Thursday, December 09, 2010

Van Dyke steps back in time for new stage show

LOS ANGELES – While some of his friends are golfing, 84-year-old stage and screen veteran Dick Van Dyke is mounting a new stage show.

"It is incredible," says the Tony- and Emmy-winning Van Dyke about what led up to "Dick Van Dyke — Step in Time! — A Musical Memoir." "I started out singing with these three young guys who approached me in a Starbucks one morning — these three 30-year olds who said, 'We understand you like to harmonize.' I said, 'Love, to.'"

Dubbing themselves "the Vantastix," the quartet started singing Tuesday nights at Van Dyke's house in Malibu. Then came benefit performances, including one at Westwood's Geffen Playhouse, which approached Van Dyke about doing a one-man show.

"I said, 'I'm not going up there on my own. No way,'" Van Dyke recalled in a recent interview, adding that he would consider the offer if he could do it with the three singers.

The four will step back in time to review Van Dyke's half-century career, which took off with his Tony-winning lead in the original Broadway cast of "Bye Bye Birdie." That lead him to the Emmy-winning "The Dick Van Dyke Show," as well as the film version of "Birdie" and Walt Disney's "Mary Poppins," the latter perhaps his most enduring work.

"I have my third generation of kids coming up to me saying, 'You're (his "Mary Poppins" character) Bert! You're Bert!'" Van Dyke said. "I've got to tell the story that I was in a market and a woman pointed me out to her daughter. 'Honey, that's the man who played Bert.' And she ran over to her little brother and said, 'I just met Bert's grandpa,'" he continued, laughing.

Following "Poppins," there were the big-screen "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," an Emmy-winning 1970s variety series, and the '90s TV series, "Diagnosis Murder."

"All I ever did was look for work," said the ever-fit-looking Van Dyke, who turns 85 on Monday. "And the things that happen to me prove that luck has so much to do, to be in the right place at the right time. I don't know how it happened, because I never had a career plan. I had kids. And I had to work. And everything just worked out so I not only had a comfortable living, I enjoyed every minute of it — and still am. This is my retirement."



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