PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: All the Way's Robert Petkoff

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11 Mar 2014

Robert Petkoff
Robert Petkoff

Stage and screen veteran Robert Petkoff plays Senator Hubert Humphrey in the Broadway production of Robert Schenkkan's All the Way. He fills out's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Past Broadway credits include Lord Evelyn Oakleigh in Anything Goes, Tateh in the revival of Ragtime, Sir Robin the Brave in Spamalot, Perchick in Fiddler on the Roof and Epic Proportions with Kristin Chenoweth.

In London he performed in The Royal Family with Dame Judi Dench and Sir Peter Hall’s production of Tantalus. Off-Broadway he has appeared in The Cradle Will Rock, Happiness, More Stately Mansions and Avow.

Petkoff's TV work includes "The Good Wife," "Chapelle’s Show," "Law and Order: SVU," "Law and Order" and "Hack."


Full given name: Robert Petkoff
Where you were born/where you were raised: I was born Sacramento, CA, but my father was in the Air Force so I grew up all over the U.S. I finished high school and went to college in Illinois so I guess I'm ultimately a midwesterner.
Zodiac Sign:Capricorn
What your parents did/do for a living: My father is a retired Air Force major and retired president of Spartan Tool in Mendota, IL.
Siblings:2 brothers and 3 sisters
Special skills:I have a good ear for dialects, and I just learned to play the tuba for All The Way.
Something you're REALLY bad at:The Jamaican dialect. I've had to do it a couple of times for audio books and well, let's just say it took more than a couple takes.
First Broadway show you ever saw: Crazy For You at the Shubert theatre. It was thrilling to get to play that same theatre when I joined the cast of Spamalot years later. And really special for me to get to work with Stro (who choreographed Crazy For You) when I did Happiness at Lincoln Center.
If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be? Does it have to be only one? My choice for a play would be to go back to the 1860's and catch Edmund Kean play Richard III at the Drury Lane for the first time. One legend has it that the house was only a third full when the performance began and members of the audience dashed into the street to grab passersby and tell them they had to see Kean's performance. The house was full by the end. That would be something to witness, I think. For a musical I would have loved to have been in the audience for the first performance of West Side Story.
Current show other than your own you have been recommending to friends: Recently, I recommend Once when friends ask what show they should see. I think it's a brilliant production with beautiful music. Also no one should miss hearing Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale sing together in The Bridges of Madison County. Those voices are as close to perfect as you can hear on Broadway.
Favorite showtune(s) of all time: I'm a sucker for a ballad so I love "Somewhere" and "Maria" from West Side Story, (Bernstein's music is phenomenal). Also "Not A Day Goes By," "I Remember," "Finishing the Hat," "Not While I'm Around." (As you can see, I was raised in the church of Sondheim). Finally: "If Ever I Would Leave You" (Goulet's original cast album version).
Some favorite musicals: Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, Camelot (I know it's a "troubled show" but I love the Arthurian legend and Lerner and Lowe's score)
Some favorite modern plays: Angels in America is a masterpiece. I loved Arcadia.
Some favorite modern playwrights: Tom Stoppard, Quiara Alegria Hudes, Tony Kushner, Martin McDonagh. Robert Schenkkan is also tremendous with his ability to distill history into compelling drama.
Broadway or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with: For an actor: I would have loved to perform with James Cagney. That guy could do anything and do it all well. I imagine I would learn a lot from him. For an actress: I'm sure I could learn a thing or two from Katharine Hepburn. I also wouldn't have minded just being in the same room with Marilyn M. No explanation needed.
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: I got to see Richard Burton play King Arthur in Camelot and though he was older I was captivated by his stillness and that speaking voice. I went on to play the role many years later and I'm sure I stole a lot from him.
Music that makes you cry, any genre: Henryk Gorecki's Symphony No. 3. The second movement uses the words written by a 15-year-old on a Gestapo prison cell wall. I would listen to the symphony a lot when I played Hamlet to gently lead me to darker places.
You personal acting idols: I loved Philip Seymour Hoffman's work. When I first saw him in "Scent Of a Woman" I kept thinking about how REAL he was. It seemed so effortless. I really admire Mark Rylance's imagination and daring. I got to work with one of my idols, Judi Dench, and she was always so simple and so honest on stage. It forced me to do less as well.
MAC or PC? MAC, but I boot into Windows to play games...
Most-visited websites: NY Times for my news. Sadly too much Facebook to catch up on what friends are doing. I'm really into photography so the Strobist blog and a site called ModelMayhem which lets me connect to other photographers, models, makeup artists, etc.
Most played song on your iPod: "House of Gold" by Twenty One Pilots. (My wife bought me a ukulele for Christmas and I'm trying to learn that song. It's really fun.)
Last book you read: "The Education of a Public Man" by Hubert Humphrey
Must-see TV show(s): "Game Of Thrones," "The Walking Dead," and if you haven't seen all of it, "Breaking Bad." Just starting season 2 of "House of Cards" tonight.
Last good movie you saw: "American Hustle" was a glorious mess. Just watching terrific actors get to play.
Some films you consider classics: "Godfather" I and II, "To Kill a Mockingbird" ("Miss Jean Louise? Stand up. Your father's passing." Gets me every time.)

Also because I'm a nerd: The original Star Wars trilogy. Don't get me started about the prequels.

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