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A musical with no singing but several stories: ‘Contact’

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While not a professionally trained singer, Alan Campbell landed a few small roles in small musical productions when he was growing up in Florida.

"I actually started my career as a kid in rock bands and singing in high school," Campbell said during a phone interview from Los Angeles. "I continued doing that through college, but I was too busy attending pre-med and business classes for it to really branch out."

Campbell will be seen as Michael Wiley, a depressed ad man in the musical "Contact," which opens at the Capitol Theatre Tuesday, Sept. 11. The show runs through Sept. 16. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Sept. 11-15, and 7 p.m. on Sept. 16, with 2 p.m. matinees Sept. 15 and 16.

Tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre box office or by calling ArtTix at 801-355-ARTS. Tickets are also available online at www.arttix.org.

Campbell said a move to Las Vegas got him connections in acting, and he went to Los Angeles and landed roles on various soap operas and TV programs — "Another World" and "Homicide," to name a couple.

"I remember when I saw the original performance of 'Contact' on Broadway and I was thrilled by what I saw," said Campbell, who, at that time, had just finished working on Broadway's "Sunset Boulevard." "This was a musical without singing."

True. "Contact," which won the Best Musical Tony Award in 2000, is a series of short stories told through dance and music. There is no singing. Campbell's character is a survivor of a botched suicide attempt who finds himself in a basement bar where he spots a mysterious woman in a yellow dress. The role will be performed by Laura Catalano and Holly Cruikshank during the Salt Lake run.

"My role basically is to chase this woman around," Campbell said with a laugh. "Which isn't a hard thing to do at all."

Campbell auditioned for the role of Michael Wiley and landed the spot for the touring company.

"It isn't difficult for me to become Michael," Campbell said with another laugh. "He's 43 and desperate and that's how I picture myself. Although I had exposure through TV, I found that there weren't a lot of people who remembered what I did. When I moved back to New York, I realized that I had gone full circle and was loving the idea of doing live stage again."

The idea for "Contact" came about when Lincoln Center Theatre artistic director Andre Bishop called New York choreographer Susan Stroman and asked her to develop a new theater work.

Stroman, who won Tony Awards for her work in "Crazy for You" and "Showboat," got in touch with author John Weidman, who has written lyrics for Stephen Sondheim musicals "Pacific Overtures" and "Assassins."

After Stroman witnessed a woman in a bar trying to pick up men, the two came up with the idea of three stories that span the ages of people making contact with each other. (Some of the segments contain sexually suggestive scenes.)

While in New York, Campbell busied himself with side projects like the Broadway Tenors, of which he is an original member.

"That all came about because of the original Three Tenors," Campbell said. "Since then there have been a bunch of knockoffs like Three Mo' Tenors and the Irish Tenors. So a couple of friends and I did Broadway Tenors, which, obviously sing Broadway tunes instead of operatic arias.

"It was fun, but we all got called to do different things, so our scheduling has prevented us from performing together," Campbell said. "Fortunately, there are three other singers who have taken over for us."

Still, Campbell doesn't regret leaving it behind to tour with "Contact."

"The group of people I'm working with is such a fun group," he said. "They're disciplined, but not too rigid. They know how to have fun and everyone is very nice. It's the perfect group to tour with. It's very relaxed."


E-mail: scott@desnews.com