‘The Pajama Game’
Oct. 27-Dec. 24
1101 Sixth St., S.W.
Three years ago, “Pajama Game” actor Eddie Korbich was nudged into marriage by his business manager. He’d been with his partner director/theater instructor Andy Leech since 1992 when his manager said they needed to get married for tax purposes.
The couple considered the advice and then rather spontaneously married at their home in Maplewood, N.J., on Thanksgiving Day. Their close friend Broadway star Christine Ebersole presided over the ceremony. The witnesses were Ebersol’s husband and kids. Korbich and Leech’s daughter was the ringbearer.
“Before meeting Andy, I’d had infatuations with men and women but nothing too serious,” Korbich says. “Then one day I said to myself, ‘I’m gay. I’m gay.’ And it was like the weight of the world fell off my shoulders. It had occurred to me but I’d never said the words. My plan was to be happy and single for a while and then I met Andy soon after, and we’ve been together ever since.”
Korbich was born in D.C. but at just 6 weeks old his adoptive parents whisked him off to Shamokin, Pa. He grew up very close to his mother’s sister and after her death and the death of both of his parents, he learned that his aunt was in fact his biological mother.
“I wish they’d told me,” he says. “It was an elaborate lie. Once you’re in something like that it’s hard to get out of it.”
As a boy he studied piano, clarinet, cello and trumpet. His mother longed for him to be a concert pianist, but Korbich says he always knew that wasn’t for him. And though he loved playing Broadway scores, he secretly wanted to be an actor.
“I never dared tell anyone. You just don’t act in Shamokin. With few exceptions, for there’s football, wrestling, coal and that’s it.”
But then in his junior year of high school he was cast to play Harold Hill, the lead in “The Music Man.”
“There was no turning back” he says, “I was hooked.”
He studied musical theater at the Boston Conservatory. Following graduation, he moved to New York City and has worked consistently ever since.
Korbich, 57, has appeared in 11 Broadway shows and nine Off-Broadway shows including the original cast of “Wicked,” “The Little Mermaid,” “A Christmas Story,” “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” acclaimed revivals of “Carousel” and “Sweeny Todd,” and he starred as assassin Giuseppe Zangara in the 1990 Off-Broadway production of “Assassins” at the Playwrights Horizons.
Currently Korbich is playing Vernon Hines, the company efficiency expert in Arena Stage’s production of “The Pajama Game,” a 1954 musical comedy straight out of Broadway’s golden era. With a book George Abbott and Richard Bissell based on Bissell’s novel “7½ Cents,” it’s a love story set against labor unrest at the Sleep-Tite pajama factory. The score by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross includes classics “Steam Heat” and “Hernando’s Hideaway.”
Korbich’s enduring and busy career is largely due to his voice, a gorgeous high tenor.
“The part doesn’t lend itself to that,” he says of his current role. “I’ll be singing as much as I can but more about the acting and fun with the part.”
“It’s been easy to be openly gay in my career. Nobody really cares,” Korbich says. “Those who knew me well were surprised I didn’t come out earlier and those who had no idea that I was gay, didn’t care either way. I taught myself at age 7 or 8 to not swish my walk. I cultivated that to survive. I wasn’t brave enough not to. But it’s so much easier not to pretend.”