Written by 7:06 pm interview, Musical, Uncategorized

The Stage Life of Wyatt Hatfield (aka Wyatt Hatfield’s Lament)

Photo credit: JOCELYN A. BROWN

Written by Patrick Chavis

In 2023, and it is undeniable in my eyes and ears, we have enjoyed some lovely musical productions this year in Orange County, CA. As much as we love the old, memorable stand-by shows, it is great to experience newer or maybe less well-known material in our theaters.

Wyatt Hatfield as Spongebob in Spongebob at CSUF

No shade is intended. Rent was an example of sticking to a formula that does work to give people what they are used to and what they enjoy. Not only did we have three different productions of Rent in Orange County this year, the productions were very close together. In 2015, the Director of Orange County Playwrights Alliance and co-producer and associate artistic director of OC-centric Eric Eberwein, wrote a very interesting piece on this topic. You can check out his article here.

The article was called “It’s Time for OC Theatre to Improve.” It has been eight years since Eric wrote this article, and I think there has been a wonderful shift in producing new works. In the case of this year’s newer musicals, one that grabbed my attention was the Chance Theater’s production of Ride the Cyclone, where I saw Wyatt Hatfield perform for the first time as Noel Gruber – the only gay kid in Uranium.

Hatfield and the other performers in this production put on such an exhilarating performance of this eccentric musical about outcasts and life. (Best Ensemble 2023)

“Every single person there was so professional, so on top of everything, so passionate about this project and wanted to be there. And so I think that’s what kind of helped create this chemistry is people were already so naturally able to step into these characters and produce great work, that it gave us a lot of time to just really dive deep into the nuances of these characters and their relationships and that kind of helped us bond as a cast,” Hatfield explained.

Backstage Ride The Cyclone Memory

Hatfield recounted a day after one of the rehearsals for the show where the group went to the In-N-Out right next to the Chance Theater and talked about the relationships between the characters and fan theories online.

“The fact that we wanted to do that, I think, really speaks to how passionate we were about this show,” Hatfield Explained. Hatfield was very passionate as he expressed his thoughts and experience preparing and performing Ride the Cyclone.

“I think they [the characters] represent a lot of people who aren’t typically represented in musicals and in the media, and people are drawn to that.”
 
“I think it’s more fun to play the outcast because they’re more quirky and weird, but I have played characters that are a little bit more on the normal side, like Anthony from Sweeney Todd. I feel like he’s the typical love interest character. I love being abnormal. I love living on the outside of society’s norms,” Hatfield explained.
 
While overall, Hatfield described his experience on stage as positive, like with any live show, the show was not gaffe-proof.

Jaylen Baham, Jared Machado, Rose Pell, Wyatt Hatfield as Ricky Potts, Haley Wolff, Em Flosi, and Robert Foran as The Amazing Karnak in Chance Theater’s California premiere production of “Ride the Cyclone.” Playing January 27 – February 26, 2023, at Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center on the Cripe Stage. Music, Book, and Lyrics by Jacob Richmond & Brooke Maxwell; Directed by Jocelyn A. Brown; Music Direction by Lex Leigh; Choreographed by Miguel Cardenas Photo by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio

“It was our first or second preview. And I’m wearing this wig as Monique Chabot. And Jared, who’s playing Misha, spins me out, and my wig falls off. I have a momentary reaction. But I have to, like, make it part of the character, and react how Noel would react. And I just made it a part of the show. The video ended up getting posted on YouTube somewhere and the super fans were loving it.” Hatfield Explained. 

Ride The Cyclone ended its run in March, but this would not be the last time I would see Hatfield on stage. However, the second time, he did bring a puppet friend along for the ride instead of a roller coaster.

Avenue Q at the Wayward Artist

The Wayward Artist’s production of Avenue Q came out on July 14, and Hatfield played two lead characters in the production, Princeton and Rod. Princeton was an idealist, a recent college graduate looking for a purpose, who was discovering life outside the hollow halls of college is not so easy. He also plays Rod, a Republican investment banker, who begins to learn a little more about himself on a deeper level.

“I had a class with her senior year [Sarah Ripper], and she mentioned that she was choreographing a production of Avenue Q and that we should all come out on audition. I’ve loved Avenue Q ever since I first saw it in Bakersfield when I was in high school [Frontier High School]. Princeton had always been a dream role of mine.”
 
For me, one of the show’s highlights was how well the actors handled the puppets and brought them to life. Tickle me surprised to find out this was the first time Hatfield had ever used a puppet on the stage.
 
“I’ve never worked with puppets before. So it’s kind of just like on the spot, figuring it out. But it was very fun.”
 
Hatfield credited his director on the production, Wyn Moreno, with helping him find his way with his puppet.
 
“Something that really helped was our director Wyn Moreno made it a point to tell us that subtlety is really important with the puppetry. Because you can make all these like big, crazy gestures and moments with the puppets. But what’s really going to strike people, especially in that space, is subtle choices, and really bringing the humanity to these puppets.”
 
Hatfield explained that he tried to make subtle but human choices, and when he did, it translated.

“Keep going. Make it fun. Have lots of fun. Don’t be afraid. Be your most authentic self. Don’t try to embody what you think other people will want to see on stage. Be who you are on stage.”

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