Jeremy Kushnier in Atomic, A New Musical!

In the 1940s, when the world was fighting a war, a global group of scientists came together to build the atomic bomb in a government project that used the code name “Manhattan.” In 2014, a global group of artists came together to tell the story of that project and a scientist history forgot in the musical Atomic. Jeremy Kushnier, who plays that scientist Leo Szilard, talked to us about this new show and what we can expect from a show that deals with “a very sensitive subject — and then we put music to it!”

Like us (and we’re assuming most of you), Jeremy didn’t know anything about Leo Szilard until he came into this project. Leo’s patents and ideas were what made the bomb possible, but when he realized how this bomb was going to be used, his conscious wouldn’t allow him to be a part of it anymore. He started a petition, and got the signatures of many of the scientists who worked on the bomb, asking the bomb not be dropped on Japan, as they had not built it for that purpose. Because of this, he was effectively erased from history. One of Jeremy’s favorite lines in the show (he thinks it’s still in the show — we talked to him during rehearsals when things were still being added and moved around) is said by Dr. Oppenheimer: “It was Leo’s science that made the bomb possible, but his conscious that made it impossible.”

Aside from the natural drama of war, Leo’s life seemed ripe for a musical telling. There is a great love story in Atomicbetween Leo and his partner and eventual wife, Trude Weiss played by Sara Gettlefinger. They’re living through this tough time together and as Jeremy puts it, “their relationship ends up getting them through it.” (Fun fact: Trude became a surgeon in the 1930s and when Leo was diagnosed with cancer in the 1960s, it was with Trude’s help that he was the first person to successfully use radiation.) And so there is a hopeful dimension to this difficult story of war and politics and science. Atomic is a piece of theatre where you will leave knowing more than you did when you came in, but you’ll also have more questions. As Jeremy puts it, “You walk away going, ‘I wonder what I would have done?'” And isn’t that part of a great experience at the theatre? Of course, it’s also a musical, so expect spectacle. After all, Jeremy promises, “You can’t come and see a show about the atomic bomb, and not blow the motherfucker up.”
We couldn’t let Jeremy get off easy and not answer our questionnaire, so here’s what he said!

Patty & Emily:
 Do you know Beth Leavel?

Jeremy Kusnier: Yes!

P&E: Which show do you most want revived?

JK: Oh, unfortunately it’s already being revived and Neil Patrick Harris stole my part.

P&E: Have you ever fallen asleep on stage while pretending to sleep or be dead on stage?

JK: I feel like I must have at some point? I’m sure that I have. I know that I have in rehearsals.

P&E: What’s your favorite Broadway house?

JK: Oh, that’s a tough one. I love the Richard Rodgers because it was the first theatre that I worked in. I love it too because it’s got a really steep rake.

P&E: Do you have a monologue prepared?

JK: Never. Even when I’m asked for it.

P&E: What is the show you’ve seen the most times?

JK: Oh, that’s a good one. I think it probably would have to be Hedwig. I was a real Hed-head back in the day. I saw, like, five different people do it. I just really love the show. I’ve been petitioning these guys for years to do it anywhere. I’d do it in somebody’s garage! I can’t count how many times I went to the Jane Street and saw it.

P&E: Who would you fanboy over?

JK: Now that I’ve met and worked with her, it’s Ms. Sara Gettlefinger. She’s a tremendous talent, she’s absolutely gorgeous, and she’s amazing to work with. I love her.

P&E: On a scale of 1-10, how awful is the Broadway World message board?

JK: On a scale of 1-10? 4,000. I can’t even. I don’t even go; I don’t even dare.

P&E: If you had comps and a time machine, what would you go see?

JK: I would go and see City of Angels. I love that score so much, and that’s another show that I’ve always wanted to do.

Atomic starts performances at The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row on June 26th and is scheduled to run until August 16th. Don’t miss this amazing cast, led by Jeremy Kushnier. For more information, visit their website. For tickets, click here!