We slowed down with Larry Albert, currently on stage as Grandpa Prophater in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. Check out the schnazzy Q&A we got!
VT: Tell us a bit about Grandpa Prophater.
LA: He’s the father of Mrs. Smith and a widower. He fought in the, Civil War 1861-1865, on which side isn’t made too clear in the show but since I had ancestors who were in the Union Army I’ve decide he wore blue and not grey. He’s a retired business man who pays his way as he can. He’s beloved by his daughter and her children and has a good relationship with his son-in-law. Grandpa has a few eccentricities, collecting and wearing all sorts of hats, but he enjoys life and intends to fill his final days with laughter and joy.
VT: How did you get involved in Musical Theatre?
LA: As with many of my friends and contemporaries I did my first musical in High School back in 1966. I was cast as Will in Oklahoma. For the first time in my life, outside of baseball, I found something I was good at doing. When I decided to make acting my profession I just seemed to naturally gravitate to musical theatre. I’ve done a good many straight plays over the years but musicals have always been where I’ve felt the most comfortable.
VT: What was your first show like in comparison to Meet Me in St. Louis?
LA: I’ll skip Oklahoma and go to my first paying gig. That was in 1974 at the old Skid Road Theater in Pioneer Square; it’s now an Italian restaurant. We were all young and eager and we had that “we can do anything” outlook. The show was Joseph Papp’s musical version of Two Gentlemen of Verona. Very 70’s anti-war and an effort to bring Shakespeare to the masses, or so we all thought. We all took a hand in building the sets, sewing the costumes and doing whatever it took to get an audience in. There was nothing slick about the production but it had a lot of heart.
Meet Me in St. Louis is the type of production I wanted to be doing at this time of my career. Fully professional, in a first rate theatre with a multi-talented cast. The part of grandpa may not be as exciting or demanding as some I played in the Skid Road type of playhouse, but back then I just wanted to act. Now I make my living as an actor and I have the same dedication I did when I was helping to build the sets in the old days.
VT: How has this show differed from your Show Boat experience?
LA: Apples and oranges. Show Boat is a classic of the American Musical Stage and playing Cap’n Andy was to me being asked to walk in the shoes of Mickey Rooney, Donald O’Connor, Joe E. Brown, Jerry Lewis, and the great creator of the part Charles Winninger. I carried something from all of them with me in the part and as some of the folks who saw the show know, I paid a small homage to a few of them in the melodrama. I lost a lot of weight in 85 performances. Thank goodness the leads were so terrific and carried the bulk of the show.
Grandpa on the other hand doesn’t come with the same history and is used in an entirely different way. He actually only moves the story once or twice and is therefore a more relaxing role. The burden of this show lays squarely on the shoulders of the actress in the Judy Garland role and if anyone wonders if Ryah Nixon is up to the job, well I say she’s more then equal to the task.
VT: As an actor, what interested you in this production?
LA: Two things. A chance to work again with my old friend Steve Tomkins; it had been a very long time and after I read with her at the call backs, I wanted to work with Ryah. However, the plum in the pudding is being on stage with John Patrick Lowrie for the first time. For over eight years John and I have been playing the parts of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in a syndicated radio series of new adventures and adaptations of the canon. We’ve recorded almost 100 shows together, and still going, but we’ve never worked on stage in the same play. Well, now we have and it’s a hoot.