Broadway audiences are cheering him nightly as Joseph Pulitzer in “Newsies.” In May, he earned a Tony Award nomination for his role as Ben Stone in “Follies.” From 1994 to 2009, he portrayed the villainous Alan Spaulding on the television soap opera “Guiding Light.” It's a rogue's gallery of characters all played by Ron Raines.
A Texas native who earned a degree in music from Oklahoma City University, Raines has devoted 40 years to performing in concert halls, on theatrical stages and television. This week, he returns to Oklahoma as the featured soloist in Canterbury Choral Society's season opener.
Titled “Broadway to Bricktown,” the concert will feature the 110 voices of Canterbury accompanied by the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. Randi Von Ellefson, Canterbury's artistic director and an OCU professor of choral music, will conduct.
“We came up with the ‘Broadway to Bricktown' title when we brought (OCU alumna and Broadway favorite) Kelli O'Hara back to perform with Canterbury a few years ago,” Ellefson said. “These concerts celebrate the idea of bringing Broadway to Oklahoma City.”
Raines will perform selections from “Guys and Dolls,” “Chicago,” “Carnival,” “Chess” and “Man of La Mancha.” The Canterbury singers will be featured in choruses from “State Fair,” “Jekyll & Hyde,” “The Music Man” and “Children of Eden.”
During the 1980s, Raines launched his Broadway career playing two leading men, the gambler Gaylord Ravenal in “Show Boat” and Nick Longworth, son-in-law of Theodore Roosevelt, in “Teddy and Alice.”
Raines' resonant baritone and commanding stage presence led to appearances in musicals ranging from “Man of La Mancha” (playing Don Quixote), “South Pacific” (Emile de Becque), “Kiss Me, Kate” (Fred Graham/Petruchio), “Carousel” (Billy Bigelow) and “Chicago” (Billy Flynn).
“I made my living doing theater for 19 years and I got to play all the roles I wanted and was right for,” Raines said recently. “After traveling all over the country, ‘Guiding Light' came along which kept me in New York.
“I spent the first year on the soap learning about television. Then I started adding a few concerts here and there which allowed me to keep my day job. I also had a brief run in ‘Chicago' during that time. You make choices and adjustments and go on about your life. It always works out.”
In September 2011, Raines was cast as Benjamin Stone in a star-studded revival of Stephen Sondheim's “Follies.” Playing a successful but self-absorbed businessman who wonders if he made the right choices in life, Raines was part of a cast that included Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, Elaine Paige and Danny Burstein. Following a five-month run on Broadway, “Follies” moved to Los Angeles where it ended its limited run in June.
“With its heavy singing and heavy acting, ‘Follies' almost killed me,” Raines said with a laugh. “It was exhausting physically and emotionally but it turned out to be some of the most artistically satisfying work I've ever done.
“Just a week ago, I went into ‘Newsies' as (newspaper publisher) Joseph Pulitzer. I'm subbing for John Dossett till Dec. 16. It's fun playing a bad guy, which makes you root for the young paperboys even more.”
Raines became a founding member of OCU's Bass School of Music advisory board in 2004. He also sponsors a scholarship that is given to a graduate who is interested in pursuing a theatrical career in New York.
“I tell students to take every opportunity to perform because that's how you learn to be successful in this business,” Raines said. “I don't care if you're pushing a cart on stage; it's the experience that counts.”
Canterbury's 2012-13 season also includes “A Baroque Christmas,” a holiday program featuring Bach's “Magnificat” and Handel's “Messiah” on Dec. 2, and Leonard Bernstein's “Mass,” subtitled “A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers,” on April 13.