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  WINDY CITY TIMES

NUNN ON ONE: THEATER Alan Thicke: From 'Growing Pains' to 'Toy Shoppe'
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2015-12-01

This article shared 6372 times since Tue Dec 1, 2015
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The Gambler himself, Kenny Rogers, is presenting a new holiday musical called The Toy Shoppe this week at The Mac. The show originally debuted in 1998 off-Broadway as a one-act called Christmas from the Heart, Featuring the Toy Shoppe. Since then, it has been transformed and expanded into a touring show.

Iconic TV star Alan Thicke—known for his seven-year stint on ABC's Growing Pains—stars as Hank Longley in "Shoppe." In addition, Thicke has composed more than 40 TV theme songs, including Facts of Life and Different Strokes. He's written several books in the past and has guest-starred in a recent episode of Fox's Scream Queens.

Windy City called him the day after Thanksgiving to talk Toy show.

Windy City Times: How are you, Alan?

Alan Thicke: I am good. We just opened the show and the last few days I have been living on the turnpike in Florida. The show is going beautifully. Thanksgiving was the reason we had to do all of this driving. My wife is from Miami, so she flew in. We got to see her father [and] her brother, and my son flew in. We made the most of the one-day holiday.

WCT: It will be colder when you arrive in Illinois.

AT: I was watching the Packers and Bears game last night, and I saw people shivering. We are still in short sleeves here but we came prepared for you guys.

WCT: The last time you were in Chicago was your hosting gig for Dancing Pros Live, correct?

AT: Yes, exactly.

WCT: Tell our readers about The Toy Shoppe.

AT: It is a wonderful Christmas musical fantasy for families. It has a lovely old-school sentiment for people who like to feel that way at Christmas. It is very colorful and has eye-popping attention-getter kinds of stuff in it—for the kids, especially. Animated toys come to life and dance. I think for the parents and grandparents it is nice because otherwise we see the same productions every year, watch the same Christmas movies every year, and the same shows come to your town. They are all great, which is why they come back every year but I think the fact that this is a relatively new production makes it special.

WCT: Are you singing in the show?

AT: Yes, and way more than I would like to. I would rather be watching it most of the time. I have about eight songs, not all solos but a lot of interaction with me as The Toy Shoppe owner and all of the kids that like to frequent the shop.

WCT: Talk about your character, Hank Longley.

AT: He's a small businessman. The Toy Shoppe has been handed down from his father and his grandfather; now, he is being pushed aside by malls and superstores. He is being taken over and the little guy bites the bullet! It is about me trying to keep the store alive and save it to continue the tradition.

WCT: You have apparently known producer Kenny Rogers for a long time. How was it working with him?

AT: We go way back. I had written one of his specials and he was on a couple of my shows. We have hung out a little and had some fun. I was a fan of his first then I came to quite enjoy his company. I knew if it was something that Kenny wrote and performed himself then I knew it had to be good.

WCT: I wish he would be here for the opening.

AT: He is touring with a Christmas album right now. I know he was in Canada a few days ago, so maybe he will hit your neighborhood.

WCT: You have performed in a few musicals in the past.

AT: Yes, I played Chicago in Chicago. I played Billy Flynn on Broadway then did the national tour. I was in Promises, Promises and Mame, so I have done a few and enjoyed it.

WCT: You are like the Barry Manilow of writing theme songs for TV shows.

AT: [Laughs] I have had my share with about 45 themes, not all of them last a long time because some of the shows don't get past the pilot stage but it was a nice little business and fun to do.

WCT: How was the experience of guesting on the Ryan Murphy Fox show Scream Queens?

AT: They are a bizarre, unusual, hilarious, cutting-edge bunch. I was happy to be involved with them. One of the reasons I did it was because my son thought it was very cool. I have an 18-year-old so when it is a show with Ariana Grande, Nick Jonas and Emma Roberts, suddenly I was cool for an hour!

WCT: Well, you held your own. Your son, Robin, was so nice and polite to me in the past.

AT: Good. I am glad to hear that.

WCT: Were you surprised about his success?

AT: It wasn't a surprise to me because he didn't start music until he was 13. Within six weeks I knew he was going to be special and quite terrific. I was talking about him for a few years before he actually did anything. It was funny because I was on a few shows early on bragging about him. Howard Stern remembered me talking about him when Robin later did that show. I'm glad he proved me right!

WCT: Have they talked about a Growing Pains reunion?

AT: We have done two reunion movies. There is always a chance of them doing an unauthorized biography or a reboot of the show. We already covered it on the new series Unusually Thicke; our third season starts in January.

In one of the episodes, I got the Growing Pains cast together for a BBQ. The story was that I am pitching the cast a Growing Pains feature film. Kirk Cameron is reluctant to do it so I go to John Stamos' house. I ask him if he wants to be the new Mike Seaver. John thinks it's a great idea but the family needs to be updated. They should be vampires and Mike should be gay. I end up pitching Growing Pains with Mike as a gay vampire!

WCT: Hilarious. What else is coming up for you?

AT: I have always kept my hand in writing and producing. I have a couple of pilots we are doing in the new year. Ironically one of them is for the Food Network and I am a pretty lousy cook. My family finds that amusing that I have created a show that revolves around the kitchen.

WCT: Happy holidays and see you soon!

The Toy Shoppe plays Friday, Dec. 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the McAninch Center at the College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd. For tickets visit AtTheMAC.org or call 630-942-4000 .


This article shared 6372 times since Tue Dec 1, 2015
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