Raines is now back on Broadway as the wealthy, unhappily married Benjamin Stone in James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim's Tony Award-winning musical Follies, which is now at the Marquis Theater, having debuted earlier this year at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. TheaterMania recently spoke to him about the show.
THEATERMANIA: How did you become involved with this production?
RON RAINES: My agent called and said he had an audition for me. I knew that they were doing this production, but I thought it was cast. I'm very excited because I get to work with Bernadette Peters.
TM: How has the transfer been from Washington to Broadway?
RR: It was fairly easy because it was a quick transfer. We had finished the production at the Kennedy Center a month before. The show had become much tighter and more together towards the end. The last week-and-a-half in DC was very comfortable for all of us. None of us had any idea that it would come to Broadway. This was a nice surprise. We thought it was going to be this classy Kennedy Center production, which it was. The Marquis Theatre is a wonderful theater; it actually seems much more intimate than the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center.
TM: The musical has a 28-piece orchestra and a cast of 41 actors What are the challenges when it comes to working with such a large company?
RR: Our director, Eric Schaeffer, has done an amazing job. You have lots of generations up there. That speaks to the power of the work. I think the most challenging part is you have people who are not 25 years old anymore, who are on stage tap dancing and doing eight shows per week. Eight shows a week for people over 50 years old isn't the same for your 20- and 30-year-olds. You have no life; you eat, sleep and breathe theater. Thank goodness we are doing a masterpiece like Follies.
TM: You first played this role in 1988 with Michigan Opera Theater. How are you approaching this role 23 years later?
RR: Yes, it feels like 150 years ago. I loved doing the show then, but I was too young to play Ben. He has stayed with me, just like the show did. I can now play him honestly. I have more life experience and more understanding. You cannot accelerate life experience.
TM: How would you describe Ben?
RR: He started out very self-focused, very focused on what he wants to do. He is a Type A personality. He doesn't have time to search for other things since he knows what he wants. He is going to set forth everything he has to in order to accomplish what he wants. But at this point, he thinks about what it would be like if he had taken another road.
TM: How do you think audience are relating to the show?
RR: This piece hits everyone differently. It stirs up thought and conversation. For younger folks, it lets them look at the older people and the choices they have made, and how it turned out. There are always consequences for the choices we make. This is the kind of show you think about for days and weeks afterwards. It stays with you.
TM: Follies is a limited engagement through January. Do you know what's next for you?
RR: I'm actually scheduled to do Sweeney Todd at the Opera Theater of St. Louis next year This is my first Sweeny. I have always been scared to take on this role, but you have to face your fears. I'm very excited.