In case you’re questioning how Len Cariou – 81 and, now, a powerful contender for the title of Canada’s biggest dwelling stage actor – is faring throughout the pandemic, you may cross him off your checklist of parents to fret about.
The St. Boniface-born Broadway baritone, finest identified for originating the position of Sweeney Todd in Stephen Sondheim’s musical, is alive and nicely and dwelling in New Jersey, overlooking the Hudson; he and his spouse, Heather Summerhayes Cariou, have been absolutely vaccinated for a month and, after I reached him over the telephone, have been about to have dinner with associates (additionally absolutely vaccinated) for the primary time in a 12 months.
The COVID-19 stage shutdown has been “hell” for a lot of older theatre actors, shedding a treasured 12 months of efficiency time, Cariou says, however he can’t complain, having been busy capturing the newest season of Blue Bloods – the long-running CBS collection wherein he performs the patriarch of a clan of cops that features Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg.
“Once I’m on set, I’m spit-tested 3 times every week,” says Cariou, who was appearing off-Broadway final March, in a play that closed after an understudy examined constructive. “I’ve just a few associates in New York who reside alone. It’s been robust.”
The impulse to verify in with Cariou, I need to admit, got here with the current passing of Christopher Plummer, 10 years his senior and the primary Canadian to win a Tony Award for finest actor in a musical in 1974; Cariou was the second, 5 years later, for Sweeney Todd. (The third Canadian to win that award was Brent Carver, who additionally died, simply 68, in 2020.)
The impetus to verify in on Cariou, nevertheless, was that he’s returning to Canadian theatre, in a approach, subsequent week – performing in Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak Home as a part of a collection of on-line readings being organized by Barrie, Ont.’s Discuss is Free Theatre.
He’s enjoying eccentric sea captain Shotover within the Chekhov-inspired comedy set on a ship-shaped home, his co-stars together with Ed Asner, Cynthia Dale, Trickster’s Craig Lauzon and Stratford/Shaw Competition straddler Alexis Gordon.
It’s an surprising position for Cariou, who had 5 seasons on the Stratford Competition, however nary a one on the Shaw Competition. “By no means even obtained invited!” he exclaims.
Maybe the successive inventive administrators in Niagara-on-the-Lake knew Cariou’s secret emotions in regards to the Shaw: “I need to confess he’s not my favorite playwright. I feel he’s just a little long-winded.”
That received’t be the case within the April 7 pre-recorded on-line studying of Heartbreak Home – a part of TIFT’s Dinner à la Artwork collection, which you’ll be able to solely get tickets to by making a $30 buy at a collaborating Barrie-area enterprise or restaurant.
Richard Ouzounian, the director-turned-critic-turned-director, has sliced Shaw’s three-hour-plus script all the way down to a comparatively concise hour and a half. “He’s eradicated virtually half the play,” says Cariou, approvingly. “I nonetheless suppose it is sensible.”
Given his reservations about Shaw, and lack of shut ties to Barrie, how did Cariou find yourself on this zippy Zoom Heartbreak Home? “[Ouzounian] known as and blew me some smoke, saying how fantastic it might be, wouldn’t do it with out me,” he says. “I mentioned, ‘Effectively, okay.’”
And that’s that. In an interview, this one anyway, Cariou will get straight to the purpose in his solutions after which waits for the following query. “He’s the other of Plummer,” agrees Ouzounian, who, throughout his different profession with TVO and the Toronto Star, usually interviewed that late legend who was at all times prepared with a showbiz story.
“Len is a Manitoba boy, he’s not a gossip. Even after we exit to speak at dinner, he’s sort of taciturn, and he at all times has been.”
Cariou’s storied stage profession started within the late Nineteen Fifties in Winnipeg at Rainbow Stage and the very first seasons on the Manitoba Theatre Centre. He then made his debut at Stratford in 1962, a season wherein Plummer pranced about with panache as Cyrano de Bergerac, a prelude to his Tony-winning flip within the musical Cyrano on Broadway. “He was one of many nice actors – and taught me so much, particularly in that first 12 months I used to be at Stratford,” says Cariou, whose components that 12 months included Cook dinner, Lackey, Lord and Soldier.
Quickly sufficient, Cariou was a number one participant on the Guthrie Theatre, which had been based by the director Tyrone Guthrie in Minneapolis after the Stratford Competition. He then accompanied Guthrie’s compilation of Greek tragedies The Home of Atreus to Broadway – and the remaining is historical past.
Cariou’s musical theatre success within the Seventies is matched by few. He starred opposed Lauren Bacall in Applause, a Tony-winning musical adaptation of All About Eve; then originated the position of Fredrik Egerman in A Little Night time Music (wherein he practically obtained to sing Ship within the Clowns, earlier than Sondheim rejigged the scene in query); after which got here Sweeney. Every of those Broadway performances garnered him a Tony Award nomination – and the third time was the attraction.
Bernard Shaw got here into his skilled life shortly thereafter on the Stratford Competition in 1982, when he acted in Arms and the Man and in addition play Brutus in Julius Caesar and Prospero in The Tempest.
Cariou has been speaking to Stratford inventive director Antoni Cimolino about making a long-awaited return there, maybe performing his one-man present Broadway and the Bard alongside a Shakespeare. “I’d like to do Prospero once more,” he says. “Lear possibly, if I can get a light-weight sufficient Cordelia.”
That’s the kind of post-pandemic downside to which actors of Cariou’s era are little question anxious to return.
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