** D.C. Anderson and the Phantom Of The Opera cast benefit for Habitat for Humanity at Gentry, (312) 836-0933, on Mar. 29
** D.C. Anderson and Claudia Anderson at Davenport's, (773) 278-1830, on Apr. 5
Chicagoans should count themselves lucky because until early May, D.C. Anderson is living and performing here. He can be seen as Mr. Andre in the Broadway In Chicago production of Phantom Of The Opera at the Cadillac Palace Theater. If you are seeking a more intimate setting in which to experience Anderson's talents, he is appearing at Gentry (with cast members from Phantom) March 29 and at Davenport's, with his sister Claudia, on April 5. You may also take Anderson home with you, so to speak, by acquiring his CD Ballad (www.dcanderson.net), with 11 songs for which he wrote all of the lyrics.
Gregg Shapiro: You first became involved with Phantom Of The Opera 14 years ago.
DCA: In 1989. It was when records were still out (laughs) and I bought the record at Rose Records (on Broadway in Chicago). As I was listening to it, I thought, 'I'm going to be in this.' I didn't know why I knew, I just knew. I called my friend Kitty Snyder and asked her to come over and listen to it. And I said, 'I'm going to be in this.' What was interesting was that a couple years later, we were both involved in it. Then I went to Los Angeles doing a show called Angry Housewives, and the auditions for Phantom were coming up. I was sitting next to Mary Van Arsdale, doing our make-up in this cramped space in this tiny theater, and I said, 'I'm going to be in Phantom Of The Opera,' and she looked at me and said, 'Uh huh,' like, Right, sure you are (laughs). And I said, 'No, I am! I just know it.'
GS: Was that the first time you'd connected to a show in that way—listening to a cast recording and then feeling like it was meant to be?
DCA: Somehow I just knew. Other things I've listened and I've liked. This was something separate from my respect for the work.
GS: Have you played the same role in every production?
DCA: I started as Monsieur Reyer, the guy that trains the chorus in the ensemble. Then when I went back, three years after (the) L.A. (production) closed, they handed me my contract. I thought I was coming back to do Reyer again, and they handed me a swing contract. I had never been a swing before and I had always admired them so much because they have to learn so many things and I always thought my mind wouldn't work that way. But I needed the job and there I was, so I said, 'I'll do this.' I was a swing from Christmas of 1996 through March of 2001. At that time I started doing Andre on a fairly regular basis.
GS: After being involved in the show for so many years, what do you think it is about Phantom of The Opera that gives it its longevity and appeal?
DCA: Things that are mysterious, I think are intriguing. Then there's the love story—everyone likes a love story. And then there's the music. People know the music. People, who have never seen the show, buy the CD, and their kids know the music when they come to see the show for the first time. Little kids sing along, which is amazing to me.
GS: Speaking of music, on your new CD, Ballad, the original co-compositions have an American popular songbook quality to them and are new additions to that canon. Susan Werner does something similar on her new CD I Can't Be New. What does that genre mean to you and why did you write the songs in this style?
DCA: When I was growing up, my mom was listening to country-western and my dad was listening to Rosemary Clooney and Tony Bennett. The thing that I took from the country-western is a love for story songs. The thing I took from the Tony Bennett/Frank Sinatra/Bing Crosby (music) is the idea of a well-crafted song. Thirty-two bars, with an intro, a verse, a chorus, a bridge and a chorus. We all want to impress our fathers. I don't think I did it completely to impress my father. It's not that (my parents) are not supportive. They call most of my songs 'save the world' songs, because (of the personal elements of the songs) they think I'm out there trying to save the world or something. They are looking for songs that have melody, songs that are about universal things. I thought, 'I want to write a song that my dad goes, 'Bing Crosby could have sung that.''
GS: That's not a bad ambition to have.
DCA: Not at all. It was like an assignment. I've been writing since 1995 and I started writing out of necessity. To look for material that's light and entertaining, when I was doing cabaret performances— I mean, how often can you sing 'Buddy's Blues' from Follies? I found that I could write things that people were entertained by. I used to write a lot of lighter stuff. I used to think that I had to wait for a song to come to me. I have a book full of little phrases. For the song, 'I Don't Know My Way Around A Dream,' I thought of that phrase about six years. I had avoided writing songs about dreaming and flying because there are so many of those, even in the cabaret realm. But that phrase stuck in my head and I wrote it down in my notebook. When I decided to write stuff for this CD, I thought I would take that phrase and make a song that Bing Crosby would have sung out of it. I hope that (co-writer) Elizabeth Doyle and I did. The response has been really nice. People have said that it's unique, but typical, in a sense, which I like.
GS: You also have a history in Chicago as a performer and resident in the 1980s. What were some of your favorite performance experiences?
DCA: Probably Harry Chapin: Lies and Legends at the Apollo Theater. I understudied that one, and then went on for John Herrera and Ron Orbach quite a few times. It ran a while and it was an incredible experience. Also at the Northlight Theater, I did the Craig Carnelia/Craig Lucas musical Three Postcards, and I really enjoyed doing that. I did some readings at Wisdom Bridge, but never any mainstage, although I would have loved to. I did a lot of commercials. From '82 to '88, I probably did about 60 commercials, mostly for Joe Sedelmaier. When (the TV series) Lady Blue shot here, I did an episode of that.
GS: You performed with Hollis Resnik.
DCA: Hollis and I met doing Harry Chapin. We started this (vocal) group with Susan Hart, with whom I went to college, called On The Sly. Some of the things we did have ended up on my CDs, like the arrangement of 'The Flintstones.' We did a lot of comedy and then we each got our own ballad (laughs).
GS: Were you able to see Hollis as Mrs Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie?
DCA: I didn't. We missed each other by one day. I wish I could have seen her in that, because she's phenomenal.
GS: Now that you are back in Chicago working, what do you think about the new Loop theater district?
DCA: I love it! What I love about it is the vision of it. I'm hoping that what it means is that in order to fill it, it will create a need for musical theater works. I'm hoping that to get productions for those spaces that there will be interest in building them.