Tom Wopat to swing into MonroeWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Before he was a good ol’ boy on “The Dukes of Hazzard” and a Tony-nominated actor and singer on Broadway, Tom Wopat took the stage at the Barn Theatre in Augusta, Mich.
“I worked in summer-stock theater in Michigan and would sit atop the piano, and ‘Since You’ve Asked’ was always in the mix,” he said. “I’ve been singing that song for about 30 years.”
That Judy Collins’ song is on Wopat’s 2013 disc, “I’ve Got Your Number.” In addition to singer-songwriter tracks, the baritone recorded tunes from the Great American Songbook.
“For me, coming to the American Songbook — ‘I’ve Got Your Number’ and ‘The Good Life,’ ‘I Won’t Dance’ and songs of that ilk — I came to it later in life. I was aware of it and I loved a lot of those songs, but I didn’t really start singing them until I was in my late 40s, and it just fit like an old shoe,” he said.
He puts a big-band spin on Bruce Springsteen’s “Meeting Across the River” and James Taylor’s “Secret O’ Life.”
“I’m a singer-songwriter guy, and I write a little bit myself, so I have an appreciation of those songs,” Wopat said during a call from New York City. “The Springsteen tune, I’ve always enjoyed it and once I figured out how to play it, it became a favorite of mine. James Taylor, that’s classic.”
Wopat talked about one of the originals he penned for the release, “I Still Feel That Way.”
“I’m 62 now, but I don’t feel that way most of the time. Most of the time I feel like a teenager or somebody in my 20s or 30s, and I get excited about stuff. Seeing an amazing sunset just sets me off,” he said. “I still have a lot of enthusiasm, as you can tell.”
How could he not be stoked? Last year, he appeared on Broadway in “The Trip to Bountiful” with Cicely Tyson, Vanessa Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr., and in 2012 he flashed a badge as U.S. Marshall Gill Tatum in “Django Unchained.”
And last month, Wopat teamed up again with “Dukes of Hazzard” co-star John Schneider. The two were in the studio to work on a holiday disc.
“We just recorded a pretty nice sonic version of [‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’], and we’re going to put out a full record this year,” Wopat said.
What was it like playing Luke sitting alongside Schneider’s Bo in the General Lee, outracing the law every week?
“It was insane. It was a lot of fun,” he said and laughed. “We were right at the end of the three-network era and just at the beginning of cable, so it was a totally different time then; it was amazing. We started working on that 35 years ago in ’78, over half a lifetime ago.”
After the show ended in 1985, Wopat went to the Big Apple and saddled up with Bernadette Peters in “Annie Get Your Gun” on Broadway.
“Working with Bernadette Peters was an amazing situation, probably my favorite Broadway experience,” he said.
Wopat will perform at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 18 at the River Raisin Centre for the Arts in Monroe. Tickets range from $18 to $32.
“I’ll have a jazz trio; it swings hard, we make a lot of music,” he said.
Tags: Augusta, Barn Theatre, Bernadette Peters, Broadway, Bruce Springsteen, Cuba Gooding Jr., Great American Songbook, James Taylor, Judy Collins, Michigan, New York City, Tom Wopat, “The Dukes of Hazzard”