Friday, December 18, 2009

Interview: Catching Up With Robert Newman

Since the demise of “Guiding Light” this past fall, Robert Newman, who played Joshua Lewis for almost 25 years, has hardly been resting on his laurels. He’s been playing to packed houses in the musical “Sessions” at the Algonquin Theater in New York City. As the show nears its end in January, Robert took time to reflect on the play, as well as his time spent on “GL.”

Robert is no stranger to theater, and musicals specifically. He explains: “For the past five or six years, I had been taking a month or two off from ‘Guiding Light’ to do theater somewhere, and it’s almost exclusively been musicals. It’s something I kept quiet for the soap. They asked me to sing a few times, but I said no. Plus, I just couldn’t envision a situation where Josh would suddenly break out into song.”

In “Sessions,” Robert leads a talented cast of singers and dancers as Dr. Peterson. Robert says: “The show is about a therapist and his patients. There are eight patients, all representing different walks of life and different problems in life. For example, there’s an older married couple who hate each other; there’s a man who’s very reclusive; there’s a woman who’s beaten by her husband, etc. All of them represent different struggles in life.

“The therapist himself is going through a midlife crisis where he is on the brink of having an affair with one of his younger patients, which would not only destroy his marriage, but his career as well. He is also beginning to question the value of what he does. He’s very skilled at his job, but he doesn’t think so.”

“Sessions” will ring true for many people who come to see it. Robert says: “There’s a lot of comedy in the show, and quite a bit of tragedy as well — kind of how life is. The audiences really like the show. Everybody in the audience can relate to some character in the show. We have people in the audience who are very weepy by the time we get to certain sections in the second act. For some of the soap fans, it’s interesting for them to see me as someone other than Joshua.”

So, what was it like for Robert to work with a cast other than his family at “GL”? “Everyone has been great. They welcomed me in. A lot of them have been on board with the show since the beginning. I brought a very different take to Dr. Peterson than my predecessors had, and they all climbed aboard and took the ride with me. They’ve been very loving and supportive, and we’ve become very close in the five months I’ve been working on it. The theater has become my second family now.”

Fans can expect to see much more of Mr. Newman’s board-treading. He reveals:
“There’s nothing like being on stage. I feel very much at home. I love having a live audience, and I love the give-and-take that happens between the audience and cast.”

If you are going to be in the New York area, check out Robert’s turn as a song-and-dance man. “Sessions” runs until the beginning of January; you can get more details at And don’t miss next week’s column, where Robert discusses those final days on “Guiding Light.”