Richard Chamberlain (continued)
RC: Hamlet was especially scary, and I turned down the role initially. I was cast at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre because they needed someone who was “box office.” I studied with teachers there in London that told me I shouldn’t do it. So I told them “no.”
(Laughing) Then I woke up in the middle of the night and decided I just had to do the role. So I called them and said I’d do it if I could have several weeks to rehearse and work with the
And I thought I was safe, being out at Birmingham. And I don’t know the London critics got wind of the show, but everyone in the show knew they were coming to opening night. And they were coming for blood - “how dare this fair-haired Yank, who is this pretty boy…”
So opening night, the tension in the theatre was so thick you could just touch it. And I was just terrified. I was so scared during the first couple of scenes, and then I got my footing and the critics thankfully liked the show.
AOS.com: You’ve won two Golden Globes and a People’s Choice Award and had several Emmy nominations - all for your work in television. Plus, you’ve created many iconic characters for film, and you have a long pedigree of high-level stage credits. Do you prefer one performance medium over another?
RC: (correcting me) It’s three Golden Globes, I think. Film and stage are so different. You have different ways of approaching each. But I think that the most rewarding is theatre. Film is wonderful, but getting to take the audience on the journey with you, and not having to do things out of order and choppy (as you would in film), that’s more
AOS.com: I’ve read many accounts of the experience of trying to bring the musical of Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Broadway. I have to ask - just how torturous was the experience?
RC: (laughing) Well, it was fun for a couple of months. I was naïve, and I thought it was going well. The Philadelphia audiences were very nice, but the reviews were not. And then we got to Boston, and I got wind that it wasn't good. The gypsies (in the cast) all knew the show was in trouble, but I didn’t.
So they brought in Edward Albee to rework the show, and he
I remember Mary (Tyler Moore, Chamberlain's leading lady in the show) going into the wings to cry between scenes - it was just awful. We closed after four days of previews, and we never got to have our opening night. They had an enormous advance in ticket sales, but it was just heartbreaking.
But the New York people were so wonderful. I remember people like Angela Landsbury coming over to give us hugs and saying things like “it’s good that you had this experience, that you got it out of the way early.”
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