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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 27, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 17
SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Damn Yankees star Christopher Charles Wood
Arts & Entertainment
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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Damn Yankees star Christopher Charles Wood

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

Damn Yankees 5th Avenue Theatre Through May 20

Christopher Charles Wood is the kind of unique man musical theater craves. He's young, talented, good-looking, and has a strong voice that lends itself to the stage. He's appeared on stage in the controversial shows The Rocky Horror Show and Spring Awakening and at the prestigious Paper Mill Playhouse. At only 24 years of age (his birthday is during his current stay in Seattle), Wood makes his Seattle debut in the 5th Avenue's production of the musical classic Damn Yankees. The Seattle Gay News sat down with a face-to-face interview with this talented young man.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences to become a performer?

Christopher Charles Wood: It started early for me. I was a Frank Sinatra fan from, probably, the age of 5. I really took to his music and his voice. I think I played his tapes in my room and performed my own jazz concerts. That got me excited to use my voice in that way. My sister was a dancer and she did some shows. I used to watch her perform and think, 'I can do that.'

Andrews-Katz: How did you originally come to be involved with Spring Awakening?

Wood: I was on the last tour that was out. We toured through Spokane, but didn't hit Seattle [on that run]. I was still in school, and a casting director knew from a show I did down there. I flew to New York and did the callback. I stayed a week in the city and got cast in late March/April. I graduated in May and did some regional work before starting rehearsals in early fall. I had seen it once, and when I left I thought, 'That's a show I'll never get to do.' I do more classical musicals and never really ventured into the pop world. Pop rock scared me because I'm unfamiliar with it.

Andrews-Katz: Was it ever uncomfortable for you to do the sex scenes on stage?

Wood: Erin was my girlfriend from college and was also cast in the show. The casting directors didn't know it. We were in Florida and Erin got to go on, but her entire family was in the house for the show. It created a slight flurry about the scene, but it is so tightly choreographed that it feels very safe. It's a weird thing to get used to, but you get used to it. Once you do, it's like a huge weight lifted.

Andrews-Katz: In Spring Awakening, audience members are seated on stage with the actors. What's the oddest thing you've witnessed from them?

Wood: We've had a few characters, to be sure. One guy - who may or may not have been on something - thought he was part of the show and started doing his own choreography in his seat. During the second Act, he stood up and started to cross the stage, but they caught him and brought him back. During the 'Totally F****d!' number, he got up and was joining us. One of the crewmembers picked him up and took him off stage. Another woman didn't read the warning about strobe lights and had a seizure. It was kind of scary but an interesting moment; that was probably the worst. You also get people singing along and having their own conversations about what's going on. We had a couple groping each other.

Andrews-Katz: You come directly to the 5th Avenue production from a previous one of Damn Yankees. How did you get involved with the Paper Mill Playhouse's production?

Wood: The casting director working on the show in New York knew me, and when they were having auditions, he thought of me for the role of Young Joe. In this day and age there are more actors who readily do pop musicals, so young baritones are not everywhere. Not to say they aren't out there, but they may have called half of them for this show's audition, and that's not a whole lot. I went in and had the callback. It was the first Paper Mill show I auditioned for and didn't know anyone on the team, so it was a totally new experience.

Andrews-Katz: What is it about this musical that makes it such an endearing classic?

Wood: I think when anyone thinks about Damn Yankees, they think about the beautiful score. Then there's the unusual pairing of musical theater and baseball. It's a way for middle-aged men who wouldn't go to the theater normally to go and enjoy themselves. It has something for everyone, although it's more of a guy's show. It has athletic and raw dancing. The choreography is focused on an athletic basis. I think the show has an unusual theme to it, also. It's about a dreamer going after his dream and abandoning his life to get it. The story this show tells is one about how the special things in life are the little things you don't always notice. It's an everyman's story.

Andrews-Katz: Were you or are you currently a baseball fan?

Wood: I'm a huge baseball fan. A Yankees fan - those damn Yankees. I played baseball until the end of high school, and there was a time I thought I wanted to play pro ball. I realized I was better at singing and dancing than playing baseball.

Andrews-Katz: In what ways are you similar to and different from your character, Shoeless Joe?

Wood: I wish I were a prodigy like Joe. Joe is struggling to find his place and himself. He gets lost in the six months of baseball, and this particular year gets lost literally. Looking at that as a metaphor, I can relate to the situation - like anyone can. It's finding appreciation for the little things, and not taking them for granted. Things like family, friends, and love, and connecting to that has been the easiest and also the most important part of finding this character. He's a good guy, if a little selfish and confused, which I can definitely draw parallels to myself. We're similar ages and both love baseball. But we're both baritones.

Andrews-Katz: Regardless of gender, what roles would you like to take on?

Wood: I'll start realistically and say Billy Bigelow from Carousel. I'd love to play Coalhouse Walker in Ragtime, but don't think I'll ever get that chance. I wish I could do Mama Rose, that's one of those powerhouse twisted, dark, complex characters, whose psyche is so scattered, and yet she is so unaware of it. I'd take out my Frank-N-Furter heels out again for that one.

Damn Yankees is playing at the 5th Avenue Theatre through May 20. Joining Wood from the Paper Mill Playhouse's production are Chryssie Whitehead as Lola and Tony/Drama Desk nominee Patti Cohenour as Meg. Playing the role of the devilish Applegate is Hans Altwies.

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