THE LEADING MEN: Will Chase and Jim Norton, Two "Sides of the Coin" in The Mystery of Edwin Drood

By Michael Gioia
14 Jan 2013

Norton and cast in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Are you keen on doing musicals? This is your second big musical production after Finian's Rainbow.
JN: It is! I believe life is all about the endless possibility of change. I didn't start out to appear in musical theatre. I did certain amounts of it as a young actor, but it's wonderful. It's like a whole new door has opened onto a whole new stage. It's very exciting. It's great fun, and it's such a fabulous cast. I'm a huge fan of Broadway musicals — of American Musical Theatre — so to find myself, at this point in my life, part of it is a real thrill. I'm working with two of my heroes throughout the years — Chita Rivera, obviously I followed her career…and I think a large number of my CD collection has the name Paul Gemignani, [who is the show's music director and conductor], on it — so to end up working with the maestro and with Chita is something I never expected.

Growing up overseas, were you very familiar with the style of British music hall?
JN: Oh, yeah. I grew up in Ireland, of course, and I come from Dublin. We had music hall there that was very similar to what they had in England. So I was very familiar with that style of the Chairman sitting to the side of the stage with a glass of something potent. [Laughs.] And, hopping up and keeping the crowd in check because they could get quite unruly at times… It was great to get a chance to do that, as I've never played that before.

Did your parents take you to theatre at a young age?
JN: Yeah. I started acting when I was about eight or nine. I had a very good singing voice, which I don't think I have now… But I had a boy soprano voice, so I won lots of competitions, and I ended up working in radio as a radio actor. It never occurred to me, ever, to do anything else other than be an actor. So, yes, I did go to the theatre a lot when I was a kid. My grandmother was a great piano player and had a great ton of stories — I'm sure that's where I get the acting gene. My mother played violin, and she was very musical, and my sister runs quite a successful drama school — The Betty Ann Norton Drama School in Dublin. She became a drama teacher, and I became a thespian.