BWW Interviews: The Preacher's Son Plays Reverend Shaw Moore - David Ruprecht
"So here I am, a preacher's son, playing the preacher!" smiles David Ruprecht. The renowned star of television, film, and stage muses about his latest gig playing the Reverend Shaw Moore in Maine State Music Theatre's production of Footloose, which runs from August 6-23.
Ruprecht's affinities for the part and this production are numerous. It is, first of all, directed and choreographed by his wife, Patti Colombo, an experience he says he finds "very interesting because I never have worked with her as a director before, only once long ago as a choreographer." Then there is the role of the charismatic and troubled Texas preacher who forbids dancing to the townsfolk of Bomont. "My dad was a preacher [a Lutheran minister] in Florida, where I grew up, and he was very, very charismatic. Naturally, he wanted his son to become a preacher, too. I had all the talents, but not the calling, so I did the next best thing and became an actor. After all, both actors and preachers put on costumes and speak to large groups or people, and both have a little wine after the show," he jokes mischievously.
Ruprecht earned his BA at Valparaiso College. He said that he had plenty of stage opportunities because the college was small, but the best experience it offered him was the chance to spend his junior year in Coventry, England, where he received the rigorous actor's training for which the British are famed and acquired an excellent foundation for his chosen profession. He began to find work after graduation, but there was still Rev. Ruprecht to win over.
"Dad came around when I was doing a dinner theatre show with Pat O'Brien in Columbus, Ohio. We went out afterwards, and my father asked O'Brien if he thought I could make it as an actor. O'Brien said 'yes,' and from that point on I was golden!"
Ruprecht says he believes his character Reverend Moore "has been a terrific preacher, but with the tragic loss of his son, he starts to shut off with his family and in his personal life. He has the power to convince the whole town that it is illegal to dance until a young punk from Chicago chips away at him. It's as if he is chipping at the Berlin Wall. There is a beautifully written scene between the Reverend and Ren when Ren nails him. It all hits home!" Yet, Ruprecht says that despite the personal connections he can make to Shaw Moore, "I think that having grown up the preacher's son, I understand Ariel's character even better."
Of Colombo's direction of the show, Ruprecht waxes eloquent: "She is the smartest person I have ever met and the second funniest behind Robin Williams. She has a brilliant concept for Footloose. She's taken it to a new level, bringing a sense of humor and choreographing these big, raucous rock anthems with so much energy. It is fun, lively, athletic, and also very lyrical."
Ruprecht enjoys telling the story of how the couple met after the breakup of his first marriage: "We dated for eight months, and then I decided I had to sow some wild oats, so I broke up with Patti and broke her heart. Then months later I was doing Gilligan's Island and I saw her on stage and realized I had been the dumbest idiot! So we went out after the rehearsal and decided to date again, but take it slowly this time. But on our first date, I proposed, and she accepted!" They make their home in Sierra Madre, California, " a lovely small, safe town" near Pasadena.
Ruprecht has an extensive stage resume, including a turn on Broadway in Perfectly Frank, a musical about Frank Loesser, as well as numerous regional theatre performances. He recalls some of his favorite shows, among them The Music Man, which he toured with Donald O'Connor, and How to Succeed in Business. Of the roles he has not yet undertaken, he says he "can see a [H]enry [H]iggens in my future."
"Stage work is totally different from television and film," he explains. "The closest television gets is in sitcoms where you get to perform two-shows for a live audience while taping with three cameras. Stage gives you immediate gratification. You can experience the character's arc right straight through the play. Television and film require a different skill set."
Ruprecht enjoyed a two-year tenure (1990-1992) with the soap opera, Days of Our Lives, an experience he remembers fondly: " I was lucky to be working with other very good actors. They wanted to discover, so we did a great deal of discussing and playing off one another. You form attachments to the role and the people you work with when you do a series like that." He would love to "play somebody's dad in another live sitcom" if the opportunity presents itself.
Ruprecht's longest running television engagement, however, was as the host of the Lifetime/PAX game show, Supermarket Sweep, which ran from 1990-2002. Asked how he came to be hired for the popular family show, Ruprecht quips, "Well, it's not one of the booths you see at a high school career day! I had done a couple of reality-type shows, and I had received several offers before, which I had turned down because I was so intent on being an ACTOR. Then this offer came, and Patti and I were engaged. We thought that if we were perhaps going to have a child, one of us better have a steady income. I had almost a fourteen-year run, and it gave me great visibility."
Queried about the skills are needed to be a successful game show host, Ruprecht replies: "The first lesson one of the producers taught me was that I was not the star of the show. He told me to imagine I was throwing a party and just happen to have a vegetable section in my living room. My job was to draw as much personality out of the contestants as possible so that the at-home audience knew for whom they wanted to root. You have to juggle many balls in the air at once - keep in mind the rules, the games, the tempo, and always remember the contestants are the stars."
In addition to television, film, and stage work, Ruprecht has done comedy improv - "that's where I met Robin Williams" and cabaret - a live version of The Price Is Right in Vegas, Foxwoods, and other resorts. And, he has written several screen plays, one of which, Finding Home, was filmed here in Maine in 2003. The movie explores the life of a remote island community, and Ruprecht, was not only was one of the principal scriptwriters, but he played a preacher.
An oddly circular and serendipitous turn? Ruprecht smiles again: That's just an actor's lot. We go from week to week and gig to gig. I can't complain. I have had a great career already, and I am not done yet!"
Photo Courtesy of Maine State Music Theatre