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Bosley on Broadway: Happy to Be Back : Theater: As the father in the $10-million musical 'Beauty and the Beast,' the veteran actor finds today's visuals 'just amazing.'

March 25, 1994|WARD MOREHOUSE III | REUTER

NEW YORK — Tony Award-winning actor Tom Bosley couldn't be happier about being back on Broadway after a 25-year absence.

But he still feels a bit like a fish out of water.

"I'm having a ball, but it's not quite what I expected," said Bosley, star of Disney's musical "Beauty and the Beast," which recently opened for previews at the Palace Theatre.

"I wanted to come back to Broadway, but it's almost entirely different," Bosley said during a break in rehearsal. "We now use microphones, and there are a lot of computerized things with lights that we didn't have in my day.

"It's just amazing, really, the visuals that have become part of the Broadway theater," Bosley said. "Before we were really dependent on the music and the lyrics."

Bosley plays Beauty's father in the $10-million Disney extravaganza. Adapted from Disney's animated film of the same name, "Beauty and the Beast" is the story of a young woman in a provincial French town who falls in love with the Beast--a handsome prince trapped in an evil spell that, if he can learn to love and be loved, will be broken.

Bosley's contract calls for him to be in "Beauty and the Beast" for six months with an option to renew.

And, if "Beauty and the Beast" becomes a hit, there's a good chance a second "Beauty and the Beast" company will open in Los Angeles.

"Disney has talked about the possibility down the line of an L.A. company, and, if I'm not involved in anything else, I would certainly consider that and be home at the same time," Bosley said.

Square-built and a bit chunkier than he was 25 years ago, the character actor is known in the industry an extremely hard-working "actor's actor."

In many of his roles, he combines the easygoing charm of the congenial neighbor next door with a strong sense of moral and ethical values.

And he's always tried to play parts that are good role models for young people.

A veteran of more than 1,000 TV appearances, Bosley is best known as Mr. Cunningham, Ron Howard's father on the long-running 1970s-80s series "Happy Days."

After his 11 years on "Happy Days," Bosley want on to play Sheriff Amos Tupper on "Murder, She Wrote" and, more recently, Father Dowling in the "Father Dowling Mysteries."

He made his Broadway debut as legendary Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in the 1959 production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical "Fiorello." He received a Tony for his performance as "the little flower," as the feisty LaGuardia was affectionately called, and went on to be in five more Broadway shows.

After his last time out on Broadway in 1969, Bosley began to work in television and movies exclusively.

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Bosley wanted to come back to Broadway a long time ago but turned down a few roles because he didn't think the shows would last.

"I just didn't want to come here and do something and then fall by the wayside," he explained. "And I even gave consideration to replacing someone in a show. But when this show came along, I auditioned for it and they liked me.

"So I just got together with my family and made some sacrifices to make it possible."

But the more things change on Broadway, the more they stay the same.

"I'm really overwhelmed with the amount of revivals that are coming in and that are already in," Bosley said. " 'Damn Yankees' is here. 'My Fair Lady' is here. 'Carousel' opens soon. And 'Showboat' is coming to town."

"It's going to be like deja vu for me," he said. "Like it was when I first came to New York."

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