When I began interviewing actors and actresses regarding their experiences in The Pirates of Penzance, I never once considered the possibility that I would have to address their passing before the release of my album. One remarkable quality of all those I’ve conversed with is that they remain active. They are always working on something that excites them, that gives them a reason to wake up in morning. This characteristic shines through their behaviors, their voices, and their interests in music and in life. Unfortunately, however, regardless of who we are, none of us are above our mortal existence and we will all at some point in the future be required to take that final, immortalizing step into the hereafter, whatever that may be for us.
This afternoon, I was informed that George S. Irving—the man who replaced George Rose as the Modern Major General on Broadway in the 1980s—passed away yesterday, the day after Christmas, at the age of ninety-four. Irving was a paragon of the stage, radio, television, and film. He appeared in countless productions in all mediums, and is revered by the old guard of acting as well as by younger audiences who came to know him through the classic animated Christmas films such as The Year Without Santa Claus. Just three days ago, my mom and I were watching one of Mr. Irving’s movies for the first time, just as I was polishing up my interview with him. Now here I am, on the day I intended to share our cheerful interaction, having to posthumously publish and earmark our conversation with a tinge of unanticipated grief.
Although I didn’t know him well, Mr. Irving and I became musical acquaintances, if you wish to call it that. I admired his talent and he seemed glad to know that someone was working on The Pirates of Penzance again. I reached out to him in the fall to schedule a possible interview date with him to talk about The Pirates. He was quick to accept the request; however, he declined to a telephone conversation stating: “My health has worsened and I am not up to a talk session. If you can think up some questions that would work for you, I’ll try to answer them…Best wishes, GSI.”
I typed up my questions, sent them along, and he replied. We corresponded a little more after that to discuss details of my project, and that led to today, the day I heard the news of his passing.
Well, Mr. Irving, all I can say is thank you. Thank you for your kindness, interest, and generosity of time you invested in my project. I wish we could have met in person, but it seems that was never destined to happen. I am blessed beyond measure to be able to share our interview with your fans and with fans of music all over the world. Thank you for never stopping the music. Thank you for keeping songs in your heart, as well as in ours, every day of your life. We tip our hats to you tonight and to bid you adieu. I hope to meet you again one day. Until then, may you rest in peace.
And now, the interview:
As we approach the two week mark from the release of my album The Pirates of Penzance: Revamped and Revisited, I invite you sit back with a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy this delightful conversation I had with Robby Benson--the voice behind The Beast from Disney's animated classic Beauty and the Beast--and his lovely wife, singer and actress Karla DeVito. I came to know these two wonderful people, first through the mutual acquaintanceship of Kaye Ballard's agent Mark Sendroff who first suggested I speak with them, and then of course through Kaye and others' insistence on me interviewing them about their memories of Penzance, which I summarily pursued.
The two were staying in Hawaii a few weeks ago when I called. Shortly after the interview, they trekked to sunny Florida in time for Robby's appearance at Disney Candlelight in Epcot. Robby and Karla have been busy promoting the highly anticipated 2017 live-action Beauty and the Beast reboot, but they were so gracious to offer their help to promote my album as well. Without further ado, here is the text of our delightful interview.
A couple of weeks, I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with actor Gary Sandy. Our conversation occurred on the historic final night of the 2016 World Series with the final play-off between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians. Sandy, a longtime Cubs fan, was generous with his time, but was noticeably excited about the upcoming game. Here you can read our interaction as he reminisced about his time spent in The Pirates of Penzance.
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