“Give me a head with hair, long, beautiful hair … Give me down to there hair, shoulder length or longer,” say the lyrics of the theme song for Hair. When Larkin Bogan walked into an audition for the Broadway musical in 2010, the director, he later learned, said, “‘Oh, dear, please just let him be able to sing a note,’” because the Columbia native rocks a splendid head of thick, curly hair. And, yes, Larkin’s tenor voice is equally amazing, with well-honed diction and pitch.
“This is the reality of show business,” Larkin says. “The very best person for the part could mean a whole number of things. The very best person isn’t always necessarily going to get the part. A lot of times it comes down to eye color, ‘You’re too tall,’ or ‘We wish you were a little more charactery-looking.’ Not to diminish how my audition went by any means, but, at the same time, I had a lot going for me with that ‘do.’”
Larkin got the job, joining the Hair tribe on Broadway, then the first American tour of the show, as an understudy for the roles of Claude and Woof. He later joined the inaugural tour for American Idiot before landing his current gig in the Broadway cast of Wicked in 2013. An understudy for Boq and a member of the ensemble, Larkin does eight shows a week in the Gershwin Theatre.
“I think that Wicked will play probably into eternity,” Larkin says matter-of-factly. “Wicked is in the tier of shows now where they likely just won’t close for a long time.”
The 32-year-old actor believes that Wicked has joined the ranks of shows like Cats, Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, Lion King, and Chicago.
“It’s kind of a rare thing. I’ve been in the show for a long time now, and I never imagined I’d be there that long. I never imagined I would have job security in show business.”
When Larkin and his younger brother, Ross, were in elementary school, their parents — Shannon Bogan, an interior designer, and Rick Bogan, a physician — took them to New York to see some Broadway shows.
“We went a couple of times, and I think the reason we went in the first place is that my mom used to play the soundtrack of Phantom of the Opera in the car. She had one of those Volvos back in the day where the back seat faced backwards, and you could look out the back window. I have all these vivid memories of watching the road fade away, listening to Phantom of the Opera, and my imagination running wild with what I thought it would be. We eventually flew to New York and saw it,” Larkin says.
Larkin first knew he wanted to pursue musical theater in sixth grade when he played Nick Bottom in Heathwood Hall’s abridged production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (Fun fact: CMM Editor Margaret Clay played Hermia in the very same production.) Tamara Stevenson taught drama at Heathwood, and Barbara Bryan taught music. Under their direction, Larkin remembers developing a passion for Broadway tunes. Later at Hammond School, Larkin worked with drama teacher Linda Khoury and choral director Steven Hillard, who shepherded him into extracurricular theater roles, including a stint as Andrew in Workshop Theatre’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Larkin took guitar lessons from Barrett Smith, who played bluegrass on Thursday nights with a live band at the now-defunct El Burrito in Five Points. He has fond memories of going to hear Barrett’s band play.
“I was too young to drink, but I was plenty old enough to appreciate the burritos and the live tunes, so my best friend, the other guitar player in my band at the time, and I would go to check stuff out there.”
Formed with neighborhood friends Lee Holmes; Lana Sims; and Larkin’s third cousin, Luke McFadden; Larkin’s band was called One Flight Down because rehearsals were held in Mary and Mac McFaddens’ basement.
“We used to play at Flora, at Hammond, and at all kinds of talent shows,” Larkin says. “We competed in a Columbia area battle of the bands our senior year, and we actually won it.” The prize was a free recording session and an invitation to open for a radio-hit band at a bar near the airport. Larkin treasures the recording that One Flight Down got to make. Nearly 15 years later he is looking forward to recording an album of original songs with his current band, Sir Richard Newton, which he formed with castmate Dan Gleason.
Larkin has a blue-eyed Australian shepherd, Newman, and lives in Astoria, about a 20-minute train ride away from Times Square. His girlfriend is fellow Broadway star Liana Hunt. The two met as students in the CAP21 program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
“It was so funny because we played lovers in Pippin and Urine Town, and we were both dating other people at the time, so we were just friends. A year after school, we both found ourselves single, and it was kind of like, ‘Oh, of course,” Larkin says.
Larkin’s guidance counselor at Hammond sparked his path to NYU. He remembers Adeline Lundy pulling him aside in her office one day and suggesting he visit a private school in California, Idyllwild Arts. His parents took him to an audition, and he was accepted at Idyllwild on the spot. He spent his senior year in California concentrating on musical theater and auditioning for colleges.
Now that his career is well-established, Larkin spends his free time serving as a volunteer for the Broadway Green Alliance on the set of Wicked, finding ways to encourage environmental responsibility at the theater. He regularly practices yoga before going onstage. Surprisingly he learned a favorite thing to do before a Broadway show while spending summers at Folly Beach in South Carolina.
“Surfing is one of my very greatest passions,” Larkin says. “It’s probably one of my biggest artistic influences as well. Something about surfing has so many metaphors for the rest of life. It’s a discipline and a passion. It’s a solo venture, and it’s my favorite way of spending time outside and exercising.”
With a different wetsuit for each season, Larkin surfs year-round. “New York has world-class waves, much to my surprise when I moved here. Sometimes you’ve got to wait a month or so for the waves to come, but when they do, they’re really good. Never in a million years did I think I’d go surf some really nice waves before my Broadway show at night.”
If surfing is a metaphor for life, all Larkin Bogan needs to do is wait for the next big break.
“I’d love to be a part of an original Broadway cast, as opposed to a replacement, as I have been for my other shows. I think every actor’s dream, or at least a theater actor’s dream, is to be a part of a show from the ground up, to create a role. I would also love to work in television or film. I’ve dabbled a bit here and there.”
Meanwhile, Larkin is content to bask in the bright lights of Broadway. His smile is nearly audible as he tries to explain how great it feels.
“It’s kind of like everything I dreamed about as a kid,” he says. “I would say that I felt the same way, being the young guy in the crowd at all the community theater shows. But, when you come to New York and you’re on Broadway and it’s actually happening, it’s nothing like you expected and yet everything all at once.”
Sitting down with Larkin Bogan:
Q: What was your hometown neighborhood growing up?
A: With having a mom who was an interior designer, we flipped some houses and moved around quite a bit. I lived in about 10 different houses between Columbia and Charleston growing up, but I would say we primarily lived on Lake Katherine. I had my company from Wicked send a bunch of supplies down during the flood. It was where I grew up.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Columbia?
A: Before it closed, El Burrito might be up there for the sake of the band.
Q: Do you have a favorite movie?
A: All things Jim Carrey. He’s such a clown, and I think he’s a big influence on me.
Q: What was your first job?
A: Technically, my first job was acting on Strike the Tent, also known as The Last Confederate: the Story of Robert Adams. I think that was my first paycheck. We shot that out in Hopkins.
Q: What was your first car?
A: A Jeep Wrangler.
Q: What’s your favorite comfort food?
A: A chicken biscuit. Here’s another good story. My dresser at Wicked, Randy Witherspoon, had a catering service where he would get up really early on two-show days (2 p.m. and 8 p.m. shows on Saturdays and Sundays) and make a ton of food and go drop it off in little to-go containers at many of the Broadway houses with an honor system envelope. He’s from Kershaw and makes all his grandmother’s old recipes. He finally just left to open his first brick-and-mortar down the street from the Gershwin Theatre. So, I’ll pop over there every now and then and get some chicken and biscuits and feel right at home. It’s called Spoonfed NYC. I’ll grab a bite and get a hug, and maybe my band will play a few songs. It’s great.
Q: What advice would you give to a young person starting out who sees Wicked and says, “I really want to do that”?
A: Dive in and really make sure it’s what you want to do. It’s a very unforgiving business. There’s a lot that you don’t really learn about it until you’re in the thick of it. So, I would say, jump in and figure out what you’re good at and what you’re not, and what you like about it. I think there’s something to be said for experience. You can read about it and study it all you want, but after you get up and do it a bunch, then you’ll really know.
Q: Are you an introvert or extrovert?
A: It’s weird. I’m a bit of both. When I’m on stage or I’m in a group of people, I am very much a clown, but there’s also the surfer in me who is perfectly content with going out and spending the whole day on the water by myself. I think it depends on the scenario, but I think I’ve found a nice balance.
Q: Besides surfing, what do you do for fun?
A: I love to travel, and I love to spend any time outside with Liana.
Q: Is your desk messy or neat?
A: Messy. There are old audition sides [pages from a script]. There are all of Newman’s paperwork and travel documents. There are head shots. There’s guitar equipment. A couple bars of surfboard wax. And lots of receipts for the business. There’s no use pretending — I’m a mess.