It's a talent that Wopat will put on display through Sunday at the
Orange County Performing Arts Center as part of the Center's Cabaret
Series."I don't have the most amazing voice you've ever heard, I don't
have virtuosity," said Wopat on the phone from Seattle. "I pretty much
try to tell a story, and if I can share a story and people can understand
what I'm saying, then we share something special for a while."
This is the second time in two years Wopat will be on the Center's
stage. Last year, patrons caught him as he reprised his Broadway role of
Frank Butler in "Annie Get Your Gun." Wopat's other credits include
playing one of Cybill Shepherd's ex-husbands on the small screen in
It may surprise many that the Lodi, Wis., native doesn't see himself
as an actor, but as a singer.
"I enjoy acting," Wopat said. "It's just that the more interesting
stuff I do is the vocal stuff."
Listening to him convince Antonia Bennett that "Baby It's Cold
Outside," it's hard to disagree.
Wopat has been singing since childhood, performing in "Damn Yankees"
when he was 14. He went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison as a
music major. Among his first paid performances was a Cole Porter revue at
a dinner theater in Madison, singing "Begin the Beguine."
After recording the cast album for "Annie Get Your Gun," which
co-starred Bernadette Peters on Broadway, Wopat became interested in
doing what he now calls a "saloon record."
"It's an eclectic group," the blue-eyed singer said of the album's
songs. "There's a Jimmy Webb next to a Sondheim next to a Cole Porter."
He credits producer Russ Titelman with the album's polished sound.
"This is probably the first time I had a producer pay attention to the
order of how the songs on the CD go," said Wopat, who confesses to be his
own worst critic. "This one I can listen to from top to bottom."
The album spawned the cabaret act, which gained attention this winter
when Wopat and his trio played Arci's Place in New York City. Bookings
have been steadily coming in since, and Wopat said another album is in
The best part of performing, he said, is that when it's going well,
you learn something about yourself.
"When you invest enough into a song, all of a sudden you're singing
and, oh, there's a different meaning to the line," he said.
The worst is all of the traveling involved. For example, the past week
has had Wopat bouncing from Wisconsin, where he performed in "South
Pacific," to Seattle to Orange County.
Wopat said he wants his Orange County audience to come away singing,
whether out loud or just in their heads.
"If you sit there and pay attention," he said, "I guarantee you'll
come away with a song in your heart."
* What: Tom Wopat
* When: 7:30 p.m. today and Friday, and 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday
and 7 p.m. Sunday
* Where: Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive,
* Cost: $46 or $49
* Call: (714) 740-7878