As a Canadian, Mark Harapiak takes winter weather in stride. Still, he enjoys the warm weather when tours are booked in the South during the cold months.
Harapiak is playing King Arthur in the road company of “Camelot” that can be seen next week in the Bill Heard Theatre.
While the tour is still in northeast Canada this week, Harapiak, 40, is happy the tour is heading south.
“We’ll get our hit of sunshine,” he said.
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Harapiak has been in “Camelot” since last June and will continue to play King Arthur until the first week of March.
After that, he’ll take a few weeks off to visit his wife, Blythe Wilson, who is playing Mrs. Banks in the “Mary Poppins” tour.
Then it’s back on the road for Harapiak, who is playing the coach in “High School Musical.”
“Yes, I’m going from the middle ages to a pop culture phenomenon,” he said.
At the end of the musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederic Loewe, Harapiak, as Arthur, tells young Guilliam (David Cotton), the famous lines: “Don’t let it be forgot. That once there was a spot. For one brief, shining moment. That was known as Camelot.”
Cotton will leave “Camelot” to play Troy in “HSM.”
“So I get to play the father to one of the guys in the show. We’ll be taking our show on the road,” Harapiak joked.
From studying priesthood to acting
Harapiak was in a Ukrainian Catholic Minor seminary in Canada, contemplating priesthood. Unexpectedly, the seminary also offered Ukrainian dancing and singing classes.
“I found that was something that really interested me,” he said. “It took hold of me stronger than any vocation to the priesthood.”
He spent years as a dancer primarily before 1994. It was in 1994 that he was hired for “The Pirates of Penzance” as a dancer. But at the audition, he prepared a song, and to his surprise, found that he could sing.
“I started doing the musicals,” Harapiak said. For years, he sang, danced and acted — a triple threat in theater terms — though recently, he said he’s just a 2 1/2.
“My dancing days are sadly behind me. I primarily sing and act. But the dancing served me very well.”
Based out of Toronto
Toronto is now home for Harapiak and Wilson, who share a home with a “spoiled” golden retriever.
Married 18 years now, their respective tours will be “close, but not close enough.” In fact, the closest the two will be is 500 miles, which won’t allow enough time to reunite.
They met at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, where famed British director and actor Robin Phillips cast them in “The Man of La Mancha.”
“He takes credit for us,” Harapiak said, laughing. “He claims he ignited the spark. That was 18 years ago.”
The greatest role ever
This is Harapiak’s third tour of “Camelot.” He previously played Lionel and Sagmore.
“This is my first crack at the king,” he said. “And it’s a treat to play.”
He credits his fellow actors, Jayme Armstrong, who plays Guenevere, and Gabriel Burrafato, who plays Lancelot, for making the play fun to do night after night.
Harapiak and Burrafato have worked before at the Stratford Festival in Ontario.
“He was the Beast and I was Gaston in ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ We shared a dressing room. Now, we’re playing Lancelot and Arthur.”
When Harapiak started doing the research on King Arthur, he stumbled upon a bit of trivia. Richard Burton, who played Arthur on Broadway in the original production in 1960, married Elizabeth Taylor on March 15, 1964. That was the day Harapiak was born.
“Isn’t that weird? He married Elizabeth Taylor on the day I was born. Here I am, 40 years after, doing his show. It’s kind of strange.”