15 Questions in 15 Minutes with Broadway’s Derrick Cobey

Soon to open back on Broadway at Studio 54 – where Andy Warhol, who coined the phrase “famous for 15 minutes,” spent more than a minute in the late 1970s, when it was the hottest club in New York (before the venue was converted into a theater in 1998) – musical-theater star Derrick Cobey is now in rehearsal for Roundabout Theatre Company’s limited-run revival of Kiss Me, Kate! Along with his latest role in the ensemble of the legendary show (the first to win the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1949, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter), he has turned in highly-acclaimed performances in some of the most famous hits to grace the Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional stages, from The Scottsboro Boys to Jesus Christ Superstar, Ragtime, Parade, A Little Night Music, and more.

Derrick Cobey.
Derrick Cobey. Photo by Rob Sutton.

On a break in the midst of his busy rehearsal schedule, Derrick was kind enough to chat with me for a rapid-fire laugh-filled Q&A about his career and his all-time favorite experiences in the theater – the ones that have secured his richly-earned fame for well beyond a Pop fifteen minutes!

  1. What came first for you – singing, dancing, or acting? 

Derrick: Singing. I grew up in a Baptist Church in Virginia, my Mom was a Minister, and I became a Choir Director at the age of fourteen.   

Derrick Cobey in Jesus Christ Superstar at Bristol Riverside Theater. Photo by Mark Garvin.
Derrick Cobey in Jesus Christ Superstar at Bristol Riverside Theater. Photo by Mark Garvin.

2. What are you thinking the moment before you go on stage?  

How to keep it honest and real.

3. What’s been your favorite role to date?

I would have to say Coalhouse in Ragtime.

Derrick Cobey in Ragtime at Bristol Riverside Theater. Photo by Mark Garvin.
Derrick Cobey in Ragtime at Bristol Riverside Theater. Photo by Mark Garvin.

4. Which is harder – drama or comedy?

Oh, that’s a hard question, but comedy, because in order for something to be funny, it has to come from a real place.

5. What three qualities do you have that make you right for the theater?

I got this from Susan Stroman: my heart; my enthusiasm; and my joy in creating.

6. What’s the best thing about a limited engagement?

You know you’re running for that amount of time and you can start looking ahead.

7. What’s the worst?

That I want to keep working on Broadway!

8. What is it about Broadway?

It’s the energy around it, from all around the world, coming to New York City. And also you’re working with people at the top of their game.

9. Who was your idol or theater crush growing up?

Brian Stokes Mitchell – he was one of the first who made me want to do this, one of the first men of color to be cast in Kiss Me, Kate! And he had my kind of legit voice. Oooohhh, and Audra McDonald! Yes, Audra McDonald!!! The same goes for her!

10. Which song in Kiss Me, Kate! do you find most entertaining?

“Too Darn Hot.” Cole Porter’s amazing! The build of that song – it’s good, and it’s sexy!

Derrick Cobey (left) and the cast of The Scottsboro Boys. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Derrick Cobey (left) and the cast of The Scottsboro Boys. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

11. What’s your greatest memory from The Scottsboro Boys?

It’s kind of bittersweet, but the closing night. Susan Stroman and John Kander came out on stage and the whole cast was there, and the house was filled with our family and friends and other people who should be there. Rose petals were thrown at us and we were all in tears.

12. What’s your favorite pastime when you’re not performing?

I love playing pool. It relaxes me, but also makes me calculate.

13. What one thing would you like your fans to know about you that they might not already know?

It’s not very interesting, but I’m a really good baker. I love making fresh apple pie from scratch. I guess it’s part of my liking to create.

14. Is there anything you’d like to do or any adventure you’d like to take that you’ve never done before?

I have never been to Paris or Hawaii, so it’s time to do that.

15. What’s your dream for 2019?

I want to create more, to bring something to the other side of the table. I want to start working on a new musical of my own!

Thanks so much, Derrick; great to catch up with you! I look forward to seeing you soon at Studio 54, in the latest of your world-famous productions!

Kiss Me, Kate! plays February 14-June 2, 2019, at Roundabout Theatre Company, performing at Studio 54 – 254 West 54th Street, NYC. For tickets, call (212) 719-1300, or purchase them online.

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Deb Miller
Deb Miller (PhD, Art History) is the Senior Correspondent and Editor for New York City, where she grew up seeing every show on Broadway. She is an active member of the Outer Critics Circle and served for more than a decade as a Voter, Nominator, and Judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre. Outside of her home base in NYC, she has written and lectured extensively on the arts and theater throughout the world (including her many years in Amsterdam, London, and Venice, and her extensive work and personal connections with Andy Warhol and his circle) and previously served as a lead writer for Stage Magazine, Phindie, and Central Voice.


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