Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Interview with Paul Michael Glaser

pic credit Tristram Kenton

THERE can't be many people who grew up in the 1970s who didn't watch Starskey and Hutch.
The American cop duo played by Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul respectively were the epitome of cool as they cruised around the streets of the fictional Bay City in California in their red Ford Gran Torino bringing the local criminals to book.
Running for 92 episodes over four series, the hugely popular and successful American show propelled both Paul and David to stardom.
However, although for a generation Paul will be forever known as heart-throb David Starskey, he has not been idle since ditching the keys to the car and giving up the famous knitted cardigan.
Far from it. Indeed he is an accomplished director, actor, writer and photographer and has spent the intervening years doing all of the above.
He is now back on the stage and in a musical no less - Fiddler On The Roof - which is enjoying rave reviews as it tours the country.
Despite his superstar status he's genial and down to earth when we chat ahead of the production's arrival at the New Wimbledon Theatre on April 1.
But although I'm supposed to be talking to him about his starring role as Tevye in the production, he throws a curveball by immediately asking if I know Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew.
He then regales me with some of Katherine's lines before urging me to revisit the text to see my namesake's great speeches.
That he knows his Shakespeare shouldn't come as any surprise as his acting career started on the Broadway stage more than 40 years ago.
He has appeared in more than 50 roles in regional, Broadway and off-Broadway productions since then not to mention a stint in panto in Sunderland in 2008.
So when he was offered the part of Tevye in this production he leapt at it saying it was "a no brainer".
"When you get offered these roles it's stupid not to take them," he says in his soft Massachusetts drawl.
"I come from a theatre background and always wanted to do a musical. When it was offered I'd just spent a year raising money for a book I'd written, Chrystallia And The Source Of Light, and it was a question of 'why not?'.
"Besides, how many times in your life do you get offered a role like this? It's a great part and I embraced it."
The 71-year-old is on good form despite a "full on schedule" which began when the tour started in September last year. And he says he's looking forward to coming to Wimbledon, especially as he's never been to this part of London.
"The show's doing great," he says warmly. "We have a brilliant production which has been well received and there are fantastic actors and musicians in it.
"It's a full on show and I'm having a lot of fun.
"And it'll be great to visit Wimbledon as I've never been here before but I've heard good things about it," he adds.
Fiddler On The Roof is a bit of a homecoming for Paul as he played Perchik in the classic film version of 1971 and in which the role of Tevye was made famous by Chaim Topol.
"I was in the original film, or at least I think I was," he jokes. "I've grown up a bit since then....!"
Tevye is the local milkman in his village of Anatevka. He has always stuck by his traditions but is suddenly confronted with his three headstrong daughters who tell him they want to marry for love and not whoever Yente the Matchmaker decides.
The original Broadway production ran for more than 13 years from its premiere in 1964 winning nine Tony Awards and went on to have four Broadway revivals.
"It's a great story and timeless," says Paul. "It has all the key ingredients of a classic - love, loss, family, every day problems, and real emotions, in fact everything that grabs your attention.
"It crosses cultural and geographical boundaries. Plus it has the most amazing, beautiful score," he enthuses.
Love and loss are not unknown for Paul. Tragically he lost his first wife Elizabeth and their daughter Ariel to AIDS thanks to an infected blood transfusion.
However, despite the tragedy he says he's in a "good place" now, thanks in part to having written his book.
"Originally it was written as a screenplay but I realised quite early on in the process I was talking about dealing with fear, helplessness and loss," he says.
"It's humorous, dramatic, exciting and whimsical but the heart of the book asks and answers the question what is the purpose of fear in our lives.
"It's something I wanted to share with people. It was an incredible experience and I had a great time writing it," he adds
"Life is an amazing journey of discovery and I truly believe you should never have any 'what ifs' because you can't change anything. It doesn't help anyone to have regrets," he says.
And this philosophical outlook extends to all aspects of his life, not least this current show.
"When you have an opportunity in your life to do something like this and you put yourself in that position you learn a lot."
So are there any parallels between Tevye, Starsky and his own life I ask.
"Yes absolutely," he says. "They are the classic everyman - they explore and experience all these different feelings and emotions and I'm no different.
"Playing Starsky wasn't nearly as exciting as it sounds though," he laughs. "It was a lot of hard work and very challenging.
"It was like being thrown into a volcano. At the time it happened I wasn't emotionally mature enough to deal with it. But it's lovely that people still have such fond memories of it."

Fiddler On The Roof is on at the New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, from Tuesday, April 1 until Saturday, April 5.

Tickets from £15. Call the box office on 0844 871 7646

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