“It was a populist, culturally diverse piece — practically a musical version of the Rep’s mission statement.”
It opened at the Sixth Avenue Playhouse, then moved to the Old Lyceum Theatre (316 F Street) in 1982. “In those days, there wasn’t much theater south of Broadway. Working proved you could produce a show there and people would come.”
King Lear (directed by Todd Salovey, 2005). Woodhouse played Lear. “The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Every night the mountain that is Lear stands in front of you. You launch into the climb knowing you will never reach the peak.
“You must try to harness the power of nature to crack the world in half — you plead, threaten, beg, assault, and then you must go mad. But it’s not over yet. You emerge on the other side of madness with an open heart and the safety of the one daughter you trust. Then she is killed and you wail at the heavens as you carry her corpse in your arms.
“The character and the actor are both exhausted emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Both are so grateful to finally die. Gielgud, Laughton, Olivier — all said they never could find ‘all of Lear.’ The character’s just too massive.
“I never got it right. I never made it to the top of the mountain. I wiped myself out each night on the climb and would say, ‘Thank God it’s over. Thank God I get to climb again tomorrow night.’” ■