Before a performance of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the backstage and dressing room areas of Broadway’s Foxwoods Theatre are abuzz with activity.
Before a performance of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the backstage and dressing room areas of Broadway’s Foxwoods Theatre are abuzz with activity. Members of the wardrobe crew work with quiet and focused intensity as they lay out the myriad costumes that will be quickly donned and just as rapidly doffed as this musical tale of superhero vs. super villains comes to life. Amid all this bustle, you also hear voices through the theatre’s sound system as the stage management crew carefully works through the cues for the show’s lighting changes, making sure everything is in order.
Just past all of this, in a dressing room that’s shared by half a dozen or so of the show’s male ensemble members, is Adam Roberts, a handsome, chiseled southerner who tackles a host of roles in the show. It’s 6:30pm. He doesn’t need to be at the theater until 7pm, but he likes coming in early because, he says with a gleaming smile, “As the saying goes, ‘If you’re early, you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late; and if you’re late, you’re forgotten.’”
But it’s not just this adage that brings him to the theater early each day he’s performing. He says that the extra time allows him to visit with other members of the company (“We share a great camaraderie.”) and to do his prep work from applying makeup to a stretching routine that he performs in private in a secluded hallway.
Roberts, a native of Myrtle Beach, SC, grew up in a family of performers. “My dad played the Grand Ole Opry for years and toured with people like Andy Williams. He also was the last person to sing with Louis Armstrong before he died. My grandfather is in the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. He traveled and played with Hank Snow and a bunch of other country artists for many years and did studio work.” As for Roberts, his life onstage began at an early age: “I worked professionally starting at ten in Myrtle Beach, with my father, at a variety show, in a 2,200 seat theater called the Carolina Opry.”
The performer’s ambitions lay beyond work in country music, though, and he always dreamed of landing a role on Broadway. That dream became a reality just a year and a half ago when he joined the Spider-Man company.
He is perhaps most visible in it when he hoists a pair of 70 pound carbon fiber wings on his back, gets into a four-point harness, and become the aerialist Green Goblin during the climactic battle scene between the title character and his arch nemesis. Roberts smiles when asked if this is the most difficult thing he has to do in the show, saying “No,” and then continuing “It sounds like the Goblin fight would be the most ‘ARGHHHH’ sort of fearful thing I do, but it’s not really. It’s all computerized and I’m actually steering the device.”
What he says is more demanding on him physically is one of the earliest dance routines in the show, “Bullying by Numbers.” “In that, I’m lifting a 180-pound man eight shows a week. He’s jumping in my arms, and I’m flipping him and throwing him around. That’s pretty difficult.” The performer also says that it’s rough “just keeping the show fresh and new for the audiences, finding new ways to be creative and stay alert onstage, mindful and not complacent when you’re doing it eight times a week.”
And Roberts has a lot to keep fresh in the show. Not only does he do the “Goblin flyover” and “Bullying” number, he also takes on roles ranging from a priest to the blood-spewing villain Carnage. In addition, he tackles some of the flying stunts as Spider-Man (there are a total of nine performers used for these in the course of a performance), and he serves as a puppeteer during the number “Bouncing Off the Walls” when awkward high school student Peter Parker discovers that he’s gained the strength and agility of an arachnid.
You might assume that the demands of the show might mean that a typical day for Roberts is filled with prep work, but he says that on some levels the show itself is enough of a workout. Nevertheless, he does maintain a routine at a gym, going several times a week “to stay in tip top shape” and there’s a weekly massage. He adds, “I just try to keep everything strong and the joints lubricated, stretched and elongated.”
There are, he says, days when he’s called in for brush-up rehearsals, or days in which he’s on call to help integrate new cast members into the show, “Obviously the Spider-Man can’t do the Spider-Man/Goblin fight without the Goblin, so they bring me in to synch it up with new performers and make sure everything runs like it needs to up in the air.”
Beyond that, he spends his time away from the theatre pursuing activities that hone his talents. “I’m taking ballroom lessons with one of our female ensemble members,” he says and “I also take acting classes, just to keep my craft sharp. In addition, he says, “I’m trying to learn guitar–which is ironic since my father’s a guitar teacher–and I’m starting to dabble with songwriting a little bit.”
Looking to the future, he says he has his eyes on assuming leading man roles, and in particular, Jersey Boys. “I’ve had my eyes on that show for a while. One my strongest suits is that I can hear a harmony, and I’ve been singing since I was like seven in like choral groups. And I grew up listening to Frankie Valli music and I love it. That show would be a great way to use my singing, dancing and acting.”
At this juncture, though, Roberts, is simply enjoying life in New York, saying that “Everything I’ve done has led up to this, including putting myself through college while working a full-time job. And now it feels like all of my dreams have pretty much come true.” He then quickly adds with a wry smile, “And this is a pretty badass show to have for your Broadway debut!”
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