For the past decade, Tom Wopat has been getting in touch with his jazzy side in a series of four studio recordings. The latest, I’ve Got Your Number (due for release on February 12), finds Wopat singing a mix of tunes by Jerome Kern, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and more, backed by a swinging 30-piece orchestra. As he preps for a February 25 concert date at 54 Below, Wopat chatted with Broadway.com about his choice of songs, his self-imposed break from musicals and his cameo as Marshal Gill Tatum in the Oscar-nominated comedy Django Unchained.
I’ve Got Your Number is so much fun, from the title track [by Cy Coleman & Carolyn Leigh, from Little Me] forward.
It’s definitely a nod to the Mad Men era, a hybrid big-band sound where we have nine horns and 12 strings. We took songs that have a typically Latin feel and we swung them, and we took swinging songs and put a Latin feel into them.
You even unearthed “Call Me,” a mid-’60s classic from Petula Clark!
That’s a great song, isn’t it? I remembered it from when a guy named Chris Montez sang it. I look for songs that speak to me, and then I try to be true to the feeling of each song. With something like “Secret O’ Life,” the message is simple and direct, all the things that make James Taylor great, so I’m just trying to tell the story. The same is true of the Judy Collins tune [”Since You’ve Asked”]. The Bruce Hornsby song [“Here We Are Again”] is almost like science fiction. I played the title character in [a reading of SCKBSTD] a musical he wrote, and this is a poignant and beautiful song about turning back time.
Do you have any musical theater projects in the works?
There’s one coming to Broadway that I worked on and chose not to do out west, Hands on a Hardbody; Keith Carradine is going to do it. I’ve done so much Broadway over the past 10 years that I’m kind of taking a break and waiting until something hits me over the head.
Lots of people were disappointed that your last two shows [Catch Me If You Can and A Catered Affair] didn’t run longer.
Right, and that’s fine. I don’t need to do it anymore. Singing is something I have more control over—we can put product out there and generate demand for live shows, and that doesn’t happen in the musical theater business. I’m waiting for somebody to come up with another Glengarry Glen Ross for me [Wopat played timid "mark" James Lingk in the 2005 revival]. That really changed the landscape for me as an actor.
Speaking of departures, give us the scoop on playing a U.S. marshal in Django Unchained.
Truth be told, Quentin Tarantino used to hang out on the set of The Dukes of Hazzard when he was a teenager. He was an acting student of James Best, who played Rosco in the show, and he would visit the set and hang out.
Do you remember meeting Tarantino back then?
No. I don’t. That would be amazingly coincidental! But he had this little part [in Django] that he thought would be appropriate for me, and we had a blast. I was there one day, and part of a second day doing wardrobe. He shoots like an old-timer—he sits right under the camera and shoots with real film. It was about as cool a film experience as you can have.
What can we expect from your concert at 54 Below?
Being as arrogant as I am, we’re going to try to do the entire [new] record! [Laughs.] We won’t have strings, but I've got a really good musical director, Tedd Firth, and we’ll figure out the best way to present the songs. Musical performance suits me because I control of the situation from the downbeat until I walk off stage. We’ve got great material and great musicians. What’s not to like?