Northeast Times

An actor enjoys his varied stage career

It’s the story of a young pro­fess­or who loses everything in the world but the flea who lives in his vest. And that turns out to be plenty.

Ac­cord­ing to Robert Mc­Clure, who plays the pro­fess­or in the Ar­den Theatre Co.’s pro­duc­tion of the aptly named The Flea and the Pro­fess­or, “The flea and the pro­fess­or be­come the best of friends, start a cir­cus act, and set off to tour the world. To­geth­er, these un­likely of friends be­come ship­wrecked, meet can­ni­bals and much, much more.”

And that, Mc­Clure con­tin­ued, “is the main mes­sage in the play, which is when you find friends who will take care of you and sup­port you, no mat­ter what hap­pens or who they are, simply cher­ish them.”

Ad­ap­ted from the last story of Hans Chris­ti­an An­der­sen, The Flea and the Pro­fess­or con­tin­ues at the Ar­den through June 12, and the new mu­sic­al odys­sey cel­eb­rates the ex­cite­ment of the un­known with catchy songs and stage ma­gic, all of which is geared to chil­dren and par­ents alike. 

“It’s so much fun to per­form in this show,” said Mc­Clure. “This is truly a fam­ily show. It’s fun to feel and hear the audi­ence re­sponse, wheth­er the kids or the adults.”

In fact, one of the high­lights, he noted, is the post-show ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion with the cast, an op­por­tun­ity for audi­ence mem­bers to meet the act­ors in the lobby.

“The chil­dren seem to en­joy this very much, and so do all the act­ors,” Mc­Clure said.

He didn’t come to the theat­er un­til he was in high school. A north­ern New Jer­sey nat­ive, he ac­know­ledged that he began act­ing in plays just be­cause it was fun, without giv­ing any thought to tak­ing it any fur­ther.

“In fact,” he ex­plained, “I ori­gin­ally wanted to be a pro golfer. But in my seni­or year in high school I got a small role in Where’s Charlie at the Pa­per­mill Play­house in New Jer­sey. And for my per­form­ance I was awar­ded what’s called a ‘Rising Star Award,’ the equi­val­ent of a high school Tony award. I think that’s what lit my true pas­sion for the theat­er and set me on my way from then on.”

Over the years, his pas­sion con­tin­ued, and Mc­Clure, now 28, has ap­peared on Broad­way in Av­en­ue Q and I’m Not Rap­pa­port, op­pos­ite Judd Hirsch and Ben Vereen. Oth­er cred­its in­clude Moz­art in Amadeus and Car­men Ghia in The Pro­du­cers at the Wal­nut Street Theatre, Ca­rou­sel at the Pa­per­mill Play­house, and oth­er shows.

When this pro­duc­tion of The Flea and the Pro­fess­or has ended, Mc­Clure is set to play Sey­mour in Little Shop of Hor­rors at the Muny, a large out­door mu­sic­al theat­er in St. Louis. And next year he’ll be ready to re­prise his award-win­ning role as Charlie Chap­lin in Lime­light, which is headed for Broad­way after a suc­cess­ful run at the La Jolla Play­house.

Hav­ing been in this busi­ness for about a dec­ade, Mc­Clure ex­plained that, with all the storytelling and make-be­lieve he’s been in­volved in, one of the best parts of be­ing an act­or is con­stantly learn­ing new skills that oth­er­wise might not have been learned.

“This is a busi­ness where you’re con­stantly able to re­in­vent your­self and ex­pand your skills. I can’t tell you how many skills I’ve been able to pick up over the years,” he ex­plained. “All of a sud­den I learned how to play the gui­tar, or juggle swords. As Moz­art, I learned how to con­duct. So no mat­ter what show you’re do­ing, you get to be some­what of an ex­pert in many, many areas. I find the end­less learn­ing one of the most re­ward­ing things about be­ing in this busi­ness.”

And, he con­cluded, “If I’m lucky enough to keep act­ing, and able to pay the mort­gage by play­ing make-be­lieve for the rest of my life, I will def­in­itely con­sider my­self truly blessed.” ••

For times and tick­et in­form­a­tion, call 215-922-1122.

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