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October 16, 1992 - Image 75

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-10-16

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Zale Kessler is laughing
through Music Man's
10-day run at the Fisher.


Zale Kessler is no stranger to Mayor Shinn, below.

haracter actor Zale Kessler
prefers comedy roles to dra-
matic ones, and so he is hap-
py to portray Mayor Shinn
in the Michigan Opera The-
atre (MOT) production of
The Music Man.
"I'd rather make people
laugh than cry," said Mr.
Kessler, who is returning for
his fourth appearance with
MOT. "I think laughter is
God's gift."
In Detroit since Septem-
ber to rehearse for the
Meredith Willson musical,
Mr. Kessler is performing
his role for two weeks,
through Oct. 25, at the Fish-
er Theatre. The production
is being staged specifically
for MOT.
"Mayor Shinn is a funny
and well-written role about
a funny character who is
very recognizable as some-
body we all know," said the
visiting actor, who has
played the part many times
with other groups across the
"He's blustery and silly,

and we all have at least one
relative who's something
like this."
Mr. Kessler — who has
stage, TV and film credits —
is generally on the road
eight to 10 months out of the
year. He performs in all
types of shows, from opera
to straight drama. His love
for the entertainment in-
dustry began at age 5 and
has not waned.
"I never really wanted to
do anything else," he said.
Raised in St. Louis, where
his family settled after flee-
ing Russia, he made his
stage debut as the wizard in
Three Pills in a Bottle at the
St. Louis Junior Theater,
the center of his early train-
ing. He studied acting at the
University of Iowa, where he
experienced first-hand the
Iowa setting of The Music
Man and the home state of
its writer.
After moving to New York
in search of career opportu-
nities, he won a job with a
state company that toured

through the resorts in the
Catskills. They presented
mostly serious plays.
"We did all the wrong
shows," laughed Mr. Kess-
ler, who has also performed
in Mr. Roberts and Hatful of
Rain. The actor developed a
sense of humor toward neg-
ative reactions from mem-
bers of the audience
expecting lighter fare.
During his years in New
York, 1958-72, he performed
on Broadway in a variety of
productions, including Peter

Ustinov's The Unknown
Soldier and His Wife.
Mr. Kessler moved to Cal-
ifornia in 1972, this time
seeking movie and TV roles.
His film credits include The
Producers, History of the
World Part I and To Be Or
Not To Be. TV fans have
seen him in episodes of
"Night Court," "Simon & Si-
mon" and "Murder, She
"I worked with Angela
Lansbury in Dear World on
Broadway, and she's very
kind and remembers peo-
ple," he said. "I've done three
or four appearances on
`Murder, She Wrote,' and it's
always fun working with her
and seeing her again."
In his most recent part, he
was a building super who
gave information to the lit-
erary sleuth.
Mr. Kessler, who never
studied singing formally but

who has made it an important
part of his career, also does
light concerts. He has ap-
peared in the MOT produc-
TWO WEEK/page 87

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