'Pitch Perfect 2,' 'Book of Mormon' Star Ben Platt on Cabaret, Magic and Meryl Streep
"Everyone’s always, like, can you really do magic?"
Ben Platt is not your average twentysomething — well, twenty-year-old. He hasn't even added a "something" yet, and he already has a more robust résumé than those many "somethings" his senior.
While his contemporaries are off at college playing beer pong and pledging fraternities (or a cappella groups), Platt is juggling. He's playing lovable Star-Wars-and-magic-obsessed Benji Applebaum in the upcoming Pitch Perfect 2 and once again headlining Book of Mormon on Broadway as Elder Cunningham.
As if that weren't enough to keep him busy, Platt wrote a one-man cabaret show, which he'll perform for a final time at 54 Below on Monday, Sept. 1. While the term "cabaret" conjures images of show queens singing torch songs around a piano, Platt admits he has stories and show-business fodder to share between his favorite tunes, like tales about his "big Jewish family" and putting on shows in his backyard growing up.
"I definitely kept in mind that I'm only 20 years old," Platt says of building the show, which is simply titled I'm Here and includes "Make You Feel My Love" (the Adele arrangement) and "The Man That Got Away," a Judy Garland number from A Star Is Born. "You can definitely expect some Pitch Perfect references and some magic, if you will," admits Platt, jokingly expressing dismay that 54 Below won't allow live animals. "Everyone's always, like, can you really do magic? And I'm, like, well if you would like to supply me with all of those things again I could do those tricks for you."
But the real question is, will he sing "Magic" by B.o.B., from his Pitch Perfect finale moment? "The song might make its way in there," he hints.
For Platt, the show is a personal milestone. "I finally made the permanent move to New York in January, which is something I've been waiting to do for a while, so it felt like a nice way to punctuate my arrival here," he says. Platt was supposed to move to New York two years ago to attend Columbia University but deferred his enrollment when he got cast in Pitch Perfect. Although he's now registered in the school's general studies program and plans to complete his degree, he has no problem with his Pitch Perfect times being his only true "college" experience, and he really loves the "awesome Star Wars stuff" in Benji's dorm room.
"There's a little bit more pressure because everyone knows what Pitch Perfect is," he said of filming the sequel. "It's as if we're revisiting our first experience, but it's been blown up, and it's kind of under a microscope in a certain way."
One favorite moment from the sequel's set was filming a Fourth of July video with co-star and friend Skylar Astin, which director Elizabeth Banks posted to her Facebook page. "We just threw together an arrangement of 'America the Beautiful' and played around with some harmonies and sang together," Platt says, adding that Astin is "a mensch," who just saw him in Mormon, along with co-star Anna Camp.
Returning to Mormon felt weird because it juxtaposes the differences between the mediums. While the musical performances in Pitch Perfect are carefully choreographed and captured shot by shot, Platt has many memorable moments with his live audience at Mormon.
"My co-star Nic Rouleau once pulled a muscle in his leg in the middle of a show and had to call out mid-act two. So he finished his number, and the next time he appeared, [his standby] just came onstage and continued the show!" Platt explains. "They didn't have time to announce it, so I knew that the audience would be so confused. … Nic is blond, and his cover has black hair. So as soon as I came out with the new Elder Price, I just said, 'Oh, Elder Price, it's great to see you. I see you've dyed your hair.' And everybody just went nuts and clapped, and I felt very relieved that I wasn't going to let this go by without saying anything about it. It was a fun audience-bonding moment."
But it won't be long before Platt is back onscreen, this time opposite Meryl Streep in the Jonathan Demme film Ricki and the Flash, penned by Diablo Cody. (Platt's father is producer Marc Platt, who produced Wicked on Broadway and is also a producer on Ricki and the Flash.) Streep will play the lead singer of a rock band who is looking to reconnect with her estranged kids.
"Luckily I get to play a character that is obsessed with her and is a big fan of hers, because I don't think I would be able to play anything besides that," Platt says with a laugh, about his character, a bartender at the band's regular joint.
And yes, he will be 21 by the time he's on that set.