Monday, January 30, 2012

Jim Dale Retrospective has run a retrospective on the career of Broadway vet Jim Dale, known to the wider world as the voice of the Harry Potter audio book series. It talks about his favorite roles on stage (and a few he did on screen). Enjoy!

To borrow a lyric from Barnum, the colors of Jim Dale’s theatrical life are bountiful and bold—which makes the Tony-winning star, now celebrating his 55th year in show business, the perfect actor to inaugurate’s newest feature, Role Call. Dale is currently giving a lovely performance as South African clergyman Marius Byleveld in Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway revival of The Road to Mecca, but he is best known for his acrobatic star turns in Barnum, Scapino (which he co-wrote) and Candide, as well as his Grammy-winning narration of the Harry Potter audiobooks. Now prepping a solo show on his career, which began in British music halls when he was still in his teens, the 76-year-old actor was game to fill in the Role Call blanks for

Role I Had the Most Fun Doing

Scapino [1974] was possibly the greatest fun I’ve ever had onstage. It had everything: commedia dell’arte, English pantomime and wonderful slapstick. I played an outrageous servant-of-two-masters character in modern dress, doing crazy, crazy, crazy things that had the audience in stitches. At one point, I actually leaped onto the back of the front row and ran over the seats into the center of the auditorium. It was a huge success.”

Role that Required the Most Versatility

“The Harry Potter audiobook people were looking for an English actor who could do a lot of characters, and someone suggested me. I got into the Guinness Book of World Records for putting 134 voices into one book; overall, it was more than 230 voices. The acting had to come entirely from the vocals, because I couldn’t move behind that microphone. I didn’t realize that at my age, I would be appealing to kids who would grow up with me, going to bed every night over the course of eight years with those tapes. I ordered a coffee in McDonald’s once, and some kid recognized the voice and said, ‘Can you order me a hamburger like Dumbledore?’ So I did!”

Role With the Best Costumes

“Definitely Candide [1997], which was the craziest show I ever did. I played eight different roles, with eight costume changes in two hours. Can you believe it? There was a soldier, there was a policeman and a businessman, there was an old man hovering over the audience like a guru—I didn’t even know who I was by the time the show was over.”

Role That Fans Ask Me About Most

“It’s not something I did in the theater—it’s Pete’s Dragon [1977], a film I made for Disney. People ask me about it all the time. I played Dr. Terminus, the villain; Red Buttons and I wanted to chop the dragon up and sell it as magic souvenirs. It was a crazy film, with animation, but so well received by the kids who saw it. They all remember Pete’s Dragon.”

Role I Wish I Could Do Again

“My favorite role was Terri Dennis in Peter Nichols’ Privates on Parade [1989]. He’s an outrageous ‘queen’ who is in the army entertaining the troops, and he does terrible impressions of Carmen Miranda, Marlene Dietrich and Noel Coward. He tries his best, but he’s terrible! We did it off-Broadway at the Union Square Theatre, and it was unbelievably fun.”

Role That I Could Not Do Again

“That would be Barnum [1980]. I used walk a 38-foot-long tightrope and sing a song at the same time! Joe Layton, the director, said to me, ‘You’re very physical. Let’s do this while you’ve still got your youth.’ So instead of climbing a wall, I would jump onto a trampoline and spring up 10 feet to where Glenn Close [as Charity Barnum] was standing in a box, lean over and kiss her. I spent six weeks learning to ride a unicycle just for the curtain call! That’s dedication — not only me, but the other kids who did it, as well.”

Role That Was Small But Sweet

“The Road to Mecca [now at the American Airlines Theatre], absolutely. It’s so different—people associate me with eccentric comedy, and now I’m a vicar. Athol Fugard wrote the part for himself, and I have fallen in love with him. He says [Dale assumes a South African accent], ‘I’m blown away, Jimmy Dale. This is the best production I’ve ever seen.’ You couldn’t hope for better people to be on stage with than Rosemary Harris and Carla Gugino. This is a lovely, relaxing role and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.”

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