Tom Wopat is racking up the frequent-flyer miles. The Tony-nominated Broadway star and television idol from The Dukes of Hazzard was rehearsing in Madison last week for Four Seasons Theatre's Follies at the Wisconsin Union Theater. He was in transit to New York when we spoke on the phone, and he relayed some of his busy schedule.
"I'll be in Madison on Wednesday to start work on Follies," he said, "but on Friday and Saturday I'll be in Pittsburgh to perform in a cabaret club. Then it's back to Madison for the final rehearsals and performances of Follies before I head back to New York."
Wopat recently finished a run of Harvey Fierstein's new musical, A Catered Affair, in San Diego, and is scheduled to open the show on Broadway in March. But before then he is spending two weeks working on a musical version of the hit movie Catch Me If You Can.
"Steven Spielberg is overseeing the production - I guess he wants to make sure we do it right," Wopat laughed. "We have Jack O'Brien directing, Terrence McNally writing the book, and Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman writing the lyrics and music. It's an amazing array of talent."
A local boy made good (he was born in Lodi), Wopat still has close ties to his home state. He has an abiding affection for the UW Marching Band and attended the lifetime award ceremony last November for UW band director Michael Leckrone.
"I love coming back to Wisconsin," he said. "I did a show in Oregon last December, and another at Stoughton Opera House a few weeks ago. I always have a really wonderful time here."
Aside from his upcoming stage work, Wopat is preparing to record a live CD of favorite songs at the Metropolitan Room in New York City. "I've never done anything like this," he said. "But I've always been interested in the idea. It'll be a challenge."
Wopat will also be seen on television again soon, appearing opposite Kevin Bacon as the father of a slain marine in an HBO movie called Taking Chance. "It's a true story, very dramatic," he said. "It will be quite a change of pace."
Wopat is looking forward to the staged concert version of Follies, Stephen Sondheim's musical about animpresario reuniting his old stars. "I'm really glad we could work out the arrangement. It's a lovely piece and an intriguing role. It should be fun."