Lyric Opera’s upcoming “Sound of Music” announces additional castingContinue reading.
Billy Zane jazzed about Captain’s role in Lyric Opera’s ‘Sound of Music’
It’s a long way from nearly ending up at the bottom of the North Atlantic to standing atop the highest peak of the Swiss Alps.
For Chicago-born actor Billy Zane, his journey from the epic film “Titanic” to the stage production of “The Sound of Music” may have taken 17 years, but it was worth the wait. He will star as Capt. Von Trapp in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic April 25-May 25.
The cast also features Broadway actress Jenn Gambatese (“Wicked”), with opera stars Christine Brewer as the Mother Abbess and Elizabeth Futral as Elsa Schraeder, and television veteran Edward Hibbert (“Frasier”) as Max Detweiler. The new production is directed by Marc Bruni.
“The last time I went to the Lyric was probably on a fifth grade field trip,” said Zane, 48, whose stage credits boast a Broadway turn as Billy Flynn in the musical “Chicago.” “The chance to now [perform] in this play on that stage at the Lyric really came down to perfect timing. And the chance to spend a bit of time in Chicago during the [spring] was too good to pass up. [Laughs] Plus my 3-year-old daughter is a huge fan of the ‘Sound of Music’ already. She climbs every mountain on our sofa.”
Catching up with Zane during the production’s very hectic tech week, the actor said the biggest revelation for him, in terms of the music and the character, has been the deeply emotional connection he has made with both.
“Well, I find these songs particularly difficult to apply the usual detachment necessary to split one’s emotional focus with the technical mandate theater requires,” Zane said. “It just gets under your skin, and the resonance of singing these classics just destroys me. It triggers unfiltered emotional truth that hopefully delivers me to my next cue in time. I love the feeling.”
Stepping into the role of the seemingly heartless Capt. Von Trapp is no easy task, as the role is most identified with the legendary actor Christopher Plummer from the Oscar-winning film version that starred Julie Andrews.
“I’m a huge fan of the movie,” Zane said, in a separate interview for this blog post in March. “I’m also a huge fan of Christopher Plummer. But this is not about recreating what he did. I just love musicals. I grew up on them. My parents saw ‘Singing in the Rain’ 42 times at the theater, so musicals are in my DNA. That’s why I was so attracted to the role of Billy in ‘Chicago,’ and the chance to do this role at the Lyric Opera.”
Christopher Plummer starred as Capt. Von Trapp in the iconic 1965 feature film version of the stage musical “The Sound of Music.”
It was Lyric’s associate artistic administrator Christoph Ptack who reached out to him about the role, Zane said. “It was Christoph’s idea to bring me on to the production. Coincidentally, or conveniently, I had the pleasure of working on the Broadway production of ‘Chicago’ with [choreographer] Dennis Jones [making his Lyric debut] and [conductor] Rob Fisher [making his Lyric debut]. Am looking forward most to our reunion.”
Zane, whose more than 100 film credits also include “Memphis Belle,” “Dead Calm,” “Tombstone,” “Zoolander” and “The Phantom,” turned his artistic eye to visual arts some 15 years ago, primarily as an abstract expressionist painter. His work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, at Art Basel in Miami and in London’s prestigious Art Fair.
“I had a solo show [titled 'Seize The Day Bed'] last year in London’s West End, which was very successful, considering the art press in that world,” Zane said. “All you can ask for is for [the work] to be considerred legitimate in those circles, and apparently it was.”
He works primarily in acrylics, he said, relying heavily on what he calls “industrial materials,” including recycled paint and found objects, for his on-the-floor, large canvas works. “It harks to a Mid Century feel,” he said. “I’m a big fan of [borrowing from on-set] production shops and I’ve been known to pilfer [the art department] for my craft. What’s one less mountain, right?
“I hope to find some inspiration when I’m [in Chicago]. I grew up at the Art Institute. I’ll be tripping through those halls as soon as I’m in town.”
Zane didn’t hesitate when asked which stage musical role he’d still love to play.
“I’m a huge ‘Sweeney Todd’ fan; I just scream to play Sweeney,” he said. “I saw George [Hearn] and Len [Cariou] do it. I remember singing along with that album — on vinyl— incessantly. I just have to do Sweeney.”
So what’s his favorite scene in “The Sound of Music” (calling the recent Carrie Underwood TV reimagining of the musical “a bold effort for television”)?
“The ‘melting’ of Von Trapp I always enjoyed,” Zane said, “when the Captain is literally moved by the sound of music. [Also] The party scene, where the kids are saying good-bye to all the guests. There was a day when I couldn’t imagine being part of all of that. The musical is just part of our collective DNA. It’s going to be a very loving experience for me doing this show at the Lyric.”
For tickets to “The Sound of Music,” visit lyricopera.org.
Billy Zane was Owen Wilson’s idea of the ultimate “cool dude” in “Zoolander”