I am beyond excited for you all to see what they came up with. There is some animation, some incredible video elements and I have to say, the work that went into the section for ‘Little Duende,’ just gives me chills. I’ll leave it at that, so go get your tickets.

Overall, what do you hope audiences take away from the show?

Hope. That there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Theatre is still alive and it’s excited to come back. We can’t wait to share our work with all of you again in person.

Tickets to ‘Robi Hager: So Far ‘ are $30 per household and available through ardentheatre.org

 

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