From Captain Hook to Harry the Horse, County Register of Deeds Ron Voigt is happy to trade his day job for a stage role.
Ron Voigt’s day job is that of Ozaukee County register of deeds, but he has garnered a fair amount of fame locally for his other roles.
He’s played Captain Hook and King Harold in “Shrek,” Marcus Lycus in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” Harry the Horse in “Guys and Dolls,” Commander Bill Harbison in “South Pacific” and Marshal Cord Elam in “Oklahoma!,” among others.
When he steps out on the Port Washington High School stage next week, he will add Admiral Boom in “Mary Poppins” to his resume — the 16th consecutive time he has taken on a role as part of the annual Port Summer Theatre production.
In addition to playing Admiral Boom, Voigt will play a chimney sweep, sing in the chorus and help backstage.
So it’s clear to see Voigt’s thespian career is well-rounded.
“He epitomizes what community theater is all about,” said Port Summer Theatre director Diana Neumeyer. “Ron is a beloved member of the Port Summer Theatre family. Always positive and helpful, Ron performs for the fun of it.
“He’s involved in all aspects of the show, including performing, developing websites, serving on the Parks and Recreation Board, publicity, helping to build sets, flying cast members and facilitating scene changes during the show.”
It wasn’t always that way. Voigt is a relative newcomer to the stage. As a child, he said, he was extremely shy. He got over some of that in high school, but he didn’t participate in theater or musicals while in high school or college because he was involved in sports.
Then, like most young adults, he got busy with his career and family.
Voigt was a geography major at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He began working for Ozaukee County as a cartographer, a position he held for six years before becoming register of deeds in 1985.
In 2000, Voigt discovered his passion for theater when he saw a notice about auditions for “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which was slated to be the Port Summer Theatre production. His interest piqued, he decided to try out.
“I thought it was a great musical,” Voigt said. “I thought I’d just be in the chorus, but I got a part.”
He was selected as Mr. Twimble, the company man, in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” which was picked as the production because Port Summer Theatre couldn’t obtain the rights to “Superstar.”
Voigt’s daughter Lauralyn also tried out for the production and won a part.
“I was the oldest cast member (at 44) and she was the youngest (at 12),” Voigt said.
They didn’t share any scenes, he said, but “she got one line, ‘Does anyone want coffee?’”
It was the start of a tradition both for Voigt and Lauralyn, a dancer who got parts in seven shows and choreographed three, her father said.
“It got in my blood,” Voigt said. “I had a good time, and I was fairly successful.”
He only tries out for Port Summer Theatre productions, Voigt said, although he also participates in Ozaukee Chorus.
“I love musicals, always did,” Voigt said. “And I like to keep busy.”
His roles through the years have varied, but he’s never played the leading man — and that’s just fine with him.
“I never wanted it,” Voigt said. “It’s too much memorization. Young minds are more like sponges, old minds are more like concrete.”
The productions involve not just memorizing lines, but also songs and dance moves.
“It’s not as simple as it looks,” Voigt said. A baritone, he said he enjoys singing the best and dancing the least.
He said his favorite role through the years was Marcus Lycus, “a purveyor of courtesans,” in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
“It was a bigger part for me,” Voigt said. “I got to do song and dance, which I enjoy. That’s what made it fun.
“It was a fun part. I got nice solo parts. I got to introduce my ladies. And I did a song-and-dance number with Frank Gedelman, Adam Waite and Drew Wojciehowski. The crowd loved it, watching us old farts dance.”
Other favorite parts included Harry the Horse in “Guys and Dolls” —“that was a men’s musical,” Voigt said — and the village idiot Ziggy in “Young Frankenstein,” Voigt said.
“It was a physical part,” he said of the latter role. “Where everybody was doing one thing, I would be off doing something else.”
His least favorite role was the butler in “The Sound of Music,” where his part was so small he didn’t even have a name, he said.
But, he stressed, that comes with the territory.
“Anybody who’s been in theater knows you can’t get all the best parts,” he said.
“I would love to do ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,’” Voigt said. “But I think at my age I’d have to be Reuben, the oldest brother. ‘Mama Mia’ would be fun, too. There are older parts and they’re kind of central.”
Voigt said he likes the spontaneity of theater.
“Whatever comes out is coming out,” he said.
He recalled one performance of “Singin’ in the Rain,” in which he played the director Roscoe Dexter, when he was wearing a tuxedo under the director’s outfit.
“I was walking around the stage directing when all the sudden my pants are coming down,” he said. “It took me a minute, minute and a half to realize my pants were almost around my ankles,” Voigt said.
He was playing opposite Andrew Jesse, and they managed to continue to the scene.
“I said the line, ‘You look, you see, you try’ and when I said see, I reached down and pulled my pants up,” Voigt said. “Andrew said, ‘I’m afraid to ask’ and we went on from there. The audience was roaring because it was spontaneous and it wasn’t supposed to happen.
“At least I had a tuxedo on underneath and not boxers.”
He’s never come down with stage fright, but confesses he feels a little bit of the nerves before performances.
“Being a politician, I guess I’ve learned to speak in public,” Voigt said.
“There’s always a bit of anxiousness (in theater), but you have to be willing to put yourself out there and you have to be willing to fail. You have to work through it.
“As a cast, we work hard enough so your confidence is there. Even if you miss a line, the scene will keep going or someone will help you out.”
“Mary Poppins” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, July 23 through 25, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 26, in the Port Washington High School auditorium. Tickets may be purchased for $10 at the Port Washington Parks and Recreation Department and Sentry Foods. Tickets will be $12 at the door.
Image information: OZAUKEE COUNTY Register of Deeds Ron Voigt will assume several roles, among them a chimney sweep, during the Port Summer Theatre production of “Mary Poppins,” which opens July 23. Photo by Sam Arendt