Plumbum returns in A Christmas Carol! - Drew Rowsome - 416 Scene - MyGayToronto
Plumbum returns in A Christmas Carol by DREW ROWSOME 15 November 2017
Since 1997, the Christmas season has been enlivened by Ross Petty's pantomimes. Ludicrous, hilarious, and packed with song and dance, the pantomimes are not only consistent hits but also birthed an unexpected superstar: Plumbum who returns after a year off to grace this year's A Christmas Carol. The love an audience has for this sashaying, sweetly lascivious character is obvious from the cheers and laughter that explodes every time she appears. My idea was to talk with Plumbum to find out what is in store this year, get a sense of her certainly scandalous personal life, and find out how she is coping with what is now an illustrious career. There was one hitch.
Plumbum - having played everything from a naughty nurse to royalty to sophisticate (Peter Pan) to fairy godmother (Cinderella) to a fish-hybrid (The Little Mermaid) - is herself played by renowned actor Dan Chameroy, who was reluctant to speak in character. Actors are usually attention whores so Chameroy's reaction puzzled me but, as he was willing to talk as himself, we did chat. "I'm game for anything," understates Chameroy. "It's just that for me, the trick about playing that character is that she's very quick-witted. I don't want to stumble through an interview trying to be as witty as she is. If I felt more confident, I would have jumped at the idea but it would be too risky to make it interesting. And face it, she's very hard to book. Let's be honest, she's saving the big interview for Ellen."
The truth of the matter is that Plumbum and Chameroy have an uncomplicated relationship based on mutual respect. "I like playing characters that are larger than life, it's a natural thing for me to do," says Chameroy. "The joy that I have is that they're big but come from a truthful place, from a place of honesty. Their reactions and the way they express themselves might be outrageous but they're still real people and that's a lot of fun for me to play. Plumbum has no inhibitions so it's a great character to step into. She's carefree and she doesn't really have a mean bone in her body. She's kind of oblivious in a weird way, almost childlike in the way she deals with things. It's fun because there's an innocence about her that's really great to play. I think that's why she fits so well into the pantomime, because obviously kids are watching her and they probably like the fact that she is who she is. Looking the way she does is just a bonus for some people. I don't approach her as a drag queen or as anything specific, she's just a person. However the audience interprets what she is that's their business, that's their job. And I'm fine with what anyone thinks. I hope people just look at her as a person. I hope people look at the person and not what they represent. We have to just get over our differences. We're all people who love the same way and make our mistakes and screw up. Once we can just, get over this shit, see ourselves as people, the world will be a better place. "
It was serendipity, as well as Chameroy, that created the super nova. "I think this is my eighth panto, seventh as Plumbum and one as a normal person. The first time I did a panto I was playing Robin Hood. And then somehow I went through some sort of weird transition as far as Ross was concerned, and I started playing women. It seems to be happening more than I expected, but there you have it." The press material, and reviews, have referred to Plumbum as an icon, and Chameroy as very talented. Is there any friction between the alter-egos? Chameroy is diplomatic, "It's always weird when 'iconic' is connected to anything a person does. It's flattering and she's an enjoyable person to become. She's a lot of fun and I'm glad people enjoy her."
With Chameroy being so humble, how did producer and former star Ross Petty feel about Plumbum's command of the spotlight? "He was jealous of me and we had a lot of infighting and Ross and I don't speak anymore," deadpans Chameroy before correcting. "I think Ross retired because Ross wanted to focus on just producing the show. I think that all the hassle he had when he was doing the show was too much. And also because, well, I was better."
Though Plumbum is a, ostensibly guileless, scene-stealer, Chameroy is very generous towards his co-stars. "AJ Bridel [Kinky Boots, Assassins] is fantastic. I'd never worked with her before, I saw her perform once long ago, that's the thing about being in theatre, you have very little time to see stuff, but in rehearsal she's beautiful. What a voice. Great timing. She's a beautiful girl, talented, she's just fantastic. We're loving working with her. Everyone in the cast is strong. Cyrus Lane is playing Scrooge. Cyrus has been at Stratford for years and lots of theatre in Toronto. He's kind of known for being a mysterious theatre guy, but I've known him for years and he's hilarious, very spontaneous. The perfect choice for Scrooge, he's got a lot of charming charisma. And then there's my friend Eddie Glen who's been doing this for I think 15 years, he understands comedy like nobody. These people feed off each other so it's great when you have people who are really skilled at this kind of stuff, it's like you're breathing together with comedy. It's a fantastic way to work."
Or is he just being nice because Plumbum, in some perverse way, needs minions? "The goal is, she's funny and she has a lot of smart things to say occasionally, but that's just what people see. People anticipate that she's going to be ridiculous, over-the-top, making crazy comments, but to be fair these shows don't work because of just one person. It's a real ensemble and everyone is important. If my comedy lands, it's because everyone else has delivered. It's all about timing and teamwork. I'm here to serve the story and give the people what they enjoy, and if that means ripping the scenery apart and making a few jokes, then that's what I'll be doing."
The panto has a long run but Plumbum is up to it. "It's a lot of fun," says Chameroy. "I think it's the greatest job happening at this time of year. You get to perform in an extraordinary theatre, the Elgin is the best, a great place for an audience to see a show. I feel honoured to get to perform in that theatre. And it's great to be working at Christmas. It's the time of year that you want to have fun. Tracey Flye our director has been directing it for years and she's so great. She knows what it is. She's a great guide. It's a great comfort to come back and just do your thing. It's a great way to go to work. And it doesn't hurt that it's right across from a mall."
Chameroy can afford to have fun with this role. He is highly respected for many roles at Stratford, in musicals and as the lead in Sondheim's company, serious heady stuff. And he already has a Dora for playing Gaston, that bastion of masculinity and about as opposite to Plumbum as it possible to get, in Beauty and the Beast. Chameroy laughs when I tell him I saw him in Beauty and the Beast and that, not only was he great, and very sexy, in the part, but it left me thinking that Belle had made the wrong choice. "That was a great opportunity," says Chameroy. "When they cast that part, I was in Halifax doing a show and I listened to the Broadway recording and I thought, 'That would be a great part to play but they'll never cast me because I'm just not the right type.' I had an impression of what they would do. I could sing it and do it but the type that I was, visually and physically, wasn't the type they would go for. When they ended up casting it, I was very reluctant to even put myself up because I thought they'd just dismiss me and I'd end up feeling like a total fool. So the fact that I got the part was something that I'd envisioned but in a way thought wasn't going to be a possibility."
And then Plumbum/Chameroy's feisty spirit surfaces. "It was a great moment for me to book something that I wanted to do but I thought was going to be a stretch. It was a good learning lesson in that way to not put limitations on yourself in any kind of choices you make, in show business or any kind of business. Just go for it. Don't put blocks up. Don't make your life harder than it is. Self-doubt doesn't help anyone." Sage Christmas/panto advice from an icon.