Lyric Arts had a chance to interview Steve Florman, who is performing, as Ralph Sheldrake, in White Christmas. Read on to hear what he has to say about his experience thus far! LA: Tell us a little bit about why this particular play interested you?
SF: I’ve never done a “big Broadway-style musical extravaganza” before, and this is a great show with lots of good music. In addition, being part of the Christmas production at Lyric Arts is always a great experience.
LA: For those that are unfamiliar with White Christmas can you tell us about the show?
SF: It’s about two former soldiers, now Broadway stars, who get finagled by two talented women into going to an inn in rural Vermont to put on a show at Christmastime – only to find that the establishment’s owner is their former commanding officer, who is having a tough time making a go of the innkeeping business. Our heroes, after much confusion and tribulation, manage to save the day and produce a happy ending, with a lot of music and great dancing and acting along the way.
LA: Talk about the character that you play in White Christmas. How have you developed this character?
SF: Ralph Sheldrake, former US Army corporal turned TV producer, is the quintessential New York wheeler-dealer, but with a heart of gold. He’s brash and forward, and bulldozes whoever he needs to in order to get things done. I’ve tried to give Ralph a strong and energetic physical presence, a strident New York voice, and a curiously courtly way with the ladies. I think secretly, he’s kind of a softie – but he’s not gonna let you see that if he can avoid it!
LA: Why should people come and see White Christmas?
SF: Many people love the Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye movie, and this is a great opportunity to see that story come to life on stage in Anoka. Mostly, come because this is an amazingly talented cast. We do some wonderful productions at Lyric Arts, but the singing and dancing in this one will truly take your breath away.
LA: Talk about your fellow cast members, how do you see their characters developing? Any that you are particularly amazed at?
SF: In addition to the “leads” in this show, there are several supporting characters who make brief appearances here and there. These parts are well-developed by the script, and even better developed by the great actors who play them. These folks have taken these roles and truly magnified them and made them memorable. Just for a couple of examples, you’ll see great work from Rita and Rhoda, Chorus Girls of Purity, and Tessie the Crazed Stage Manager.
LA: What do you feel are the "wow" elements of White Christmas?
SF: Tap dancing and harmony! This cast can move, and we can sing. Oh, boy, can we sing! You’ve probably seen some great dancing on stage at Lyric Arts, but you’ve not seen anything like this.
LA: What is your favorite aspect of the show?
SF: The finale number, “White Christmas,” is a beautiful vocal arrangement. I hope the audience loves it.
LA: Tell us what is something that you are particularly excited about this show coming to together? For example, a certain scene, costumes, set, lights, etc?
SF: I love it when the scenes, which get rehearsed one at a time, start getting put together into complete acts and the entire show starts to emerge out of a mishmash of vignettes. When we get on stage and the lights and set come into the picture, it’s even better.
LA: Are musicals easier or harder then straight show or comedies? If so, why?
SF: In some ways, harder – often there are interludes in the singing during which movement and lines occur with background music, and those scenes have to be timed perfectly so everyone is in position and ready to go when the singing starts again. But in some ways, for a musical guy like me, having songs in my head all of the time makes the work of preparing the show a lot more fun.
LA: What is your favorite musical to watch?
SF: That’s a tough one – I tend to like some of the older ones, with familiar music, like South Pacific and West Side Story. However, there are a bunch of newer shows that my children have gotten me interested in, that I think are really fun: Urinetown, for example, and Rent. I’m just glad they’ve grown up to the point where we’re out of the non-stop Disney movie stage.
LA: What is your favorite thing to do around the holidays?
SF: Be with my family. Take some time off work and just do nothing; spend time with my kids; take some walks in the snowy woods. Sing carols. Worship – I never feel closer to God than when we celebrate the birth of His Son.
LA: Which do you like better White Christmas the movie or the stage version?
SF: Bing Crosby is a tough act to beat, but the stage version is a lot of fun when you’re a part of it!
LA: To date what is your favorite role that you have played and why?
SF: Captain Georg von Trapp in The Sound of Music, at Lyric in 2008. He’s a very strong man, but with a vulnerable and human side. He tries to hide it, but is eventually forced to admit that the people he loves are more important to him than his stoic façade. In giving that up, he actually becomes stronger. It’s definitely a dream role for a husband and father like me.
LA: What is your dream character to play on stage?
SF: Well, as a mature male – let’s call me a “baritone of a certain age” – there are a number of roles I’m never going to be offered that I would have loved to have done, say, 20 years ago. “Tony” in West Side Story, for example. However, some of the most classic and beloved bits of American musical theatre offer roles tailor-made for an actor like me – ahem – strong of voice and in the prime of life. Two roles definitely on my “bucket list” are “Emile de Becque” in South Pacific, and “Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote” in Man of La Mancha. Be sure to fill out your comment card and tell Lyric Arts you’d like to see those two shows here!
LA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
SF: I’m a husband, father of five, and financial services professional who did theatre in high school, then came back to it after many years at Lyric Arts. I love the opportunity to be someone different on stage, to interact with audiences, and to work with the great cast members and staff here. I’ve been lucky enough to have some of my kids appear in shows with me as well. I’ve decided that life is too short for me to do all the things I’d like to do, so I’m making sure to enjoy the things I’m doing.
LA: Any other area that you would like to comment on?
SF: Oh, I think I’ve probably babbled on enough, don’t you?