By Mary Jane Solomon
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, March 24, 2006
Portraying Charlie Anderson, a widower who watches with growing anguish as the Civil War encroaches upon his Virginia farm and seven children, Scott Bakula is returning to his theatrical roots in a role he's finally able to play.
"It was a big part of my early career when I moved to New York," Bakula says of the 1975 musical "Shenandoah," in which he's now starring at Ford's Theatre. Three days after arriving in the Big Apple in 1976, Bakula won the part of Sam, a young Confederate Army lieutenant and suitor, in a touring production. He played various supporting roles in other "Shenandoah" productions and even earned his Equity card doing the show.
Contemplating a return to live theater after years of concentrating on television and films, the 51-year-old Bakula began thinking about "Shenandoah" again, realizing that he "was getting old enough to play Charlie."
"There just aren't that many roles like this for men in the musical theater" that prove so demanding vocally and emotionally, he says. "As an actor, you get your full dose of getting to sing and having great numbers to do, and then you have this kind of wide range of emotions that you get to run in the course of the evening."
Adapted from a nonmusical 1965 Jimmy Stewart film, the stage production, with music by Gary Geld and lyrics by Peter Udell, retains a lot of the screenplay, "so you have these wonderful scenes that connect the musical numbers as opposed to 'Let's just find a way to get from song to song,' " Bakula says.
Although fans of Golden Globe winner Bakula's TV series "Quantum Leap" (1989-93) saw his character, time traveler Sam Beckett, sing on several episodes, devotees of the 2001-05 "Star Trek: Enterprise," in which Bakula portrayed Capt. Jonathan Archer, may be surprised to see the actor in a musical role. But Bakula's musical background includes writing songs, performing in rock bands as a youth and spending 10 years in New York doing predominantly musical theater.
As a father of four children ages 6 to 22, Bakula understands his "Shenandoah" character's grave concern for the welfare of his daughter and six sons.
"When I first started doing the show, I didn't have any kids, and I related as best I could as a son or as a suitor or whatever I was in the piece to the father in the piece, and never spent a lot of time thinking that much about what was going on for the father," Bakula says.
"Now it's challenging. It's a hard show for me to get through," he says. "It'll get easier the more I do it, but it's very emotional. . . . And in this day and age, there are so many issues going on in the world, so many things we have to warn our kids about, prepare them for. . . . It weighs on me every time we've run the show."
Shenandoah Ford's Theatre 202-397-7328 Through April 30