Ian McKellen to Lend Voice to Olney Theatre Center's HOW TO SUCCEEED
Olney Theatre Center just announced the return of legendary star of stage and screen Sir Ian McKellen, making his musical comedy debut in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying as the "Book Voice", narrating the action in the Tony-winning musical. Former Artistic Director Jim Petosa, who produced McKellen's first appearance at Olney, has signed on to voice the show's "TV Announcer". How to Succeed is known for having voiceover parts often recorded by recognizable voices including broadcast journalists Walter Cronkite (1995 Broadway revival) and Anderson Cooper (2011 Broadway revival).
McKellen was last at Olney Theatre Center in 1987 in his one-man show Acting Shakespeare. Long before becoming an international star, McKellen earned Olney's everlasting affection when he mounted a four-week, one-man fundraising campaign, signing t-shirts and posters with his picture after each performance to pay for the installation of air conditioning units for the intern housing on the second floor of the theatre, as well as renovations to the Historic Stage backstage and dressing room area.
Recently he recalled the campaign, which occurred in July 1987 during the Iran-Contra hearings. The local company which made the t-shirts was also doing a brisk business in t-shirts featuring Oliver North. "But we were so successful," McKellen recalls, "that the shop ran out of t-shirts. I'm told we outsold Oliver North."
"Arranging for Sir Ian's residency at Olney Theatre was among the first tasks I had upon joining the staff there," says Mr. Petosa. "I remember him for his extraordinary personality and his enthusiasm for the total immersion into a community of theatre artists living and working together. He said it reminded him of the earliest days of his life in the theatre. We couldn't get enough of him and his spirited presence."
McKellen has more than 40 international awards for his half-century on screen and stage and has worked regularly for the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre of Great Britain. In London's West End, he has been seen in Shakespeare and a wide range of classic and new plays. In 2001, he returned to Broadway inDance of Death and hosted Saturday Night Live. He was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2004. McKellen has starred in more than 40 movies including Richard III, Stephen King's Apt Pupil, Gods and Monsters, The Da Vinci Code, four X-Men films, and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. He is currently playing Estragon in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Spooner in Harold Pinter's No Man's Land on Broadway.
Petosa, who last directed Sleuth on Olney Theatre Center's Mainstage in 2012, has been the artistic and educational leader of the Boston University School of Theatre since 2002, and was recently named New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, Massachusetts. He also serves as one of three Artistic Directors for the Potomac Theatre Project in Manhattan (originally in Washington, D.C.), dedicated to producing political works. He has directed many plays and operas, and received a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Director for his Olney Theatre Center production of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. As a guest artist, he has directed at the John F. Kennedy Center, Studio Theatre, Round House Theatre, and Rep Stage. Petosa also directed the Theater J production of Collected Stories, for which he received a 2001 Helen Hayes Award nomination for outstanding direction. A member of Actors' Equity Association, Petosa has served on the board of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Catalyst Theatre, and Playwrights Forum.
Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos