Here come the “Animaniacs in Concert!” starring Rob Paulsen and Randy Rogel who will be performing at the James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, March 4th, 2018. Voice actor Rob Paulsen, who has delighted generations of animation fanatics with his signature roles in “Pinky and the Brain,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and dozens of other beloved film and television projects, is bringing the beloved “Animaniacs” to the stage, joined by “Animaniacs” composer Randy Rogel.
I had the opportunity of talking with Rob Paulsen who has a fascinating story to tell. Once he realized that his wish to be a professional hockey player for the Red Wings was not to be Rob Paulsen left the place where he grew up – Livonia, Michigan, and headed for Hollywood in June 1978 driving a 1976 Honda Accord. He had received classical voice training, had a very good ear and a year of experience, singing and acting. He also had a fascination with the voices of Peter Sellers, Ustinov, Red Skelton, Jonathan Winters, Lily Tomlin and others when they were matched with cartoon characters, or multiple characters.
After completing some commercial and some acting in Hollywood, he had his first opportunities in Animated GI Joe and Transformers and realized “this is the way to go”. As a singer, his ability to sing in character opened many doors. He has always felt that he “hit the jackpot” being able to enjoy the work he does and then be paid for it.
About two years ago, he received news that no one wants. He learned he had stage three throat cancer. He was told that this wouldn’t kill him but it would almost kill him to cure him. His treatment was very rugged but he was grateful to have strong support, a doctor that caught this early, cutting edge techniques that preserved his voice, and a comfortable home. He had something else. Since so many children have been enthralled with the characters that he inhabits, he was involved with speaking to children experiencing terrible illnesses. They didn’t all make it and he continues to be in touch with parents of these children. I was very moved when he shared that the courage he observed in these children, also gave him courage as he endured treatment. But he is OK now. The other thing that helped him was the humor associated with the characters that he gives voice to.
He loves the concerts he does with Randy Rogel, sometimes with just the two of them and sometimes along with a symphony orchestra. After 40 years of working in cartoons, many generations of fans are in the audience and they are like friends and family. With Animaniacs reruns available on Hulu, members of the audience often know all the words to the songs, making it even more fun. Paulsen shared that- “Laughter is the best medicine. The cool thing is, you can’t OD and the refills are free.”
Photo Credit: James Cluster
The James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts is located at 19351 West Washington Street, Grayslake, Illinois, 60030. Ticket prices range from $33-$38. Show begins at 4:00 pm.
In addition to “Animaniacs in Concert!,” Paulsen continues to host his podcast “Talkin’ Toons,” featuring Paulsen talking with the animation industry’s most illustrious and impressive artists. It’s recently moved to video format, hosted on the nerdist website.
Performances continue in St. Petersburg, Florida (May 18) and returning for four shows at Joe’s Pub New York (May 24-27).