There’s a new man in town on Broadway – and he’s a proud Canuck! Olympic Champion figure skater Elvis Stojko made his Broadway debut as Billy Flynn in Chicago last week and is now coming home to Toronto to play the role at The Princess of Wales Theatre.
Stojko is a household name in Canada (and worldwide), known for his genial personality and electric presence on the ice. The nation watched and cheered him on in back-to-back Olympics (1994 and 1998) and he has remained active on the figure skating circuit ever since.
But what some people don’t know about Stojko is that he also has a passion and a love for the music and for the stage. He has previously released singles, and in 2004 made his professional stage debut as Vince Fontaine in Grease.
I spoke with Stojko about the challenges associated with transitioning from skating to singing and dancing, the stakes involved with performing on Broadway and how he feels about performing for a hometown crowd:
Congratulations on taking on the role of Billy Flynn in Chicago! This marks your first return to the theatrical stage since your run in GREASE as Vince Fontaine – what made you decide to give it another go now?
I have always loved to perform and wanted to try something more challenging. When this opportunity came to me I knew that it would be tough, but I had the confidence that I could do it. I love the challenge and also wanted to learn from the best of the best.
Chicago is known for its dancing – how much does having a skating background help when tackling dance?
Learning the choreography was not too difficult for me since throughout my skating career learning movement was part of it. The tough part was learning the music, making sure I was doing everything correctly to hit the notes and keep the choreography on time. It looks easy, but it’s not as simple. I have worked hard on it, but having the skating background has helped.
What about the vocal preparation? How do you get your voice in shape for eight shows a week?
I have worked with a classical coach in the past and learned how to keep from damaging my voice. I spend quite a bit of time warming up and focus on trying to get into the sweet spot of my voice. My voice control has improved in the past few weeks for sure.
You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you love musicals – have you ever seen Chicago on stage and if so, did you ever dream you might be tackling the iconic role of Billy Flynn?
I had only seen the movie so going into it was exciting since I knew the movie was quite different from the stage production. I never thought that I would ever be performing on Broadway.
What has the preparation been like so far? How does it differ from training for something like the Olympics?
Training for Olympics is a 5-6 days a week process. On ice 4 hours a day with off ice training on top. The intensity is a super high. With Chicago I came prepared by learning my lines ahead of time, and then we began rehearsing 6 days a week 2-3 hours per day for 2 weeks. It’s not as intense physically of course, but the focus is really high as well. Even though I am not as trained as the pros, I have pushed myself to reach a level of performance that I know I can achieve. I spent more time on my own practicing what we were working on in rehearsals. I really love the process.
Which would you say is harder? Training for the Olympics or rehearsing for a Broadway show? Or are they just two completely different animals altogether?
Training for Olympics is a much harder process. Though the similarities are based on your ability to perform under pressure. The sense of pressure to perform is there, but at the Olympics it’s much tougher. I have learned to focus and how to prepare for a pressure situation, so that has helped me preparing for Chicago. What I have learned from my skating days on how to deal with nerves and how to keep control has been asset.
You’re starting your Chicago journey on Broadway before bringing it to Toronto – are you excited to get to perform for a ‘hometown’ crowd? Do you think that Toronto audiences will have a different reaction than NYC?
I think the hometown crowd will have a different energy for sure and I am glad that I am performing on Broadway first to get comfortable before coming home.
Chicago is a one of the longest running shows on Broadway and quite popular with Toronto audiences as well – what reason would you give people to come and see it again?
They have a changing cast and each actor brings a different energy to the characters they play. So seeing it with different cast can bring another dimension to the show.
Any chance you will surprise the audience and have Billy Flynn do a quadruple toe loop, triple toe loop jump in the courtroom?
HAHA! Well, I will keep my skating moves away from this stage. I wanted to focus on the true Flynn character without the skating and focus on showing my ability to sing and act. I wanted to have that separation.
Chicago plays at The Princess of Wales Theatre March 26th- 30th. For more information or to purchase tickets please call 416-872-1212 or go online at www.mirvish.com