Ron Raines is still best known as Alan Spaulding on CBS soap opera “Guiding Light,” but since the show went off the air in 2009, Raines has been increasingly busy on the Broadway stage. In the last two years alone he’s tackled Sondheim (“Follies”), pesky unionizing newsboys (“Newsies”), and, currently, the bald billionaire Daddy Warbucks in “Annie,” stepping into Anthony Warlow’s gleaming shoes for the final weeks of the revival’s run at the Palace before it closes Jan. 5. We spoke to Raines about how to survive joining a long-running show—and how to make looking like a deer caught in headlights seem to be an acting choice.
Know the tricks.
Raines has a history of stepping into already running shows—“I don’t know why I’m chosen to be the deer in headlights but that’s the path I’m on”—from his time in “Showboat” during the 1983 revival to replacing John Dossett for three months as Joseph Pulitzer in “Newsies.” So when he was approached about taking over as Daddy Warbucks, he knew exactly how to prepare: He went to see the show several times. But, as he says, “I watched it from the box seats, which is great because you can see the spacing better as opposed to sitting in the center. You can see where he stands a bit more.” Since his put-in rehearsals consisted of little more than a stage manager and a chair, that bird’s eye view served him well when it came time to his first performance.
Know the parameters.
Since “Annie” has been a smoothly running machine for over a year, there wasn’t room (or time) for Raines to create Daddy Warbucks from scratch. Armed with his viewings of the show and his brief rehearsal period, he focused on staying within the lines of what Warlow had created. “You have parameters that you deal with, and then you start coloring in a little bit,” he says. “You bring to it your Daddy Warbucks. And I’m still doing all that, finding and working on the timing and the emotional colors and the twists and turns.”
Know to go the extra mile.
After his long employment on “Guiding Light,” Raines (and his goatee) are immediately recognizable to soap fans. But to play the famously chrome domed Warbucks, Raines went for extra credit and shaved his head. “They asked me to come in for the last month,” he says, “and I said, ‘Absolutely! It’s a great Christmas show, I won’t have to do it for six to eight months, and I’ll shave my head.’” He laughs. “It freaks out everyone I know, especially my wife, who wakes up and looks over says, ‘Oh my God, who did I sleep with last night?’”
Know to trust yourself.
Likening a replacement’s first performance to being shot out of a cannon, Raines says surviving is easy—you just have to let go. “You can know your lines and everything, but you’ve just been working with stage managers in a room,” he says. “You don’t really see the sets and the costumes until that afternoon. So you do what you can do and call forth your professionalism and history. As long as you get lines that are similar out and no scenery hits you, it’s great. And all your company is applauding you because you didn’t hit them. It takes a certain kind of iron nerve or something.”