Victor Garber Talks Return to Broadway in ‘Hello, Dolly!’ Revival (Exclusive)
By Leigh Scheps
It’s been 24 years since Victor Garber sang on a Broadway stage -- and he admits he’s “nervous” about doing it again. Beginning Jan. 20, he’s putting his vocal cords back to work in the musical Hello, Dolly!, where he’ll star alongside Bernadette Peters in the Tony-winning revival. “I am finding a great joy in singing again and I’ve missed it,” the 68-year-old Canadian actor tells ET. “The problem is I haven’t kept it up, but I am getting back in shape and I’m feeling really good at it.”
A veteran of the big screen, Garber’s been in blockbusters including Titanic, Legally Blonde and The First Wives Club, as well as on TV in Alias and as Dr. Martin Stein on all four of the CW’s DC superhero series. He’s had an extensive and busy career, but always made a point to return to his roots on the stage. Garber was last on Broadway in 2010, when he starred in the Noel Coward comedy Present Laughter. He’s been in several musicals over the years, but his last one on Broadway was in 1994, when he starred as Applegate in a revival of Damn Yankees with Bebe Neuwirth.
When Garber’s run as the devil was over, Jerry Lewis took over the part. Now, more than two decades later, Garber is doing something similar. However, this time he’s replacing David Hyde Pierce as Horace Vanderdelger, a bitter, well-known, unmarried half-a-millionaire who was played by Walter Matthau in the 1969 film. “It’s so well-written this musical -- it’s all there,” Garber says of composer Jerry Herman’s music and the lyrics and book by Michael Stewart. “All you have to do is surrender to what it is and it just takes over.”
Hello, Dolly! wasn’t anything he was eyeing, but “suddenly this came up out of the blue,” while he was taping episodes of Legends of Tomorrow in Vancouver. Garber hadn’t even seen the production before accepting the offer to play opposite Peters, who turns 70 during the run. Last seen on Broadway in 2011’s Follies, she succeeds Bette Midler, who won a Tony Award for her performance as Dolly Gallagher Levi, a fast-talking widowed matchmaker originated by Carol Channing on Broadway in 1964, and made famous onscreen by Barbra Streisand. “Once I knew Bernadette was involved, I jumped at it and said, ‘Of course I want to do it.’ Then I went to see the show after I said yes. It’s what you call a no-brainer.”
The September announcement marking both their returns to Broadway in Hello, Dolly! was leaked by Garber’s husband of two years, Rainer Andreesen, on an Instagram comment to celebrity fashion stylist Brad Goreski. It’s been two decades since Garber and Peters last performed together -- as the King and Cinderella's Stepmother in ABC’s made-for-TV remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella starring Brandy and Whitney Houston. The two have kept in touch over the years, often seeing each other at various events. But it wasn’t until Midler’s Hulaween benefit party in October when two first reunited for this production.
Garber had only practiced in the theater less than a handful of times at the time he spoke to ET, spending most days in a rehearsal studio. The show is taking a short, hiatus following Midler and Piece’s final bows on Sunday, Jan. 14, so Garber and Peters can go through the process of what’s called “tech” rehearsals inside the Shubert Theatre with the rest of the cast and crew before assuming their respective roles for their first performance on Saturday. Also joining the cast are actors Charlie Stemp and Molly Griggs, who is replacing ET’s 2017 scene stealer Beanie Feldstein as Minnie Fay. “It’s kind of been a luxurious process,” Garber explains of settling in. “Rehearsals have been so inspiring because [director] Jerry Zaks is on fire. He is energized and excited about it. So, it’s been a great way for me to come back to the theater.”
Asked whether this was ever a character he aspired to add to his laundry-list resume, the actor says he never has specific roles in mind for himself. “I wait until something comes across my consciousness that seems right. So far that’s worked out well for me,” Garber concludes. “I only want to do things I feel challenged by, and that’s what I am doing now.”