Richard Chamberlain and the Oddly Laughing Audience - Off-Ramp for May 5, 2012

Richard Chamberlain on "The Heiress," a weird audience, coming out, and sideburns

Richard Chamberlain, at The Pasadena Playhouse for The Heiress. (Note the muttonchop sideburns.)

Richard Chamberlain in a photo shoot for the Pasadena Sun.

A miniature set for The Heiress at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Off-Ramp's John Rabe with heart-throb Richard Chamberlain, reflecting at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Richard Chamberlain, the heartthrob from "Dr Kildare" and the miniseries "The Thornbirds," who finally came out as gay about five years ago, now stars in "The Heiress" at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Chamberlain plays Dr. Sloper, played by Ralph Richardson in the 1949 film, and for the performance grew a large set of sideburns which, he's surprised to hear, makes him hip with the kids. "Cool," he says.

In our interview, he wouldn't talk much about Sloper, preferring to let audiences come to it fresh, but he did say he was nervous when on the first night the audience laughed at everything -- sad scenes, funny scenes. "And I don't I don't know who they were, or why, but it really worried me because I thought, 'Oh, my God, what are we doing wrong?' and I couldn't figure it out." The subsequent audiences didn't react that way, he says.

"The Heiress" runs through May 20 at the Pasadena Playhouse.

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