Roselle Park’s own Zachary Infante is currently taking part in an ambitious project called ‘Wait Wait Don’t Kill Me’. Zachary is one of a cast of 11 who participated in this first-ever podcast musical.
Taking its title from the popular NPR (National Public Radio) show ‘Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me’ (link), the five episode podcast, which had its first weekly episode on November 15th, is itself a musical satire of the famous podcast ‘Serial’ (link).
Serial was a nonfiction episodic audio program that followed journalist Sarah Koenig as she investigates the 1999 murder of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee and Adnan Masud Syed, her ex-boyfriend, who was convicted of killing her. The podcast followed Koenig as she spoke with witnesses and officials attempting to find out if Adnan, who always protested his innocence, was actually guilty of the crime. As a result of Serial‘s popularity, Adnan has granted a second trial.
In Wait Wait Don’t Kill Me, Zachary portrays Adnan. Fellow cast members include Leslie Kritzer who portrays Sarah Koenig, Jessie Cannizzaro as Ira Glass, and Renée Albulario as Hae Min Lee as well as Greg Hildreth, Lilli Cooper, Alex Gould, Kate Loprest, Howie Michael Smith, Robin Virginie, and Clyde Voce. The musical was written by Dave Holstein with music and lyrics by Alan Schmuckler. The podcast’s director is Kevin Laibson.
Zachary talks about how he got involved in the project, recalling, “My agent called me a week before the table reading that they wanted me to read for Adnan. I went in and got the part. We record for four days straight in Teaneck.”
Wait Wait Don’t Kill Me is groundbreaking in that it expands the reach of musical theatre and podcasting yet rooted deep in the history of 20th century American entertainment of the original weekly radio broadcast cliffhangers of ‘The Lone Ranger’. Wait Wait Don’t Kill Me uses technology to keep that tradition alive.
“It’s a special time to be a part of this type of show for so many reasons,” said Zachary, “Not only does it comment on media but it also evolves musical theatre to the next level. I am amazed I was working with a wonderful supportive group of artists who were coming together to make sense of this dark story in a light-hearted comedic way. I had never done anything at all like this. I didn’t know anyone involved in the project and being in the room with people who have done this before made me much more grateful. I wanted to put my best professional foot forward.”
Using his talent as an actor, he worked with the crew of 20 to make sure he tracked the arc of this character as he learned the script as well as the music then go through rehearsals and revisions with the cast. He recalled, “It takes a different type of stamina and preparation and endurance than with stage work. It was a great experience for me. Things are done out of order in the studio so you have to be ready when engineers are ready. I had to maintain a regimen with my voice to be sure I was able to sing in between takes.”
He continued, “What I appreciate about this project was the opportunity to be part of an ambitious idea and that we made a genuine investment in the moment. Knowing how projects can sometimes start in one direction then move elsewhere, I feel grateful to have been asked to be invited back to the table.”
The actor, singer, director, producer, and lifelong Roselle Park resident is known for his role as Gordon in the film ‘School of Rock’ but he has also worked with critically acclaimed director Julie Taymor in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ as well as on television in ‘Alpha House’ and on the Fox show ‘Gotham’. Being a veteran of the stage, Zachary has been in numerous professional theatre productions. Having nurtured his craft in various Roselle Park musical productions, Zachary never forgets his roots and hometown – plus he can belt out a powerful rendition of “Don’t Stop Believin'”.
From being on stage at Roselle Park High School (RPHS) to – now – being able to reach a worldwide audience through technology, Zachary realizes the journey his career and life have taken. Not only has he had to deal with the usual ups and downs that come along with having a career in acting, but on November 21st 2006 Zach was diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Hodgkins Lymphona. It was actually the night of RPHS’ talent show, having sung “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “One Song Glory” from the musical Rent that he ended up in a hospital emergency room. He found out he had tumors in his lower abdomen and that the cancer had entered his spinal fluid. He is a cancer survivor and is an advocate for The Valerie Fund, which helps families of pediatric cancer survivors and their healthcare providers make strides in research and recovery. But Zach does not want people to focus on just that or on just any other part of himself. He is more than just an adjective or a phrase that can pigeonhole someone. He wants to share his art and have others experience it.
“It’s crazy,” he said, “It’s been ten years! Being from Roselle Park and having such a genuinely supportive community really helped me. I’ve always felt an investment in Roselle Park and the community. I feel that it’s part of my mission. It’s exciting to see what comes next.”
As for what is next, Zachary is about to start in the American Repertory Theater production of Alexa Junge’s “Fingersmith” (link) from December 4th through January 8th of next year. The play, directed by Bill Rausch, is a Victorian crime drama based on the novel by Sarah Waters. Then, in February, Zachary will be in the stage production of “The Petrol Station” written by Kuwaiti playwright Sulayman Al Bassam.
Wait Wait Don’t Kill Me has new episodes every Tuesday and will have its final episode on December 13th. The podcast can be heard on Wondery’s website (link). The first episode is available below.