BWW Interviews: Talking with the Legendary Theodore Bikel
Legendary stage and screen star Theodore Bikel is currently gracing the stage at The St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in the Toronto premiere of Visiting Mr. Green. The show is one of the most-produced plays in the world, with over 300 productions worldwide in 22 languages. A two-person play (the production also stars Aidan deSalaiz) the show is about the relationship between two people who are forced to spend time together after almost being involved in a serious car accident.
Mr. Green’s visitor Ross Gardiner is sentenced to make weekly visits with Mr. Green after being found guilty of reckless driving (and nearly hitting Mr. Green’s car). The show starts off as a comedy and then progresses into a serious examination of the human spirit.
Mr. Bikel is perhaps best known to theatre lovers for originating the role of Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music on Broadway, but his career has also included film and television work and has even garnered him an Academy Award nomination for The Defiant Ones. BWW was thrilled to have the opportunity to conduct a quick Q&A with Mr. Bikel, who talks about Visiting Mr. Green, his impressive career and the one role he still hopes to play:
Welcome back to Toronto and congratulations on Visiting Mr. Green! First things first - can you really sing in 28 different languages? Which one is your favourite?
It's 23 languages - and yes, I can. I have different favorites on different days.
You've had a varied and extremely impressive career - are there any roles you regret not having the chance to play?
King Lear - I may yet get to it. After all, I’m still working!
You've been fairly politically active in recent years, do you feel you have a responsibility to speak out because of your fame and the fact that people will listen to you? Alternatively do you ever feel like as an actor with fans you have a responsibility to stay out of political issues and simply act?
I don't speak out because I am an actor nor will I keep silent because I am an actor. I respect my profession but it endows me with no special privileges; but it also does not limit me or muzzle me. I am a person and a citizen with the attendant responsibilities of voice and vote.
You've said in other interviews that you have no intention of retiring - do you think an actor ever really retires?
Some do, for reasons beyond their control.
In recent years we've seen a huge trend towards musicals being adapted into movies and movies being adapted for the stage. As someone who has performed two of the most well-known roles in the Broadway and movie musical canon (Sound of Music and Fiddler on the Roof) how do you feel about this trend? Do you think the adaptations are good for the genre of the musical or do you think we need to be fostering more original work?
There should be a balance. Do a lot of original work but don't shy away from remakes. The good ones can be very good.
Finally, for those unfamiliar with your work, what would you say to encourage them to come out and see the show?
Visiting Mr. Green is a good play. I enjoy being in it and I have a wonderful colleague, Aidan deSalaiz, to work with. Audiences like it a lot. What's not to like?
When and Where?
Visiting Mr. Green
The Jane Mallet Theatre – St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts
January 28th – February 18th
Mon-Thurs & Sat at 8PM
Wed & Sun at 2PM
Tickets range from $39.50 to $69.50 and can be purchased by phone at 416-366-7723 or online at www.stlc.com