You could call Chris Swan a road warrior. Since 2014, he’s been traveling the road in one Broadway production or another. “The first was ‘A Christmas Story,’ where I played The Old Man,” said Swan recently. “That was the big one that got me into touring.”
Next week, Swan comes to the Providence Performing Arts Center, playing Daddy Warbucks in the touring production of “Annie.” Click her for tickets.
Swan confesses that he’s always been an “Annie” fan. “I remember seeing it and wanting to stand up and cheer. I thought, wow, this makes me feel something.”
I wondered if the show, set in the Depression, still resonated today. For those who don’t know, the musical tracks a young orphan with a cheerful disposition on overdrive as she brightens the life of the world’s richest man.
“Sure it resonates. People are always struggling with finances. There’s the conflict of politics. The ‘haves’ versus the ‘have-nots.’ And in the face of all that, there’s hope, tenacity.”
He always thought he’d love to play Warbucks. “The rumor mill said that ‘Annie’ was going out again, and I thought I should get my foot in the door. This was while I was working on ‘Hairspray,’ and it turns out I missed the auditions for principal actors.”
As luck would have it, he got a call. “Turns out they were still looking for a Warbucks, and my name got passed along. They reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested.”
So they went back and forth on Zoom, as so many auditions go these days. And he was cast as Warbucks. “It’s great to have a chance at this role. You want to do it in a good production. A tour, on Broadway, a good regional house doing a long run.”
Cast and crew “rehearsed in New York, did our tech up in Syracuse, and hit the road in October.” The night before we chatted, the tour had just celebrated its 100th performance.
Warbucks is bald, so I asked Swan if he was shaving or wearing a bald cap. “I’m definitely shaving,” he said with a laugh. “It’s silly to try to hide what I’ve got up there. What little’s there, just take it.” So he shaves daily as the show is starting. By the time he first takes the stage, about a half-hour in, Swan is freshly clean-shaven. But he only shaves once on two shows day. Let’s not overdo it.
This will be Swan’s first performance at PPAC, but he’s no stranger to Rhode Island. He’s performed at Theatre by the Sea, and was a staple at Ocean State Theatre. “Everything I did there was wonderful,” he says. “Joel [Kipper] and Aimee [Turner] really took me in.” Fans might remember Swan from “Breaking Legs,” “The King & I,” “Gypsy,” “Billy Elliott” or “1776” among others.
Swan grew up in Vermont in an artistic family. “My dad’s a painter, my mom’s a writer. I happened to do a couple of skits as a kid. My dad’s school was doing ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ and they needed a kid. My dad volunteered me. I got a solo and I got to perform on a big stage.”
He says theater was always there for me, even when he joined the Army after high school. He enrolled in college – the Boston Conservatory – out of the service. “The musical theater program was on the newer side. They worked on us body, soul, and mind.” Perfect training, he says.
He’s been working pretty much since graduating from the Conservatory. He met his fiancée on “A Christmas Story.” She’s also in “Annie.” After three years with “A Christmas Story,” Swan went out with “Guys & Dolls” as Nathan Detroit and then did two years of “Cinderella” as Sebastian. In 2016, he had the opportunity to take a tour of “My Fair Lady” to seven cities in China, playing Doolittle.
Swan is excited about coming to PPAC. “I have such a love for Rhode Island, and my friends are excited to see the show.”
The Providence Performing Arts Center presents “Annie” January 31 through February 5. For tickets and information, call the box office at 401.421.ARTS, or visit www.ppacri.org.