Fred Applegate knew the moment he found his calling.
It was when he was seven-years-old, and the local high school was casting youngsters as the Siamese children in Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s “The King and I.” The young boy from New Jersey was able to get his first taste of the stage, and it was delicious.
“It was one of the most wonderful things I’d ever done,” said Applegate. “It was then that I told my father I was going to be an actor.”
Applegate’s father listened intently to his son’s dream. A gentleman who provided for his family through a career in banking and insurance, he pointedly and pragmatically responded to young Fred’s future occupation.
“When I told my father I wanted to be an actor, he said, ‘How do you do that?’ I told him, ‘I don’t know.’
“And he said, ‘Well, you should find out.’”
In those years since, Applegate has definitely found out, carving a wonderful career for himself as an actor. His vast resume has seen him on stage and screen, working often with famed director and choreographer Susan Stroman in “The Producers,” and “Young Frankenstein.”
Applegate’s latest stage production brings him through San Francisco beginning Wednesday, Jan. 9th. Cole Porter’s delightful, delicious and de-lovely musical classic “Anything Goes” makes its way through the Golden Gate Theatre for the next four weeks. Directed by Kathleen Marshall and produced by New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company, “Anything Goes” garnered the 2011 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, as well as the Best Choreography Tony for Marshall. The production stars Rachel York, who has had quite an illustrious theatre career herself, very notably starring in another Porter classic, “Kiss Me Kate” as Lilli Vanessi.
Applegate knows very well about performing in classics. Not long after that early turn as one of many Siamese children, Applegate went out and did exactly what his father told him to do – try and figure out what it means to be an actor.
“I just started doing everything I came across, the school play, every play I could do,“ said Applegate. “I volunteered to do props, and just did everything that came along.”
Eventually, studying theatre at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL was in the cards. And two weeks after graduation, a job at a dinner theatre in Rockport, IL was next. From that gig up to now, Applegate admits he has never done anything else other than acting.
“Sister Act,” the Broadway show Applegate last performed in, was closing just at the time when “Anything Goes” was about to set sail around the country. Applegate went to see his agent and inquired about playing small time gangster “Moonface Martin.” Fortunately, Marshall had seen his work prior and was something of a fan.
“I went to see the show and then I told my agent that (Moonface) is a part I’d enjoy doing,” said Applegate. “The show is just a relentless piece of great fun, it just made me real happy.”
Applegate is kind of a rarity in the world of entertainment. He has been happily married to wife Cherie for the past 33 years. He has three grown children, two of whom have finished college and one currently enrolled. As for all this domestic bliss, “I blame my wife,” said Applegate.
“It’s my wife’s fault we are so happy, she’s a terrific woman and I’d be lost without her,” said Applegate. “My first priority is family, and I’ve been able to do what I love and I am very blessed.
“My wife and I decided that the secret for having a long marriage is wanting to have a long marriage. We do stupid things and move on. Both of our parents have had long marriages and we have been very fortunate to make it through the tough times. Now we are skating.”
When talking to Applegate, it’s easy to get a clear picture of what matters most to him – a dedication to family and a dedication to his art form. A man who turns 60 at the end of February, Applegate is having a blast and plans to work as long as he continues to get hired. He has learned an awful lot about the business, and it’s safe to say his career has come full circle.
One of Applegate’s biggest dreams was to have his name above the title on a Broadway marquee. It’s the dream of any performer who has made the Great White Way their place of employment. It’s an honor reserved for the select few, actors who have mastered their craft to display on a Broadway stage.
Applegate’s father passed away a few years ago, but not before seeing his son accomplish a stellar acting career. Applegate has long felt blessed that both his parents were able to show their immense pride in their son, never questioning his dreams, but only supporting them.
“My father grew up during the Great Depression, and rather than be rigid and paranoid, he told my sister and I we should do whatever we wanted to do, and not do anything else. He never had that opportunity, but was very, very supportive, and we were very lucky.”
Which comes back to the time when Applegate’s father told him he should find out what it takes to be an actor.
One of Applegate’s most cherished moments was when his name was finally listed above the title “The Producers” on his first Broadway marquee. Applegate was practically jumping up and down with excitement, thrilled beyond words as he stared amazedly at the sign which illuminated the sidewalk below, anchored by his name. And when he calmed down, he took a picture of himself in front of that marquee, printed it out, and sent it to his dad. On the picture, Applegate wrote four simple words that said it all:
“I figured it out.”
Shorenstein Hayes Nederlander of San Francisco presents “Anything Goes.”
Produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company of New York
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
Written by Guy Bolton, Russel Crouse, Howard Lindsay and P. G. Wodehouse
Directed by Kathleen Marshall
The Golden Gate Theatre
1 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA
Jan. 9th – Feb. 3rd, 2013
Tickets range from $40 to $200
For tickets, call (888) 746-1799 or visit www.shnsf.com.