Hello! His name is AJ Holmes and he was The Book of Mormon’s Elder Cunningham on Broadway, the West End and most of the Australian tour. He played Frederick Frankenstein in the American national tour of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein – the musical and is a member of StarKid Productions where he co-composed such shows as A Very Potter Musical and Twisted.
AJ has brought his one-man show, AJ Holmes: Yeah, But Not Right Now, to the Adelaide Fringe after sold out performances at the Edinburgh Festival and a very successful one night only stand in London. Being the very generous performer and man that he is, he has kindly agreed to sit down with Glam and chat.
B.G: What is the idea behind Yeah, But Not Right Now and why that title?
AJ: I like the title because it can be interpreted in so many ways. For me it stems from the idea of procrastinating one’s life away. Will I follow my passions and build the life I want for myself? Yeah, but not right now. Will I take a good hard look at my choices and find ways to improve myself? Yeah, but not right now. Am I a good person? Yeah…just not right now—but stick around, we’ve got good things coming down the pipeline!!
Funnily enough, the title literally comes from a conversation I had with Stephen Sondheim. To be clear, this is very much the *only* conversation I’ve had with Sondheim, and calling it a “conversation” is probably a bridge too far. I was lucky enough to be invited to the dress rehearsal of his 75th Birthday Concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Sitting in the very front row, surrounded by every musical theatre star I’d ever idolized, I tepidly approached my childhood God and quietly asked him for a photo. To date, the only words I’ve ever received from the man whose work means more to me than just about anyone, are, “Yeah, But Not Right Now”.
B.G: The show has been a sell-out hit at the Edinburgh Festival earning 5 star reviews. Did you think it would be as successful as it has been?
AJ: I can be completely honest with you in saying I had absolutely zero idea of how Edinburgh would go. Though I had a few songs written, I landed in Scotland without a script. My first night in town, I met Michaella Drummond, who was producing my “show” as a part of Stamptown. I quickly realized she was much smarter than I was and asked her to be my director that very night. She immediately broke out a pack of post-it notes, and the rest is history. We’re still re-working and re-writing all the time, which is half the fun! After so long performing the same thing as precisely as possible 8 shows a week in “The Book of Mormon” I love the freedom and flexibility that Fringe world allows. I can only attribute my show’s success to the genuine and overwhelming joy I feel every time I get to sit at my piano in front of a new audience and share who I am. I know that for me, what I love to see is people having a great time on stage—and I’m truly having a blast.
B.G: You’ve visited Australia before playing in “The Book Of Mormon” in both Melbourne and Sydney, but this will be your first visit to Adelaide, won’t it? What are you expecting?
AJ: This is my first time in Adelaide, and I fell in love with it pretty instantly. I of course had a blast in Sydney and loved Melbourne even more—but I love a good sleepy town most of all. There’s a relaxed pace here that my inner Californian is absolutely in love with. I’m a huge fan of Ben Folds and I keep hearing about his connection to the city, and I have to say—I see why! Truly everyone I’ve met so far has made me feel welcomed and glad to be here.
B.G: What can Adelaide audiences expect?
AJ: Adelaide audiences can expect an hour of funny songs and stories, with more irreverence being thrown in daily. My show is at 10pm so it just seems to be happening naturally. They should also expect a couple new songs to pop up over the course of the run, not to mention the fully improvised songs that have been spontaneously occurring from time to time. I’ve never had a better time doing the show, and I love to stay present in the room and respond to whatever happens. Beyond that, expect some good laughs, a bit of pathos, and some classic musical theatre belting.
B.G: Having played Elder Cunningham for a number of years, and possibly being able to claim playing him for the most performances of that role, does he make an appearance in “Yeah, But Not Right Now”? or is it the real A.J. Holmes that people will see?
AJ: While Arnold Cunningham has been knocking at my door trying to get me to include him in my performance, he is unfortunately copywritten by an exceptional team of lawyers. So, the real AJ will have to suffice. But don’t worry, I’m just as socially awkward with the same inability to understand my own feelings! You’ll barely notice he’s gone.
B.G: Is there anything else that you want to mention that you think I may have missed?
AJ: Just that I’m thrilled to be a part of team Stamptown. Zach Zucker has put together a phenomenal production company and he is truly the reason I made it in to Fringe world in the first place. He believed in me and pushed me out of my comfort zone without a second thought, and he continues to pave a bumpy road with chrome plating to make it just a little more comfortable for this 30 year old Broadway actor who somehow was convinced to join the Fringe circus. Stamptown has a pretty incredible growing roster of shows and I’m super grateful to have found a home with them. Yuh!
Interview by Brian Godfrey
Information on AJ’s Yeah, But Not Right Now and bookings can be found at https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/aj-holmes-yeah-but-not-right-now-af2020
Ben Stefanoff’s 5 star review can be found at https://glamadelaide.com.au/fringe-review-aj-holmes-yeah-but-not-right-now/