It’s 1959, and Rydell High School’s senior class is in rare form. The too-cool-for-school “Burger Palace Boys” are stealing hub-caps and acting tough and their gum-snapping, chain-smoking “Pink Ladies” are looking hot in bobby sox and pedal pushers. The 1950s high school dream is about to explode in this rollicking musical that is both an homage to the idealism of the fifties and a satire of high schoolers’ age-old desire to be provocative and rebellious. Starting off with an eight-year Broadway run, Grease is among the world’s most popular musicals and has a cult-like following.
One of Vancouver’s most important legal events and a valued tradition, The Lawyer Show is a fundraiser for two of Vancouver’s most cherished theatre institutions: Carousel Theatre for Young People and Touchstone Theatre. Over thirty of Vancouver’s top law professionals are waxing nostalgic in this year’s sold-out prodction of the hit Broadway musical Grease. We chatted with Roger Watts, aka Danny Zuko, about this year’s exciting new production.
There’s a great connection between two of Vancouver’s most celebrated theatre companies—Touchstone Theatre and Carousel Theatre for Young People. Why you think this fundraising partnership works so well together? Can you tell us a bit about how it came to be?
Roger Watts: Great to chat with you. Carousel Theatre and Touchstone are, in my view, ideal partners for the show—both are charitable organizations that focus heavily on the development of specific sectors in the theatre community: Touchstone’s being the development of Canadian plays and playwrights, and Carousel’s of course being the development of our young performers and artists. Needless to say, the legal community is proud to be able to help Touchstone and Carousel achieve their respective goals in those areas.
In your opinion, what makes the Lawyers Show such a unique fundraiser? What can patrons expect?
RW: I think the best thing about The Lawyer Show is, in fact, the part that people least expect, which is the quality and talent that lies out there in the community. It continually amazes me to see the breadth and depth of artistic ability that the cast and crew bring to this show. We’ve had the good fortune to have performers that, prior to law school, attended institutions such as the National Theatre School (among many others) and it shows in the performances (with a lot of help and guidance, of course, from the excellent crew and creative team behind the show). Every year, we have people tell us, “We didn’t know you could do that!” It’s a lot of fun, and it gives people a little something more than they perhaps expected to see.
How many years have you been involved with The Lawyer Show?
RW: This is my ninth show in the past 11 seasons of the show. It keeps getting better—and more challenging—every year.
This year is Grease and you play Danny. Tell us what draws you his character. What do you like best about playing him?
RW: Who wouldn’t want to play Danny Zuko!? He’s one of the all-time great musical characters to play, which in and of itself is an exciting challenge. That being said, characters like Danny are a fine line to tread. On one hand, people have a certain iconic picture of who he is so one has to pay proper homage to that and bring the fundamental elements that people want to see. On the other hand, though, the goal is ultimately to bring something fresh and new to the interpretation of the character as well. Ultimately, he’s the coolest dude at Rydell High and that’s a pretty fun place to visit onstage.
From the perspective as an actor, what is the most challenging part about The Lawyers Show? What is the best part?
RW: The growth of the production year over year is the best part for me. I say, the show gets more and more technically challenging every year. My first show was the classic comedy Arsenic and Old Lace, and for the first couple years I was involved, we did non-musical comedy. Then we did some Shakespeare, which from a stage-acting standpoint is its own art altogether. Then we got into musicals, and started adding not only singing parts, but musical accompaniment and choreography. Every year is an eye-opener as to just how difficult it can be to try and do all those things at once. But looking back, it’s pretty remarkable just how far the scope of the production has come in a decade. It’s wonderful to be a part of.
Please describe this year’s show in just three words.
RW: The best yet.
Anything else we haven’t asked that you’d like to share?
RW: Just one thing—a massive thanks to Carole Higgins, Naomi Vogt, Amanda Testini, Arielle Balance, Tanya Schwaerzle, Kiara Lawson, Keith Davidson, Faye Campbell, everyone at Carousel and Touchstone, and the entire cast and crew, for all they do. None of this happens without them, and they do it well year after year. It really is the most excellent group of people to be a part of. Looking forward to the show!
The Lawyer Show runs May 4–6, 2017 at The Waterfront Theatre. The cast features over 30 lawyers from all walks of legal life. All performances are now SOLD OUT. Be sure to secure your tickets early for 2018!
Roger first joined The Lawyer Show troupe in 2007 for Arsenic and Old Lace and has since appeared in shows such as Guys and Dolls, Legally Blonde, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Hairspray. Roger has also appeared onstage with Metro Theatre and Theatre West Van, most recently in their 2014 production of The Mousetrap. In 2004, Roger did a turn as Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak in the feature film Miracle, starring Kurt Russell.