Actor/vocalist Wayne LeGette has experienced much – and learned even more – during 35 years of stage performances, portrayals in front of TV and movie cameras, and speaking before a microphone for voice dubbing.
In fact, as coronavirus darkened theatrical centers around the world last year, the 52-year-old Fort Lauderdale native amped up the voice-over trade he began in 2005 to supplement his COVID-diminished income. He even created a “DIY sound studio in my second bedroom.”
Wayne LeGette as Zangler (R) in CRAZY FOR YOU
But his true love is – and will likely always be — the stage. LeGette is preparing for a post-COVID performing arts reappearance later this year and into 2022, with a possibility of four shows in the offing.
Not every lesson in the veteran actor’s career has come on worn and shoe-scrapped hardwood floors tattered with cue tape and beads of sweat. As a young player, he gave serious attention to advice from already skilled performers.
Still, a Palm Beach County resident, though his face and voice are known and appreciated throughout the tri-counties, LeGette cherished a bit of personalized dramatic realism from John Spencer, a seasoned character actor who starred with Martin Sheen in Wayne’s favorite TV show, “The West Wing.”
“On the streets of New York one night, I ran into John Spencer. I was not living there at the time, but I was a Tony voter, so I’d go up to New York and see as many shows as I could. I was a huge fan of ‘The West Wing’ and of John’s work specifically.”
“I only had a moment or two with him when I shook his hand and told him what an honor it was to be in the same business. I remember him saying: ‘It’s a great profession, being an actor.’ He’s right. It is. But the daily grind of working at getting jobs, it’s exhausting.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” LeGette quickly admonishes. “I’ll probably be doing it until I die. It’s all I know. It’s ingrained in my soul.” But he affirms: “The business part is tough. It’s the art that is worth living for.”
Years of stage work created within LeGette a personal philosophy, one he freely shares.
“I once wanted to be the best actor in the world, always striving to be better than others. Now, I see that’s not possible Everyone is so different. There is no ‘better than someone else.’ It’s right for the role you’re given, being as good as humanly possible and being better than your last job.”
Wayne LeGette Playing The Captain in the World Premiere of DRACULA: A COMEDY OF TERRORS
He also sees the importance of feedback from admired fellow actors.
“I learned a long time ago that praise from peers you respect means more than what critics say, or awards, especially in today’s world where everyone on Facebook is a blogger or an amateur critic, and everyone thinks their opinions are worthy of the world reading them. They’re not.”
LeGette got his first taste of on-stage work while attending Fort Lauderdale Children’s Theater. He fondly recalls learning from one of the best, its executive director, Nancy Yohe, now deceased.
“I went to Dillard School of the Performing arts for high school. Before graduation, in 1986 (age 17), I got cast in ‘Dark at the Top of the Stairs’ at the Caldwell Theatre in Boca Raton, and then I got my Equity card.”
A year or two later, he formed a working relationship with Florida’s dramatic and musical idol, Jan McArt. “Little Wayne,” as she called him, performed in Brighton Beach Memoirs at her legendary Royal Palm Dinner Theatre, the downtown Boca playhouse that helped establish the city’s dramatic arts sector.
Wayne LeGette as Jacob Marley
The liaison between them ran a lengthy course, even as McArt took her career from Boca to Broadway and back. Shortly before she passed away in 2020,
“she came to see me in Crazy for You at the Wick Theatre,” the actor recalls. “She still called me ‘Little Wayne.’”
LeGette toyed with moving his career to the Big Apple and worked with folks in the theater business there before concluding “there are juicy roles to be had in 561-, 954 and 305,” the area codes of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties.
“I never liked living in New York,” he recalled. “I’m not going to wait on tables all day. It takes a certain kind of person who can deal with never having enough money, always being cold or sweltering hot, everything taking two hours too long to get to, and, in my opinion, the most oppressive place where rejection is its middle name. Show business by itself is daily rejection, so who needs more of it?”
By the time COVID-19 had choked off the global theater scene last year, LeGette had already racked up an estimable roster of roles in the Sunshine State. Among recent entries are Renfield and Dr. Wallace Westfeldt in Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors (Maltz), Colonel Whittaker in Easy Virtue, and Herr Schultz in Cabaret (both FAU). He was one of four singers in To Life 1 and To Life 2, year-apart musical revues directed by Boca Raton resident Shari Upbin spotlighting songs written by Jewish Broadway composers. On TV, Wayne has appeared in “Burn Notice” (USA), “The Glades” for A&E, “Graceland” on the USA network, and the feature film “Tony Tango.”
Wayne LeGette playing Herr Schultz in CABARET at Florida Atlantic University
During his theatrical tenure, LeGette has experienced whimsy – and horror. The show must go on, actors say, but a magnitude 7.6 earthquake in Taiwan 21 years ago shook the youthful actor enough to abandon a role in a three-week, overseas tour of West Side Story.
“We flew to Taiwan to tech it and opened it. We had the next day off and planned to open the show the following week. It’s Sept. 21, 1999, a little after 1 a.m.” LeGette took the elevator down 12 flights to visit a 7-11 for food. Suddenly, lights dimmed, and the earth shook.
“I looked at the clerk, and even though I knew he didn’t speak English, I yelled ‘Run!’ People were pouring into the street in bathrobes, slippers, shorts. We could hear buildings far away crashing and fires burning far away from us.”
Shaken, the cast escaped.
“Hours later, someone said we’re going to stay and open the show the following week. Nope. Not me. I’m getting out of here.” He and another cast member grabbed a cab to the airport, and “we were back at JFK about 24 hours later – a 17-hour flight with a layover in Anchorage. Unbelievably, they did continue the show and even did the second location, too. I have no regrets about leaving.”
On the whimsical side, a special rapport seems to exist between Wayne and characters named Nathan. He has been cast in three shows where he used that moniker and may add a fourth before 2021 ends.
Wayne LeGette as Greyson Miller in Burn Notice
“The Nathan thing started with Jeff Moss casting me as Nathan Rothschild in The Rothschilds at Coconut Grove Playhouse,” LeGette said. “He rarely called me Wayne, only Nathan. Even in some correspondence after the show closed.”
“Years later, we did Rags at the prestigious Paper Mill Playhouse, and I played Nathan Hershkowitz. That’s pretty much where the joke began that Jeff was only going to cast me in roles named Nathan.”
Now, fast forward to 2017 “when Jeff is doing Guys and Dolls at the Wick. He called me and offered me Nathan Detroit. So that is three Nathan roles, all Jewish and all for the same director.” LeGette may show up again as Nathan Berkshire in the Boca Stage production of Warrior Class in November, but for a different director.
That’s one of several upcoming gigs. LeGette has high hopes for a third installment of “To Life” at the Willow Theater in Boca Raton, possibly in February or March 2022.
He’s eying a role in Murder on The Orient Express at Actors Playhouse in April 2022. A part in the play, Something Rotten is “pretty definite.” The Shakespearean sendup is slated to run March 25-April 10 at the Pembroke Pines Theatre of Performing Arts.
Wayne LeGette as Jeff in BRIGADOON