The largest role I have ever played in a play was the role of Terk in Disney’s Broadway musical Tarzan (debatably it was the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, but that was the junior version and a much smaller production.) Terk was definitely the most challenging part I have ever played.
In the production I was a part of, the cast was divided into three parts: the chorus, which just sang, the gorillas, who just danced, and the main roles, who sang, danced, and acted. Most of the main characters also “flew” as well. So right off the bat, my character was far and away more difficult than most of the other parts, but it was also very challenging for me for very specific reasons as well.
First off, the vocal range of Terk in the Broadway musical is very, very high. He sings on a high tenor C in pretty much every song he sings, and he doesn’t just pop up there every once and a while, he hangs out on the C a lot. This is a range that a lot of tenors find difficult to sing, and oftentimes girls are cast as Terk to deal with this problem. I am not even a Tenor, but a baritone, so this made the problem even more compounded. Succinctly put, much of the part was out of my range for all practical purposes. We dealt with this partially by taking some parts of the songs down an octave so that it was in my range and partially by me just singing really high the rest of the time.
The second big challenge for me was the flying rigs. Of all the characters in the show, I used them the most, even more than Tarzan. I used them nearly from the beginning of the show to the end to swing across the stage on jungle vines. Mastering the flying equipment and harnesses themselves was difficult in its own right, but the real challenge came when I had to sing (very high) while swinging around on the ropes. There were at least a couple of rather terrifying moments in performances where, swinging around high above the stage, my ropes and lines got tangled, and I had to somehow manage to extricate myself from the tangle without breaking character or strangling myself, all while singing.
Lastly was the acting. Although the acting part was not especially taxing, I have a problem. In acting, learning and performing a part is a continual process, and with every rehearsal your performance should get better, all the way up until opening night and perhaps even past it. For me, often (perhaps always), this process does not always go as I would like it to, and there comes a point in rehearsals where I’m not performing how well I think I should be or am expected to at the time. Consequently I have a tendency to get a little emotional about it; not cry-cry emotional, but debilitatingly introspective emotional, which is much worse. I get so upset or obsessed about how I am performing that it actually inhibits me from progressing in my part. This is what happened in Tarzan. But, as usual, after a few horrible practices I got out of my grossly introspective mood and was able to perform well by opening night. And the feeling of a triumphant opening night is enough to suppress any negative memories of difficult rehearsals.