When Stephen Moyer takes to the stage of the Hollywood Bowl next month as Billy Flynn in a production of the musical "Chicago," it will be the first time that American audiences get to see the "True Blood" star in a live theatrical production.
But as Moyer recounted in a recent interview, theater is something that he grew up with in his native England, having started around age 10 in amateur musical productions before graduating to professional companies to perform Shakespeare and other classics.
"I did something like 62 musicals by the time I was 18," Moyer recalled. The actor was speaking by phone in a car traveling on Fairfax Avenue, but he was ebullient and eager to talk about theater. He said he eventually helped found a theater company so that he could do straight plays.
"I had only done musicals up to that point. Growing up, there was nowhere near me to do plays. So I set up my own theater company with friends and started directing. I ran that for quite a while," he recounted.
After school, he embarked on a number of stage productions including the musical "Oliver!" for the National Theatre Wales and a six-hour production of Sophocles' Oedipus plays directed by Adrian Noble.
"I was in the chorus -- we were onstage for the whole six hours," said Moyer. "We had these songs and dance numbers -- it was quite tribal."
Other productions included the lead in Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" for the Oxford Stage Company that toured Britain and traveled to Japan, and a production of the Pete Townshend rock opera "The Iron Man" at the Young Vic in London.
Moyer's casting in "Chicago" came about via a somewhat indirect route. The actor said that conductor Rob Fisher -- who led the 1996 Broadway revival and will also lead the Bowl production -- was a fan of "True Blood" and saw an episode in which Moyer's character, the vampire Bill Compton, sang and played piano during the second season.
"So I think he got it into his mind that I would play Billy Flynn," said Moyer, who has never performed "Chicago" before.
The actor is currently shooting the sixth season of "True Blood." He expects to finish shooting by mid-July and then to go directly into "Chicago" rehearsals. "Chicago," directed by actress Brooke Shields and costarring Samantha Barks as Velma Kelly, is scheduled to run for three performances July 26 to 28.
When asked if there are any stage roles he'd like to eventually play, Moyer immediately brought up "Sweeney Todd," the title character of the blood-soaked 1979 Stephen Sondheim musical about a vengeful barber: "It's my favorite musical -- I have done a couple of productions of it but not playing Sweeney."
His other dream job might surprise his fans -- the cross-dressing musical "La Cage aux Folles."
"Wouldn't it be great to do 'Sweeney Todd' and 'La Cage' in repertory?" he said. As to which role he would play in the latter, Moyer didn't hesitate: "Zaza. Of course!"
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