Five Questions with “Broadway in Georgetown” Ray McLeod

Raymond McLeod has been visiting Georgetown for the past three years, direct from the stage in New York City. He headlined the annual “Broadway in Georgetown” for his friend, Beth Baker, and the Angel Foundation. Beth lives in Georgetown, and her foundation provides priceless Master classes, concerts, scholarships, and personal mentoring from Ray and many others from Broadway. If you’re not familiar with that scene, you might still recognize Ray as the singing voice of Sebastian the crab in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” feature film. And yes, he is as sensational and delightful as you might imagine. 

What is about teaching that draws you away from the stage? 

Students have always been fabulous with us. I run all over the country to do performances, teach technique, and real-life skills like how to prepare for auditions and pay the bills. After Georgetown, I’m heading to Galena, Alaska to do The Little Mermaid Jr. I’m looking forward to the creative arrangements since the original was in the Caribbean. No grass skirts and coconuts; we’re going to adapt it for parkas and polar bears. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

What is something about being a Broadway star that surprises people?

How hard work the work is. It is not just getting up and dazzling people at the one performance you see with your ticket. Broadway performers do 400 shows per year. I’ve done 1,270 performances of Jekyll & Hyde and it can get old. Yes, it’s a different audience every night, but sometimes they aren’t into it, or someone out there is drunk. There’s also the repetitive stress injuries; doing the same dances 400 times with the same muscles. And singers are not immune. The voice is all muscle, which is why we train it, and singing the same notes in the same way over and over requires a lot of training and diligent care. 

Do you have a favorite teaching moment?

I love seeing, in a student’s eyes or face, when they really, clearly understand what you’re conveying. The new idea, something they’ve never thought of before, washes over them. That is really the reason why I help kids and want to give them a step up. I’m a good stepper-upper. 

What do you do when you’re not performing? 

I have a really weird hobby. I love photographing cemeteries. It started because I liked taking photos of angels and I found so many in graveyards. I got really interested in the history of the places and the people who were there. I like to say the names on the old stones out loud because a lot of people don’t get visitors, and I have great photos of some of the odd or funny things on headstones. I enjoy thinking about the stories that might have inspired some of those epitaphs. 

Give us your best piece of advice for the stage or a career in the arts.

Absolutely… persistence. Because you’ll hear “no” a lot. You must be yourself, absolutely be on time and be prepared, and you’re done. But as I hear myself say that, I have to add Ray’s rule number one: never go half-way.