Two careers, instant success and then a step back. Huge success early in a performer’s career is certainly not the norm, except in the careers of Linda Eder and Tom Wopat.
LINDA EDER has been recording music for 20 years, but is still best known for her early success in her 1st Broadway show Jekyll and Hyde. Her parents introduced her to music at an early age and started her musical career studying piano and organ for which she won several international awards as a solo performer. But singing was always her passion. She honed her craft by starting as a lounge singer at Harrah’s Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.; she appeared on the hit talent show Star Search where her performance caught the notice of Angel Records and subsequently, producer Frank Wildhorn.
Thus began her recording career, which led to 14 solo Albums and 10 Broadway show albums. In 1988 she was asked by Wildhorn to audition for a new show…the lead role of Lucy in his new show Jekyll & Hyde. He was very impressed by her vocal skills and acting talent and she was immediately cast. The show opened its world premier in Houston at the Alley Theatre, the first musical ever produced there. It opened to rave revues for Ms. Eder. This triumph was followed by a run at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre and subsequently a national tour in 1995 and 1996. Its projected Broadway opening was delayed however… during this time she appeared in debut productions of Svengali and The Scarlet Pimpernel. Wildhorn’s production of Svengali starred his two leading performers from Jekyll, Linda and Chuck Wagner. During its 1991 tour it played at the ASOLO THEATRE in Sarasota!
The long delayed Broadway production of Jekyll finally opened in 1997 to rave revues, and it established Linda as a rising star in the Broadway scene. His first Broadway role earned her a Drama Desk Award nomination and an Outer Critics Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Her debut role culminated in the Theater World Award for Best Broadway Debut of the year.
Strangely this overwhelming success was the changing point in her life, “I had a happy, successful life, a happy childhood, a successful recording career and my personal appearance tours. Nothing drove me into show business. I got a taste of the “big time” with Jekyll and Hyde and decided it was enough! For a moment there, I realized what it would feel like to be at that upper-echelon level as a celebrity. I just knew that I didn’t want that. I am now doing that which I really love, recording and singing before my fans. I finally reached “now” and I am totally fulfilled.”
Tom Wopat’s career has taken a similar turn. He began studying music and singing as a child, and began appearing in school musicals from the age of 12. Following high school graduation, Tom decided to avidly pursue a career in music. After attending the University of Wisconsin he dropped out to front a rock band as both guitarist and lead singer, and eventually reignited his stage career with performances in musicals such as South Pacific, West Side Story and Jesus Christ Superstar. His stage career soon attracted the attention of Hollywood and by 1979 Tom was co-starring in the runaway television hit series Dukes of Hazzard. He immediately achieved “heartthrob” status which continued during the show’s six season run and continues today in reruns. When the series ended (due to a breakdown in contract talks) Tom worked in movies and other television series. After the Duke Boys split up shop he decided to live a dual life splitting his time between Los Angeles and his TV and movie career, and in New York pursuing his true love Theater.
It was a career changing decision, giving up his status as a TV “heartthrob” for the grind of establishing himself as a Broadway star. But it only got sweeter from there. Starting with his Broadway debut in Love My Wife, he proceeded to be cast in commanding baritone leads in (to mention just a few) Carousel, City of Angles, Guys and Dolls, 42nd Street, and Chicago. Highlights include co-starring with Bernadette Peters in the reprise of Annie Get Your Gun, which garnered a Tony Nomination for Best Musical Revival. His first non-musical role as the lead in Glengary Glen Ross was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play Revival. Interspersed with his 17 Broadway shows was a Carnegie Hall recital, appearances with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Symphony, and his national tour with close associate and friend Linda Eder. Reaching the “NOW” in his career is our great gain!