A little more than a week after making his Broadway debut as the lawyer Billy Flynn in the jazzy smash-hit Chicago, Canada’s ice-skating icon and sometimes singing actor Elvis Stojko brings the razzle and the dazzle to Toronto when the touring production of the musical hits the Princess of Wales Theatre. We spoke to the pride of Newmarket, Ont., about pressure, challenges and rising to the occasion.
How do you like having the words “Broadway debut” in the same sentence as your name?
It’s interesting, because it never really sunk in until one minute before I stepped out to do my first number. We had done an afternoon rehearsal the day of the show. I went back to the hotel and looked over at my wife and said ‘I’m going to be on Broadway tonight.’ But back at the theatre that night, my heart was pounding.
Your role is the lawyer Billy Flynn, a character who figures prominently in the play straight away. So you weren’t exactly eased into it, right?
Yes, I’m out there quite a bit for the first part. Once I did the first bit, it felt incredible. After that, I was able to relax. It’s hard to put into words, though. It’s an iconic role. It’s a great show. And it’s Broadway, in New York – the pinnacle of theatre.
You had a small role in a Toronto production of Grease in 2004, and, of course, you’ve worked some pretty big rooms as a world-class figure skater. But were you ready for Broadway?
I did feel a little overwhelmed during rehearsals. There’s a lot of information. But I came prepared. I knew my lines. Still, for a day or two, I did feel in over my head. But then, all of a sudden, everything fell into place. Now we’ve done three shows this week, and I feel quite good.
Can you talk a little about pressure, and the different types of emotion and energy you experience during racing or competitive skating as opposed to entertainment skating and performing on stage?
I’ll turn 42 [Saturday]. I’m always learning. My real passion right now is racing, motor sports. I love to perform under pressure. It all involves a competitive instinct. In competitive skating, I was known for pushing the limit. But even with the ice shows, there is that level you need to perform at. You’re doing it when it counts.
And what about the pressure on stage?
I look at it as the same. It’s another challenge. When this Broadway role came about, I knew it was a daunting task. I also knew I had to take this opportunity. If I didn’t, I’d never know if I could have done it. So, that’s the challenge. And that’s the challenge of life.
Chicago runs March 26 to 30, $25 to $130, Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St. W., 416-872-1212 or mirvish.com.
This interview has been condensed and edited.