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.