BWW Interviews: Dick Van Dyke Talks His One Man Musical Show @ the Geffen


Legendary stage, film and television star Dick Van Dyke brings Step In Time! A Musical Memoir to the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theatre @ the Geffen Playhouse opening December 16. He has much to say in our interview about his career and the people he's worked with.

What are you going to be doing in Step In Time?

Well, it's still kind of in the formative stages right now. We had a concert out here in August, we did a loose performance of our stuff, but they want it to be theatricalized a little bit, so we're going to make it autobiographical to some extent. We'll put in some film clips and things of that kind. It will be a little more structured.

Was the title, the song from Mary Poppins, your choice?

It turned out to be everybody's choice. We fooled around with a number of titles. Step in Time seemed to work on two levels: it's the name of a song and it also has an autobiographical sound to it ... steps in time.

Will you be doing any 'stepping', we hope, during the show?

Some, yeah, I'm doing a couple of numbers from...Poppins and Chitty Bang Bang. So I'll be doing some stepping!

Great! Have you considered writing a book?

As a matter of fact, I'm working on one right now.

Wonderful! Published within the coming year?

Probably spring it'll be out. They came to me, so I had to start reminiscing. It's all there.

As you look back, anything you'd like to do that you haven't done?

No. As I said, this is not work, but a part of my retirement. Everyone else is playing golf; I'm doing this.

You love to do it, that's why!

Such a joy!

I'll give you the name of a film or show you've done and say the first thing that comes into your mind about it!

the film: The Comic (1969)

We were excited about that. We thought we had an authentic piece there. It showed the times. We went out and shot a lot of 16mm comedy schtick, a lot of which didn't end up in the film. It was an interesting movie, but opened and closed in the same week. We were kind of prousd of it. Aaron Ruben and I wrote it and rewrote it every day on the set. We had a lot of fun; Mickey Rooney was in it.

the show and film: Bye Bye Birdie (1960; 1963)

It's a case of where they Hollywoodized the film. People loved it, but it just didn't compare...the Broadway show was really a romp. Some of the best songs were cut from the screen version, and some of the best dance numbers. It turned into a vehicle for Ann-Margret, which had been a rather small part on Broadway. She deserved the break she got, but for me the movie was not nearly as good as the Broadway version.

the film: Mary Poppins ( 1964)

Almost the same thing is true there. I saw the stage version last year and it was much darker and left out some of my favorite songs, although it was a great evening of the theatre. Mary Poppins was one of the best experiences of my life.

(There's a reverse in trends to be noted here. Whereas Bye Bye Birdie started as a stage show and later became a movie, Mary Poppins began as a film and much later became a stage musical, in 2004. Although he enjoyed the stage version, Van Dyke definitely preferred the film of Mary Poppins, in which he starred.)

And you performed on stage in Mary Poppins in LA, am I correct?

(laughs) I got up there and did the old banker. It was fun.

TV: The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)

Everyone of us connected with it say it was the best five years we ever had. It was never work. It had brilliant writing that Carl Reiner did. He wanted to cut if off at five years; I'd still be doing it if I could. I didn't want it to end.

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Don Grigware Don Grigware is an Ovation nominated actor and writer whose contributions to theatre through the years have included 6 years as theatre editor of NoHoLA, a contributor to LA Stage Magazine and currently on his own website:

Don hails from Holyoke, Massachusetts and holds two Masters Degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in Education and Bilingual Studies. He is a teacher of foreign language and ESL.

Don is in his fifth year with BWW, currently serving as Senior Editor of the Los Angeles Page.