BWW Interview 'Days of Our Lives' Peter Reckell Returns to His Theater Roots in THE FANTASTICKS
Peter Reckell, the Emmy-nominated actor best known for playing Bo Brady, a role he originated in 1983 on the NBC drama DAYS OF OUR LIVES, is returning to his New York theatrical roots to star as the suave and charismatic 'El Gallo' in the long-running musical The Fantasticks. Many years ago the actor played the role of The Mute and Matt in the Sullivan Street Production of the show.
Today, Reckell speaks exclusively with BWW about the challenges and rewards of returning to the stage after a thirty-five year absence.
It's been many years since you last appeared on stage. What was it that made you decide to return to your theater roots?
Well, I got the call from the show out of the blue, and I talked it over with my wife and my family and even though it really didn't fit into my schedule, we decided to pry open some time to make it work. I guess I'm one of those guys who believes that when the universe hands you something so clearly, you gotta take it for whatever reason and see what happens. And since the show is part of my history and I haven't been on the boards for so long, I was like, 'heck, let's just try it out and see what happens.' And when I did the show before, the El Gallo role was always attractive to me. So to have it put it my face like this I decided, let's do it, let's have some fun!
Can you speak a little about the character of El Gallo? Are there any similarities between the two of you?
Well, I guess one of the main similarities is one of the reasons I decided to come back to the show, and that's the hambone in me! I like to have fun and make people laugh. Making people laugh is fun, and for the role of El Gallo, that is certainly part of the character.
Do you consider him the villain of the story?
Well no, I don't see a villain, I see more of a teacher and doing it in a way that will help people.
Any of us who have been parents, or even if we look at ourselves carefully, we realize that the best lessons we learn in life have been the ones we've learned first hand, we've learned by experience. Those are the lessons that really stick. And that's what El Gallo does for the children in the show, he teaches them by having them go through the experience. And as they do go through these experiences, they do get injured and as El Gallo says in the show, much like a parent who is teaching their child a lesson, it hurts them just as much as it hurts their children. So I do not see him as a villain.
And the more attractive part of the character is being the narrator. You know the poetry in this show is just amazing and very thought-provoking and I get to have these discussions and share these poems with the audience that are very deep and beautiful. So being able to go back and forth between being the narrator and experiencing the show with the audience, and then getting to be El Gallo, one of the characters in the show, it's a fun journey.
The eight shows a week schedule can be grueling, but I'm sure you are used to that after working on a daytime drama for so many years. Do you think that experience will help your endurance?
Yes, doing eight shows a week, it's not easy obviously, but we actors like it. And I've said this several times when I was doing daytime TV, when people said, 'oh it's such a grueling schedule' and I'd say, yeah, but I love doing what I do and so I don't see it as grueling, I see it as a lot of fun!
What do you think will be the biggest challenge?
Well basically, the difficult part is getting back in shape to be able to do it. I haven't sung in fifteen years, so it's been kind of fun exploring my voice again, seeing how it's matured and I'm just having a great time. My voice teacher's like, 'why have you not sung in fifteen years, cause you're doing great!' So I'm actually having a great time getting back in shape.
Speaking of your singing talents, I'm guessing some of your fans will be surprised to learn that you are a singer. Did you ever have the opportunity to show off your vocal chops during your years on DAYS OF OUR LIVES?
We did experiment with it a couple of times, and the thing is, that is so true of so many actors. Like [Days of Our Lives star] Bryan Dattilo is an amazing comic, he's so funny and they don't write that for him, and sometimes I think 'gosh, why don't they take advantage of how funny the kid is?' And over the years there's been different actors and actresses that have had these special talents that aren't part of their character.
But that is one thing that I was proud of the writers in the early days, they would really see something going on with an actor and take advantage of that in the writing. And I think that's why Bo and Hope were so successful. The writers really watched what we did and wrote in directions that we played. I don't know that they do that as much these days, but I think that's one advantage of soap operas, it's a continuing drama and you've got these actors and writers that can work together, and when they do, it's advantageous for the show.
DAYS OF OUR LIVES has had such a long and successful run on NBC, and similarly, The Fantasticks is one of the longest running musicals ever. What do you attribute that longevity to?
I think it's actually very similar to why DAYS OF OUR LIVES has been running so long, it's the accessibility and the universal stories that it tells. I mean who doesn't know a love story like this, or who doesn't know about growing up and experiencing life and having to experience both the joys and pain of life, and that's how you learn. And your love only becomes deeper. You look at the boy and the girl in the story and how at the beginning they are just so stuck in the romance of love that they don't really connect with each other. But then they experience life, and go through hard times and they're able to stop and really see each other for who they are. And their love becomes so much deeper and more true. So it's a very accessible story.
What are you most looking forward to in this experience?
I think the narrator part of the character, really connecting with the audience. So much entertainment these days is all about over stimulation, there's just so much going on. But this show is just the opposite where the narrator invites the audience to use their imaginations. He fills in where they are at. For example, one of my discussions with the audience is saying, okay this is where we are, we're in the woods with the vines and the trees and the breeze and it's September before a rainfall. So really setting it up for the audience but inviting them to use their imaginations, rather than 'here, it's in your face.' So I'm really looking forward to experiencing that with the audience!
Peter Reckell made his network-television debut in 1980 as Eric Hollister on As the World Turns. He then played Bo on Days of our Lives from 1983-87 and later from 1990-91. He returned to the role of the rugged cop for the third time in August 1995, but departed the role again in October 2012. He returned again last fall and died in the arms of his great love, Hope. During part of his absence from Days, Reckell starred in the role of Johnny Rourke on the primetime series Knots Landing. Among Reckell's stage credits are Moonchildren, Pirates of Penzance, Jesus Christ Superstar, Guys and Dolls, Love Letters and Death Trap. His feature film credits include Rustam Ibraguimbekov's Broken Bridges, which was filmed in Russia. On May 14, 2009, twenty-six years after his debut on Days of Our Lives, Reckell was nominated for his first Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
A modern twist on Romeo and Juliet, The Fantasticks (music by Harvey Schmidt, book, lyrics, and direction by Tom Jones) is the quintessential story of a boy and girl who fall in love and then quickly grow apart when they realize they want to experience the world. What follows is a hilarious and heartwarming story appropriate for all ages. The score, which includes the hit songs "Try To Remember", "Soon It's Gonna Rain" and "They Were You", is as timeless as the story itself.
For tickets to THE FANTASTICKS, call the box office at 212.921.7862. For more information click here.
Days of Our Lives photo courtesy of NBC