Enter the stage door at the 46th Street Theater, walk up three flights and you will find a door that reads "Mr. Daniel Hugh Kelly." And if you're Daniel Hugh Kelly, you're more surprised than anyone to see the name on the door.
"This is not something I ever thought would happen," says Kelly, who stars as the idealistic reporter in the revival of Garson Kanin's "Born Yesterday." "But it was definitely something I was shooting for in my career."Yes, after years of working in regional theater and on TV - on "Hardcastle & McCormick" and "Ryan's Hope" - Kelly has landed squarely on the Great White Way. In a classic comedy. Starring with Ed Asner and Madeline Kahn. Talk about dreams come true.
"The work has such a history and Ed and Madeline, I've watched them for years," says Kelly. "So, all of this is very exciting."
And in some ways intimidating.
"It's a very difficult role," says Kelly of playing Paul Verrall, the young New Republic reporter hired by burly junkman Harry Brock to educate his ditsy mistress. "He can be played in so many different ways. He can be played as a preachy, better-than-thou guy. Or as a naive bookworm. Or as a selfish rake - which is what I finally settled on."
Kelly's Broadway debut came quite quickly. He was in New York trying out for a revival of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," only to find himself out of work as the play was postponed. Quickly after, he was cast in "Born Yesterday" and touring the country with the production.
Yet, it was only until he got to Broadway that his success finally hit him. "At first, Broadway seemed like it was just another stop on the tour," he says. "Every theater just seemed the same. But when I realized it, I had to cool down my nerves."
But not too much. "I like to use that nervous energy," he admits. And indeed he does. On stage, Kelly plays Verrall as an intense, manipulating figure, a direct counterpoint to Asner and Kahn. He conveys a seriousness as the play's catalyst that clearly proves the history Kelly has playing rakes.
For four years he played the politically ambitious Frank Ryan on "Ryan's Hope" and then followed it up with a long stint as the car-racing ex-con on "Hardcastle & McCormick." Rakes, both.
And while he clearly values his TV experience, Kelly is glad to be developing his acting technique on the stage. "There are more people interested in having a phone in their car than doing a decent show," he says of his TV days. "Here, it's more like wrestling, one-on-one with the audience."
It's been like that ever since this Elizabeth, N.J., native joined the Catholic University National Players touring the country in their dramatic productions. But even when it got tough, the 36-year-old Kelly says he was single-minded in his ambition to act for a living. "I never thought about getting out," he says. "I'm confident in what I can do and I'm stubborn as well."
But that's not all he's got going for him. Kelly and his wife just bought a 127-acre working farm in upstate New York and are settling in, eagerly anticipating the May arrival of their first child.
And from there? Sure, Kelly wants his Broadway debut to endure. But he's got one grand plan - to purchase a sleigh and horses and ride about his property. "Maybe I've been watching too many Budweiser commercials," he jokes.
Or just thirsting for another adventure.