New York City Ballet principal Daniel Ulbricht is noted for his high energy and soaring leaps, but for Melissa Barak’s recently premiered Call Me Ben, he took on a role that could have had him falling flat on his face: He not only had to deliver dialogue, but he had to play the gangster Meyer Lansky.
Did the cast have any idea that Call Me Ben would have speaking parts?No. We got our lines at the first rehearsal, before we were given steps or heard the music. We just looked on it as a dare and dancers respond to that. We’re always doing something we’ve never done before.
But now you have lines. Did you act in your school play?
When guys my age were in their school play, I was dancing Balanchine’s Mozartiana and Robbins’s The Four Seasons. But in the third or fourth grade in St. Petersburg -- Florida, I always wait to add-- I was The Cow That Meowed in Whakadoo Zoo.
Did your costume include an udder?
No. Just spots pasted on my shirt.
Actors read lines together away from rehearsals. Did you dancers do that?I rehearsed my lines in the shower by myself every day. I made so much noise the neighbors complained. Then we got new lines a week or so before opening night.
That's a show-biz tradition. Since you’re playing Meyer Lansky, did you check out the great Warner Bros. gangster movies with James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson? Did you watch The Godfather?
No but I bought a DVD of Bugsy, with Warren Beatty. It’s yours if you want it.