Tony Award-winner Len Cariou brings 'Broadway and the Bard' to Chicago

Hardly a day goes by when actor Len Cariou isn't stopped on the streets by fans wanting autographs or selfies with him. That's because the 78-year-old actor gets recognized for starring opposite Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg as retired police chief Henry Reagan on the CBS drama "Blue Bloods."

But Cariou's initial fame came from his years performing onstage as a classical actor and a musical theater star. Cariou reminds audiences of his distinguished stage career with his solo show, "Broadway and the Bard: An Evening of Shakespeare & Song."

The 80-minute show, a collaboration with director Barry Kleinbort and accompanist Mark Janas, plays Chicago's Stage 773 this week as part of a June tour that includes California stops in Los Angeles and Walnut Creek.

"It's something that I've been thinking about since 1969," Cariou said.

In that same 1969 Broadway season, Cariou went from starring in the title role of Shakespeare's "King Henry V" to singing and dancing opposite Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall in the Tony Award-winning musical "Applause."

"I got the idea then that I should do Shakespeare and song - find the soliloquies from the roles that I've played," said Cariou, adding that one of his earliest acting experiences was in Chicago when he played Iago opposite James Earl Jones as Othello at the Goodman Theatre's drama school.

But for many musical theater fans, Cariou will always be remembered for originating roles in two Tony Award-winning shows by composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim and playwright Hugh Wheeler.

In 1973, Cariou created the lawyer Frederick Egerman in the romantic musical comedy "A Little Night Music" (he was also lucky to be cast in the same role for the 1977 film version opposite Elizabeth Taylor). Then in 1979, Cariou won a Tony Award for unleashing the notorious "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" on unsuspecting and terrified audiences.

"It was a great privilege. Sondheim is a genius and those two roles are iconic," said Cariou, proud of the fact that both musicals continue to be staged everywhere from tiny storefront theaters to grand opera houses.

"Nobody can take that away from you," Cariou said. "It was really an extraordinary thing to create those roles."

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Len Cariou in "Broadway and the Bard: An Evening of Shakespeare & Song"

Location: Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, (773) 327-5252 or

Showtimes: 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, June 6-9; 2 p.m. Saturday, June 9; and 3 p.m. Sunday, June 10

Tickets: $35

Parking: Valet, street

Associated Press, 1970Actress Lauren Bacall poses with her leading man Len Cariou backstage, after their performances in the premiere of the Broadway musical "Applause" in New York in 1970.
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