GH: Chris does ‘I Am What I Am’ really well. From what I’ve read and seen he has his own take on it that has amazing reach and truth that hasn’t always existed in previous versions. I think that also helps the message hit home with the audience.
Have you had people approach you and talk to you about how the show impacted them?
CS: Absolutely. People have come up and told us that it’s astonishing and that it changed their lives. That’s pretty special.
George, was there something in particular about this show that made you want to return to musical theatre?
GH: I’m not known as a singer, but in life I like to do things that are a bit beyond my reach to keep myself from slipping. These days I find that technology has made it so that we don’t need to have a memory system, and as I get older I want to do things that challenge me. What could be more challenging than doing this show with a knee that’s been replaced, after tearing my Achilles heel with a baker’s cyst on the back of my knee? And then I have to try and dance!
CS: But you can’t dance! *laughs*
GH: But I try! And in reaching out and doing these new things you get into this strange kind of shape where you are better off than if you were just resting, because you’re using things that wouldn’t otherwise be mute. I do have to watch my voice though, I don’t rest it as much as I should. I leave the stage and I still don’t shut up! Chris on the other hand is good about being quiet after a show, which is a good thing since he’s always talking in the production. I find I’m listening to him more and more as the run goes on.
Now that you’ve been doing the show for so long, would you even notice if Chris threw in a weird adlib?
CS: I do it all the time, and he does notice!
GH: Chris says that he never gets bored, that he just throws these lines in for his own amusement…
GH: For example, sometimes he will throw in a “I look just like George Hamilton” line. Then I’m stuck there trying to keep a straight face and pretend like I have no idea who George Hamilton is. Chris is great like that, he believes you should always surprise your fellow actors.
CS: Burn your babies, so to speak. On a long running show it’s always good to shake things up a little bit because if you don’t everyone ends up on auto-pilot. We keep things interesting. You can tell when it happens because there’s a pause in the theatre, and if it’s longer than two seconds everyone pays attention. And it matters, it keeps us focused.
GH: He’s also never off on his lines. He can be off on his adlibs but his timing is always perfect. I like that he shakes it up though, because we fall into what is predictable and you don’t want that. You need to keep it fresh.
Finally, I’ve heard George talking about his ‘gay walk’. How did this come about?
GH: When I was doing Zorro: The Gay Blade I went to Robert Conrad and asked him for tips on how to walk with a gay walk. I ended up with nine guys all showing me how I could do it, and I filmed every one of them! It came down to two walks, and Robert had the best. He told me: “there are two walks. One has a pencil in his butt. The other has a pencil with a spring!”
CS: Oh this will be great for print…
And just like that, we wrapped our interview with George Hamilton demonstrating both of his ‘gay walks’ for Christopher and myself, and I got a first-rate education in how actors learn their mannerisms.
When and Where?
La Cage Aux Folles
The Royal Alexandra Theatre
On Now Until November 18th
Tickets range from $35 to $130 and can be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at 416-872-1212 or online at www.mirvish.com