Peter Scolari is one of the rare talents who has found success in multiple decades.
In the early ’80s, he starred as Henry Desmond on “Bosom Buddies” with Tom Hanks. In 1996, he starred in a version of the stage musical “Stop the World—I Want to Get Off,” produced for A&E.
He resurrected his TV career as Tad Horvath in “Girls” from 2012 to 2017 and won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 2016 for the role.
Now Scolari is sharing his talents with Scottsdale Musical Theater Company as Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha” at the Tempe Center for the Arts Thursday, September 26, to Sunday, October 6.
“Man of La Mancha” is one of Broadway’s most enduring and classic musicals. It is the heroic story of Don Quixote and his quest as a Knight Errant, righting all wrongs in search of his “Impossible Dream,” while battling giants and ogres and windmills, all in the name of his Lady Dulcinea. The production is directed by David Hock. Musical direction is by Joni Van Rossum with Kevin Hayward conducting the 20-piece orchestra.
Comparing his TV roles to stage performances, Scolari says, is like comparing apples to baseball gloves.
“With stage, there’s a broad spectrum of skill sets we’re not asked to have on hand to do a film or TV work,” say Scolari, who recently appeared as “Mel” in the miniseries “Fosse/Verdon.”
“Live theater is on every night and then it disappears into the ether. Whatever you accomplished on Thursday night, say, is not organically available to you the next night.
“A musical is so different because it’s so structured. There are certain things that can’t be reinvented every night. It’s always interesting to create the illusion this is happening for the first time.”
Scolari says it was easy to agree to star as Don Quixote.
“They asked me,” he says with a laugh. “My wife and I talked about it. I’d be out of town for a while. I was out of town with a Neil Simon play in Kansas. That was three months, almost four months. That was kind of brutal. I had a great time, though. In Tempe, it’s about three and a half weeks.”
Coming up for Scolari is a project with producer Scott Rosenfelt (“Home Alone,” “Mystic Pizza” and “Teen Wolf”), the film “Present from the Past.” That would take him away from December to February, so he hasn’t planned projects after that.
“I’m always in the hopper with TV and film and have been looking at a few different things,” he says. “I’m glad to be able to come to Phoenix and work devilishly hard.”
He admits, though, he loves the stage.
“Theater is an event,” he says. “When I go to work to film a TV show or I’m on a movie set, I’m not going to see it for four months to two years. I was in the ‘Fosse/Verdon’ miniseries with Michelle Williams. I did it last year. It aired this past spring.
“I was very happy with the series and my humble contribution to it. I had a nice rapport with Michelle. It wasn’t what I thought we had gotten done. It was cut and edited. A stage play, though, if you can tell we’ve been directed, we haven’t done our job well.”
Scolari is looking forward to “Man of La Mancha,” as it will allow him to contribute to an ensemble.
“I was trained as an ensemble actor 40 some-odd years ago and it’s never worn off,” he says. “I’ve never been sorry that I trusted in that kind of process, one in which everyone finds a way to pull in the same direction.”
“Man of La Mancha”
Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, scottsdalemusicaltheater.com, various times Thursday, September 26, to Sunday, October 6, $48-$58.