Yesterday, I said that Show Folk this month was “getting epic;” you thought it was just a lame Homer joke. Truth is, we’re doubling up on great interviews with another leading man of the stage pulling up a chair to our cyber table and joining us for a little conversation. As usual, I’ve edited the transcripts (removing the truly libelous parts) and posted the results. If yesterday was all about Gods, today we’re going straight to the devil…
Howard McGillin in "Damn Yankees". Photo by Ken Jaques.
Tony-nominated actor Howard McGillin has exchanged a mask for a set of horns…and we ain’t talking a brass band. Having famously played The Phantom of the Opera for more than 2500 record breaking performances, he’s descending to new devious depths (and crossing the river to Jersey) to take on the devilish Applegate in Paper Mill Playhouse’s new production of the classic musical comedy Damn Yankees. Busy with last Sunday’s opening night, the dashing star still found the time to chat with us about some favorite co-stars, making up lyrics to “Music of the Night” and his run-in with a bionic wardrobe malfunction.
The devil comes in so many different guises; what inspired your take on Applegate in Damn Yankees?
Well, he’s the classic comic villain. He’s vain, revels in all the mischief he causes, and is ultimately brought down in a satisfying tumble of self-inflicted grandiosity. It’s delicious. Of course I remember Ray Walston’s performance, and my friend Victor Garber’s wonderful take on the guy. But I just try to find a way to make it mine, and I think the key is his ridiculous vanity. It makes it so much fun to see him fall.
You famously hold the record for playing the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera more times than anyone else. What are the benefits and challenges of doing a short run like the month of Damn Yankees at Paper Mill?
It’s a joy to tackle any part, no matter how long or short the run. Of course, when you sign on for something like Phantom you never imagine you could be doing it over 2500 times! It just happened that I loved performing it and the creative team seemed to like what I was doing and decided to keep me on. The process of performing a role remains the same. You always set foot on stage with the goal of making it a fresh performance. The only difference is that after many years of doing long runs in Broadway shows, four weeks seems unfairly short. I know I will miss doing this show. It’s just so much fun.