By Jimmy Fisher
WYOMING — Larry and John Vojtko have accomplished plenty in their acting careers. Now, they’re about to accomplish one more special feat.
Larry, 56, and his son John, 22, will perform together in “South Pacific” at the Music Box Dinner Playhouse in Swoyersville.
The musical centers on an American nurse stationed on a South Pacific island during World War II. She falls in love with a middle-aged expatriate French plantation owner but struggles to accept his mixed-race children. A secondary romance, between a U.S. lieutenant and a young Tonkinese woman, explores the lieutenant’s fears of the social consequences should he marry his Asian sweetheart.
“It was very cutting edge at the time because it came out in (1949,)” said Larry. “It won the Tony; it won a Pulitzer Prize; it’s a staple for classical music.”
John plays a minor role of a Seabee named Stewpot, a member of the United States Naval Construction Forces.
This is the third time Larry has performed in the musical, first portraying Lt. Joseph Cable back in the 80s, and his current character, Emile, in 2009.
Although he hasn’t done a show in nearly five years, his son convinced him to do one more.
“He’s the reason I’m doing this show,” Larry said of his son with a smile. “He’s been bugging me saying, ‘Dad, we have to do a show together! We have to do a show together!’ It’s just too much time, too much energy and I sometimes just want to come home form work, put my feet up and relax.”
Larry is a program director of WVIA-FM and hosts a classical music radio program from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. In addition, he has been a host/interviewer on WVIA-TV.
John is a senior at King’s College and took interest in “South Pacific” when he saw his dad perform in it.
“I saw it the last time my father played in it and that’s when I first learned about it,” he said. “I thought it had some phenomenal songs that most people know in musical theater. As a Seabee, I sing probably one of the most famous men’s choral pieces, “There’s Nothing Like A Dame,” but the main reason I wanted to do it was because I knew my father was right for the role of Emile. The timing was right. It’s summer, it’s here, our schedules are lighter and so we’re off.”
Larry and John have more than performing in common as their arrivals in show business was almost identical.
Larry started at the tail end of his college days at Wilkes after his singing teacher liked his voice and told him he wanted him to be in the school’s show. John got into the performing business in high school when his mom choreographed a play and he sat in on auditions waiting for a ride home. The director asked him if he sang and then suggested he audition.
Both men have performed both major and secondary roles in countless plays.
Being a senior student in college and doing multiple shows a year, John said it is tough to balance his academics and theater life but he knows how to make it work.
“It’s just really focusing on the work you’re doing at the time,” said John. “If I’m at rehearsal from 6 to 10 p.m., I’m at rehearsal focusing on that. When I get done with rehearsal, I can go back and focus on my homework, wake up in the morning, go to class and focus on that. It’s really about the focus and organization of your time.”
While their characters in “South Pacific” do not interact, John and Larry agree it might be for the better since they can watch each other performing.
To see his son share the same interest as him makes Larry realize that coming back into the theater to perform with his son will be well worth the time and effort.
“It’s hard to put into words when you’re a parent and you see your kid blossom like this,” said Larry. “Since we’re still in the rehearsal process, it hasn’t hit me yet and it might hit me when we’re performing. It’s just great to hang around and it’s great that your son wants to be with you.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher