- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 1, 2002

Talk about type casting: John Barrowman, who plays the 35-year-old perennial-bachelor lead role in the Kennedy Center production of Stephen Sondheim's "Company," is also a 35-year-old bachelor.
When Mr. Barrowman was asked last December to interrupt a planned ski vacation in Austria and fly to New York at his own expense to audition for the role of Bobby, the Manhattan-based commitment-phobic bachelor, he refused.
He noted politely in his response that "Company" director Sean Mathias knew his work, as did Eric Schaeffer, Sondheim Celebration's artistic director. Mr. Schaeffer, known for his productions of the New York composer-lyricist's works at Arlington's Signature Theatre, had directed Mr. Barrowman in "Putting It Together," a pastiche of Sondheim songs done at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in 1998. ( Mr. Barrowman also did the Broadway version with Carol Burnett.)
Obviously, matters got worked out to everyone's advantage and without a face-to-face audition.
"They all knew me, and I knew I could face the challenge," Mr. Barrowman says.
With him while he relaxes at his Washington-area hotel room are his traveling companions two English cocker spaniels, Penny and Lewis. He used to breed spaniels as a hobby, he explains, "in order to do something other than theater and television."
The dogs adapt well to their traveling life, he says. He spends some of his free time taking them for walks near Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and watching the airplanes land and take off. "I guess it is the fascination of wondering where everyone is coming from and going," he says.
Mr. Barrowman, who was born in Scotland and raised in the United States, has many professional credits to his name. He was seen on Broadway not only in "Putting It Together," but also in "Sunset Boulevard." In London he performed in "Anything Goes," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Sunset Boulevard." He also was a series regular on the television shows "Titans" and "Central Park West."
He likes to bill himself as one of the best customers of an American-based airline. Once, for nine months, his commute included London, Los Angeles and Birmingham, England, as he juggled a TV series in the United States with what he describes as "two of the most popular children's TV shows in England." (He would fly back to this country on the British Concorde.)
Being stationed in Washington through June 30 is something of a breeze for him.
"Company" opened May 18 to uniformly high praise from critics, which naturally caused him to think very positively about Washington in return. The role is his first appearance on a local stage. "You have great theater audiences here," he says, acknowledging that, previously, he "didn't know anything about D.C., except I had heard about Kennedy Center Honors as a child and I know touring companies had come here."
Usually, he doesn't read reviews, he says, but the recent ones were an exception. He "snuck" in a read of them while alone in his hotel room and then sent them over to his parents, who have been visiting here from their home near Orlando, Fla.
Jayne M. Blanchard, The Washington Times theater critic, wrote: "Mr. Barrowman's Bobby has a charm that reminds one of Hugh Grant with Tom Cruise's killer smile. Then there's his terrific voice, which has a warmth to it that takes the chill off Mr. Sondheim's lyrics."
That voice is something of a fluke, Mr. Barrowman maintains.
"I'm not boasting, but people have said to me that I have a natural singing voice," he says.
He never trained until he went to a university, first to DePaul near Chicago and then to the now-defunct United States International University in San Diego, majoring in musical theater. He studied later in London with Ian Adam, the same coach who trained Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, singing stars associated with blockbuster showman Andrew Lloyd Webber coincidentally one of Mr. Sondheim's least favorite composers.
"I knew technique," Mr. Barrowman says in his friendly fashion. "I went from a classical background to obviously not wanting to have an opera singing career."
He came to this country, to Chicago, at age 8. His father got a job with Caterpillar Tractor Co. and eventually became a vice president. Mr. Barrowman says he still feels he belongs to two worlds: He talks in a Scottish dialect with his parents but usually speaks with an impeccable American "accent."
"As a child, my Scottish accent was made fun of so I learned to speak as a native who was born here," he says. His "Company" co-star Lynn Redgrave, another Briton, is equally able to put forth an expert American voice, onstage or off. "It's weird, but in talking with Lynn, I switch to a quasi mid-Atlantic accent," he says.
In 1989, he went to England to study Shakespearean drama and while there answered an open-call audition for a revival of the 1934 Cole Porter musical "Anything Goes." He got the part, and Shakespeare was put on hold. He says with regret that he has not acted in any Shakespeare play. His jam-packed resume indicates he has done just about everything else, though, including a cabaret act he will perform on Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage on June 11.
Just before coming to Washington, Mr. Barrowman finished his first feature film. He plays the role of a security guard at a Mexican resort in the European production "Megalodon," which centers on "a prehistoric shark. You have to suspend your belief a bit," he says with a laugh.
Mr. Barrowman also has done solo performances and recordings, and even life skills workshops for high school students based on theatrical techniques. "I don't think I've conquered any of the fields, but I believe actors are successful if they are working," he says.


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