Dukes make Christmas special

Friday, December 11, 2015

Shelley Koppel
Staff writer

STUART – Luke and Bo Duke are coming to town. Tom Wopat and John Schneider, who played the brothers in the television series “The Dukes of Hazzard,” have had success with music and acting careers far beyond the popular television series.

In 2014, they decided to release a holiday album, “Home for Christmas,” which they funded by raising $72,000 through a grassroots Kickstarter campaign. Now they are reuniting for a holiday show, “Return of the Dukes Christmas,” which comes to the Lyric Theatre Dec. 16 for two shows.

Wopat, who played Luke, called to talk about the show and his career, which has included two Tony nominations for appearances on Broadway in “Annie Get Your Gun” and Harvey Fierstein’s “A Catered Affair.” He has recorded eight albums, including a tribute to composer Harold Arlen.

“I was asked to be on an Arlen tour,” he said. “It was the 100th anniversary of his birthday. I thought, ‘If I’m going to be on tour, I want to have some product. We produced an album on the low down, quickly and inexpensively. It captured the big range of Arlen, songs like ‘Dissertations on the State of Bliss,’ and so many things he wrote. It’s amazing stuff. I didn’t want to do ‘Over the Rainbow,’ but how can you not? It’s such an amazing song. It was a lot of fun.”

Wopat said the idea for the Christmas tour was his.

“I had long wanted to do something with him,” Wopat said. “We have performed in public over the years. I decided (we’d do it) if I could talk him into it. He spent four or five days in New York City and we did the rest. It turned out better than the sum of its parts.”
Wopat said that having the record made the tour a good idea.

“If you’re going to have a record, you may as well do it live,” he said. Now you have to perform live to sell stuff. I like the live performances the best.”

What can the audience expect from Bo and Luke Duke?

“A lot of John and Tom Foolery,” Wopat said. “We love each other like brothers and more than that. There’s a chemistry there we treasure. We’re careful not to overstep any bounds. We really work well together. He likes me to be the adult and I like being the adult until I don’t.”
The boys will come to Stuart with a trio of musicians and a lot of songs.

“The music is terrific,” he said. “There are songs you know and some you never heard of. I do a cool version of ‘Blue Christmas’ and there is a Louis Armstrong version of ‘Cool Yule. It’s great. There are some new country songs, like ‘On a Quiet Christmas Morn,’ and ‘Even the Snow Falls for You.’ That’s a really country song title. I do a version of ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ that’s ‘Johnny, It’s Cold Outside.’”
Wopat said the show is perfect for the entire family.

“It’s very inclusive,” he said. “It’s appropriate for everybody. It’s user friendly. It’s a fun show to anyone who’s tangentially involved with the Dukes or likes jazz or Christmas music. We make ourselves available to the audience afterwards.”

Wopat is working on a production about Dean Martin. He finds himself recording less and less as people are not interested in buying full albums anymore. Fortunately, he loves to tour.

“I look at the travel and staying at hotels and eating bad food and that’s what I get paid for,” he said.

“The performances, I do for nothing. I enjoy it amazingly. As long as I keep enjoying it, I’ll keep doing it.”

Tom Wopat and John Schneider star in “Return of the Dukes Christmas” at the Lyric Theatre, 59 S.W. Flagler Ave., Stuart, Dec. 16 at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $46. Call the box office at (772) 286-7827 or order online at www.lyrictheatre.com.