The Prince Theater Group worked in various venues and finally found its home in the former Midtown Theater in 1995 and offers a wide range of opera, musical comedy and drama as well as experimental works from various local and international sources. It is named after famous director Hal Prince who visits from time to time.
For more than 20 years Chuck Wagner has landed very masculine, authoritative character roles, largely due to his physical appearance. He's appeared in roles such as Rapunzel's Prince, Cinderella's Prince and the Wolf in Sondheim's Into the Woods; Javert in Les Miserables; the Beast in Broadway's Beauty and the Beast; Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde in Wildhorn's Jekyll & Hyde; and General Harrison Howell in Kiss Me Kate. He now finds his way to the Prince Theater to play in another Sondheim musical, Anyone Can Whistle. I caught up with Mr. Wagner, who enters into this Philadelphia production fresh off the closing of Wildhorn's Dracula on Broadway where he was standby for the title role.
Pati Buehler : Welcome to Philly, home of the Eagles frenzy and freezing weather. How is this production going?
Chuck Wagner : Thanks! Very well! We had our first audience last night and it went very smoothly. It's a lot of show, a lot of dialogue and complicated music, but it's a great cast and we're having a great time.
PW : This role has broken your casting mold a bit, is that something you've been looking to do?
CW : Well you do what you can. At times I wish I was not as big as I am (laughing) but at the same time you have to play to your strengths and in as much as it may be a limitation, it can sometimes be a gift. I have been fortunate because in the golden age of Broadway big roles were made for baritones, so in that respect, it's not a bad place to be.
PB : Are you enjoying your character in Anyone Can Whistle?
CW : I'm enjoying it very much because of the idea that there's real fun to the idea of who's crazy and who's not. There are a lot parallels in the creative world of knowing where you fit in, and one almost has to be a little crazy to be in a creative business in a sense.
PB: Who are some of the talents on stage and screen that have grabbed your interest or who inspired you when you were younger?
CW : As a child I was struck by listening to recordings of Richard Burton doing Shakespeare, because he was an auditory kind of inspiration. Another key for me was the magic of Walt Disney. When I was a young child, the concept of imagineering and finding a place on earth that was a little bit happier than the real world had a real impact on me. I'd have to say that he is my prime inspiration outside of people in my own family, of course.
PB : And what about in the theater business?