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Guy Adkins: Winning Oscar for Charity

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"I had a crush on her when I was 15!" Guy Adkins laughs.  "But who our age didn't?  I mean, I grew up loving her movies!"  The "her" he refers to is film and stage star Molly Ringwald, who headlines the national tour of the revival of Sweet Charity, starting its second and final week in Baltimore; Mr. Adkins plays Charity's love interest, Oscar.  He has been with the tour since the beginning, and has no intention of leaving the show, "We all have an 'out clause' [in our contracts].  Lots of folks have come and gone, but we keep getting all these really talented people coming in.  Molly, of course, will be the biggest change so far."  Adkins refers to Ms. Ringwald's coming departure, with actress Paige Davis assuming the title role.

Working with the celebrated actress has been "terrific," the quiet actor says.  "You know, it is really interesting.  The first day, I was a little nervous.  I mean, she is 'Molly Ringwald', you know?  But that very first day, she took me out to lunch to talk about the show and our [characters'] relationship.  I was really touched – she didn't have to do that.  But lunch with Molly Ringwald in Times Square – it is a treasured memory.  And because of that, we have a great working relationship.  And, of course, now I see her not as a movie star, but as a person.  It is very nice." 

Mr. Adkins has had a very distinguished stage career, including several Joseph Jefferson award-winning performances with some of Chicago's most prestigious theatre companies, including Steppenwolf and Goodman.  A graduate of The University of Wisconsin- Steven's Point musical theatre program, he has not only done musicals (Floyd Collins, for example), but has purposely sought out a varied theatre career in straight theater as well.  "Chicago really gave me experiences as an actor; I stayed in Chicago for that reason.  They have so much great theatre there, not just musicals, but plays – the classics.  I feel so fortunate.  I hate the word 'career' – it sounds so calculated.  I'm not ambitious that way.  I just want to be a good actor."  One role he got to play, Hamlet, many actors consider to be the Holy Grail of acting roles.  "People said, 'it'll change you.'  It changed me!  It was very difficult.  I had little experience with Shakespeare at that point.  But the challenge of it changed me.  My director allowed for there to be a lot of direct audience contact during the soliloquies.  I loved that – a true need to dialogue with the audience.  Was I successful?  I don't know.  I'd love another crack at it!"

Guy Adkins is very passionate about his chosen profession, and offers this advice to young actors: "You are faced with so much rejection.  You must learn to pat yourself on the back; you'll hear the word 'no' so much, you have to keep telling yourself you are special.  What we do is important.  What I mean is we need to stroke our spirit, not our egos.  We have a gift and it is a priviledge to be able to share it.  But people don't respect us in some ways.  Live theatre requires strong discipline - discipline, training, constant maintenance to do 8 shows a week.  People think you just show up and do it - that you have to be good a few minutes at a time.  That American Idol mentality is wrong.  This is a job."

With Sweet Charity, Adkins' varied career continues.  "I happened to be in New York, and my agent sent me in for an audition.  I got it.  I have never toured before, so that was one more new thing to try, and it has been awhile since I had done a musical, my first love.  But this is a great part, so well written, and so everything seemed perfect for touring, so here I am!" 

Adkins makes quite an impression – he is the talk of intermission.  He makes his first entrance about 15 minutes before the final act one curtain, and creates one of the funniest scenes of the evening as Oscar and Charity are trapped in an elevator and he is claustrophobic.  When asked why he thinks that scene is such a hit with audiences, he laughs, "I don't know!  But I'm glad.  They are really rooting for her, but I think they want him for her and her for him.  The audience really has to get "on the same train" with him.  The character is so complicated.  He makes mistakes – he says the wrong things and makes bad assumptions.  I think people can relate to that."  The scene requires quite a bit of physical comedy, including some interesting acrobatics and contortion.  "There are no ad libs, but the physical action, I discovered as Molly, the directors and I worked through it.  They all encouraged me to go far physically.    It was different [every time] at first.  Now we are settled, but still with a loose framework so it is spontaneous every time."

One might think, given the audience response, that the actor might call that scene his favorite "Oscar moment."  No, he prefers the "Barney's Chile Hacienda scene.  I love that we play the whole scene not looking at each other.  And I love that he surrenders [to his feelings].  He really lets go of his expectations."  His favorite "non-Oscar moment"?  "'The Rich Man's Frug'!  I watch it at least a couple of times a week.  I just love what Wayne (Cilento, choreographer) did with it.  And I just revere our dancers.  They are really the stars of our show."

Adjusting to life on the road was "very difficult.  It took me a couple of months to realize I didn't have to quit!  I created a 'tour family.'  We literally do everything together – work, stay in the same places, eat and travel.   I am close to a few of the company members.  I need people – I rely on them.  So I just decided to create a strong relationship.  Now I find that it is very freeing.  I mean there is a certain lack of responsibility on tour.  I never have to clean up or pick a hotel, for instance.  And now I look forward to the change every week or two.  I just decided to look at it as fun rather than scary.  Still every so often, you need to touch base with reality and I ground myself.  I call family and friends regularly – thank God I have lots of free minutes on my cell phone!" 

Mr. Adkins also maintains a relationship with partner Sean Alan Krill, who is also on tour – with Mamma Mia! (Krill played Sam in that show's most recent trip to Baltimore.)  "It is hard.  But we talk several times a day, and we see each other regularly.  We've learned to coordinate days off.  And we each have one of our dogs with us!"  Adkins grows serious.  "We joke that we are invincible – we've been through so much, and are apart so much, and yet we are still together.  When this tour is over, I'll join him on the road!"

In the short term, the actor really enjoys playing Baltimore.  "I like the theatre.  The audience is closer to me than in a lot of places. And they are a smart crowd.  They understand the sophisticated stuff.  I like that."   In the coming weeks, he'll be rehearsing with Ms. Davis.  "Right now, I bet she's doing a lot of choreography rehearsals by herself.  But she'll join us and get a few 'put-in' rehearsals.  I hope we get some time to rehearse alone.  It'll be great fun to see what she brings to it."

Thank you, Mr. Adkins, for your time!

Sweet Charity, starring Molly Ringwald and Guy Adkins continues at the Hippodrome through April 22.

PHOTO: Molly Ringwald and Guy Adkins in the first national tour of Sweet Charity.  Photos by Craig Schwartz.


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