Northeast Times

From soaps to Gypsy

All the world’s a stage for soap star Robert New­man, who will have a long en­gage­ment at the Bris­tol River­side Theatre.

Robert New­man re­cently com­pleted his 28-year run as Joshua Lewis on the longest run­ning pro­gram in broad­cast­ing his­tory, The Guid­ing Light. The role garnered him two Day­time Emmy nom­in­a­tions for Out­stand­ing Lead Act­or in a Drama Series.

New­man has also played the char­ac­ters of Prescott Har­rell on Gen­er­al Hos­pit­al and Kirk Cran­ston on Santa Bar­bara. 

“But I’ve tried nev­er to let my­self be pi­geon­holed by any of these roles,” said New­man, get­ting ready to ap­pear with Tovah Feldshuh in Gypsy at Bris­tol River­side Theatre Dec. 6 through Jan. 15. In fact, over the years, the act­or has taken to the stage in such pro­duc­tions as Man of La Man­cha, Cur­tains, Nine, A Little Night Mu­sic and many oth­ers.

“Even with all my years on the soaps, many times, I took off six to eight weeks a year to do stage shows. For me, and for audi­ences, too, I think, there’s noth­ing like live per­form­ances to get those juices flow­ing,” he said. 

Ac­cord­ing to New­man, each of the char­ac­ters he’s played, wheth­er on tele­vi­sion, the small screen or on stage, is com­pletely dif­fer­ent and so each one has taught him something dif­fer­ent. 

“Ob­vi­ously, there’s a char­ac­ter like film dir­ect­or Guido Can­tini in Nine who taught me what it’s like to have a nervous break­down for two hours a day, eight times a week,” New­man ex­plained. “That’s one of the most tax­ing roles I’ve ever done, and hav­ing to make it hap­pen eight times a week means the char­ac­ter be­gins to teach you a lot about your­self.”

Then there was Lt. Frank Ciof­fi in Cur­tains, which New­man ac­know­ledged was a lot of fun to do.

“I was in­volved in an end­less amount of murder mys­tery-solv­ing kind of dia­logue that keeps your brain work­ing at a thou­sand miles an hour,” he said.

And of course, one of his fa­vor­ites was Don Quix­ote in Man of La Man­cha.

“That play not only trans­forms you, but it’s not like any­thing else I’ve ever done, and I want to do it again and again and again. I ima­gine it will con­tin­ue to be a grow­ing ex­per­i­ence for me,” he said.

Tak­ing the role of Herbie, the av­er­age sales­man who runs in­to Rose, her two chil­dren, and a lot of un­ex­pec­ted ex­per­i­ences in Gypsy, is also a learn­ing ex­per­i­ence.

“Since each char­ac­ter is com­pletely and ut­terly dif­fer­ent, it’s easi­er to play them if you can find a way to re­late. I’m now find­ing my way with Herbie,” he said.

New­man, 53, hadn’t planned to be­come an act­or. In fact, he first ma­jored in psy­cho­logy at col­lege. But tak­ing an act­ing course as an elect­ive soon changed his mind, find­ing act­ing and psy­cho­logy had much in com­mon. 

“They both looked in­to the hu­man mind and hu­man re­la­tion­ships,” he said. “As the young­est of five chil­dren, I came from a big, bus­ted and highly dys­func­tion­al fam­ily, so I was in­ter­ested in all kinds of re­la­tion­ships.”

Later, earn­ing a bach­el­or of arts de­gree in theat­er from Cali­for­nia State Uni­versity at North­ridge, New­man de­cided to go in­to act­ing full time. While he’s also ap­peared on TV in such series as Crim­in­al Minds, NCIS and Law and Or­der: SVU, he said he keeps get­ting drawn back to the stage and looks for­ward to do­ing more work in that dir­ec­tion.

“It is a shame, however, that the soaps have dis­ap­peared, but busi­ness is busi­ness,” New­man noted. “Every once in a while, however, fans come up to me and ask me how Josh and Reva are do­ing. They saw the soap so real­ist­ic­ally as to think these are real people. 

“But I can un­der­stand the fas­cin­a­tion,” he con­cluded. “After all, I signed on for three years and had one of the best twenty-eight-year runs of my ca­reer.” ••

For  times and tick­et in­form­a­tion, call 215-785-0100.

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