Ron Raines was nominated for a Tony Award and a Grammy for his 2012 role in Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, where he starred opposite Bernadette Peters. A true Broadway veteran, some of his other Broadway credits include Annie, Newsies, Chicago, Show Boat and Teddy & Alice. He has also appeared around the nation in musicals that include A Little Night Music, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Can Can, South Pacific, Rose Marie, Oklahoma!, Carousel, Side by Side by Sondheim and Guys and Dolls.

Apart from musical theatre, Raines has been a soloist with over 60 major American and international orchestras, including the Boston Pops, the Philly Pops, the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony, the Israel Philharmonic and he has performed at Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, London’s Palladium and the Royal Festival Hall. At the Covent Garden Festival in London, he appeared in Man of LaMancha and recorded his role at the famed Abbey Road Studios.

In addition, Raines has four PBS Great Performances programs to his credit and has
recorded numerous cast albums as well as two solo CDs on the Jay Records label.

To television viewers, however, Ron Raines is best known for his three-time Emmy-nominated role as the nefarious Alan Spaulding on CBS’s longest running daytime drama, Guiding Light. In addition, his other television appearances include CBS primetime series Elementary, Person of Interest and The Good Wife.

Born in Texas City, Texas and raised throughout East Texas, Raines graduated from Oklahoma City University and later attended The Juilliard School. He is now a Steering Committee member of the Artistic Advisory Committee of the Musical Theatre Program at Manhattan School of Music.

Stay Thirsty Magazine was fortunate to spend time with the multi-talented, always working Ron Raines at his home in New York City for this Conversation.

STAY THIRSTY: You have starred on Broadway, in a long-running soap opera and appeared on various prime time television series. Your resume reads like a man who works all the time in the U.S. and around the world. What is the secret of your longevity in musical theatre, television and solo performance?

RON RAINES: My longevity is based upon my desire to keep getting better at
Ron Raines & Bernadette Peters in Follies
whatever it is I am doing. It’s true that I’ve been successful on Broadway, in a long-running soap, on various prime time television series and in opera. I have always felt that I have room to grow in all these venues.

STAY THIRSTY: Roles you have played include Daddy Warbucks in Annie, Joseph Pulitzer in Newsies, Billy Flynn in Chicago, Ben Stone in Follies and Alan Spaulding on Guiding Light. Each of these characters represented men of wealth and power. What is it about these roles that attracted you and how did you feel in each character’s respective skin?

RON RAINES: Powerful men are complex and have many sides. They can be mean, sensitive, loving, ruthless bastards and yet they are always loved by the audience! The complexities in these characters are why I love playing them.

STAY THIRSTY: You have sung with legends that include Bernadette Peters, Leslie Uggams, Debbie Reynolds and Chita Rivera, to name just a few. Which of your onstage partners was the easiest to work with and which one kept you most on your toes?

RON RAINES: It’s been my great fortune to work with incredible leading ladies. Of
Debbie Reynolds & Ron Raines
those you mention, I couldn’t have asked for a more professional group; I enjoyed working with each of these incredible artists. I will, however, single out Debbie Reynolds because I worked with her the longest amount of time. Debbie was a consummate professional, yet when we were together she was just “Mary Frances” from El Paso, a fellow Texan. We were very close. Her passing hit me hard.

STAY THIRSTY: You have soloed with over 60 major orchestras, from the Boston Pops to the Jerusalem Symphony, and performed at Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood and London’s Palladium. Which do you prefer, singing solo or in a Broadway musical? How is your preparation different for each venue? Do you sing to yourself while walking down the street in Manhattan?

RON RAINES: This one made me laugh out loud! I don’t sing to myself while walking down the street in Manhattan; however, I do go over lyrics and spoken lines aloud on the street. I often get funny looks.

Singing with symphonies is a different connection with the audience from playing a character onstage and singing with a fourth wall present. I sing for the audience when I’m in an opera or musical, but I don’t sing to the audience then. I enjoy singing solo with a symphony, but my first love is always being part of a production.

STAY THIRSTY: You have said that your favorite period of music was the 1930s and 1940s that ushered in the birth of the American Classic Songbook. If you had to choose one song that represented that period to you, what would it be and why? Which composer from that period stands out the most to you?

RON RAINES: Wow! This is a difficult question. So much of the music from the period is important to me. I guess if I have to give a specific answer I would have to say that the music from Carousel has been of great importance in my life. The “Soliloquy” and “If I Loved You” are powerful songs that I have always found challenging and have always loved to sing. My favorite composer from that time has to be Berlin…make that Cole Porter…no, it’s Jerome Kern…but I meant to say Richard Rodgers.

STAY THIRSTY: Looking ahead for the next decade of your career, which medium – Broadway, television or solo performance – looks the most attractive to you? What role have you not played on stage that you would like to play?

RON RAINES: They all look good! I still wish I could do Sweeney Todd or King Arthur in Camelot.

STAY THIRSTY: Your education took you from Oklahoma City University, which also counts Broadway stars Kelli O’Hara and Kristin Chenoweth as alums, to Julliard to now being on the steering committee of the Artistic Advisory Committee of the Musical Theatre Program at Manhattan School of Music (MSM). How important was a classical education in voice and acting to your lifelong success? How will those lessons learned color your advice to MSM’s students?

RON RAINES: You mention Kristin and Kelli in your question. We all received a classical foundation in voice from our training at Oklahoma City University. I believe classical training is fundamental for longevity in all the performing arts, and especially in voice. Learning to sing properly is absolutely necessary for the health and well-being of a singing career. Trying to cut corners and jump-start a career without proper training invariably leads to disappointment for the performer. It’s the reason most singers don’t survive the business.

STAY THIRSTY: How important was it for you when you first began your career on the stage to meet and work with the veterans who came before you? What influence do you expect to have on MSM students in the direction of their careers?

RON RAINES: I have always been a student of the history of Musical Theater, and I have always been fascinated by the career paths of successful singers who came before me. I was fortunate to have opportunities to speak with John Raitt, Allan Jones, Richard Kiley, Alfred Drake and Howard Keel. I asked about the choices they were proud they had made and also what they wished they had done differently. I’m happy to share my own journey with MSM students.


Ron Raines    

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.