Two years ago, aspiring opera singer Doug Carpenter arrived in L.A. fresh from the Bachelor’s Program in music and voice at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas in order to begin studying for his Masters Degree in vocal performance at UCLA. Almost immediately, Doug snagged the role of the Prince in the CLOSBC production of Rodgers And Hammerstein’s Cinderella.  “Who is this new name on the L.A. musical theater scene?” StageSceneLA wondered at the time, and interviewed the SoCal newbie.  Two years later, with his UCLA Masters under his belt, Doug is starring in David Lee’s brilliant revisal of Lerner and Lowe’s Camelot at the Pasadena Playhouse.  It’s been a busy two years, with leading roles in West Side Story, Oklahoma!, The Last Five Years, and the megahit Life Could Be A Dream. How did this operatic baritone end up one of our musical theater leading men in just two years?   It was a pleasure to catch up with Doug, two years older and a lot more successful!

So Doug, how do the last two years compare with your hopes or expectations back when you first arrived in L.A. for Rodgers And Hammerstein’s Cinderella?

 I’ve been very lucky since Cinderella.  I managed to work consistently while in school, and since I graduated in June I haven’t had any time off.  Back when I was starting in town, I was still planning on being mostly an opera singer, but I’ve since realized how much I really love musical theater and hope I’ve found a home in it.


I think I’ve been fortunate enough to see everything you’ve done since Cinderella’s prince. Tony in West Side Story, Curly in Oklahoma!, Jamie in The Last Five Years, and Skip in Life Could Be A Dream.  Which of these pre-Lancelot roles presented the biggest challenge to you and which was the most rewarding?


The biggest challenge and reward so far has been working on The Last Five Years. First of all, it was a chance at a completely different kind of singing. I really had to figure out how to apply all that classical technique to manage the stamina for our run of the show. Beyond that it was a chance to really loosen up and bring more of myself to the stage. For the first time I really felt like I had a dialog with the director on creating a character, and getting deeper into the material.  So often in regional theaters, time constraints allow little time for that kind of work.  

Oklahoma! and West Side Story are considered by many to be the most revolutionary musicals of the 1940s and ‘50s.  What challenges were there in undertaking such iconic roles in these two very iconic musicals?

To be completely honest Steven, I had very little idea of what I was doing going into those musicals. I was balancing full-time Masters studies with a full-time performing job.  I was so new to musical theater I was probably oblivious to the enormity of the task.  It was working on those musicals that made me realize I needed to really start focusing on my acting.  I hadn’t taken a class ever up to that point, and I realized that while pretty singing is great, it’s not the reason we go to the theater. I feel like I really finally woke up after finishing Oklahoma! … if I wanted to take the next step in my career. 

Jamie in Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years represented a different kind of role and a different kind of singing for you. What was it like for an operatically trained singer to do this show and to utilize the pop side of his voice?

I’ve found that singing is singing.  It’s the way I teach my private voice students, and it’s what I’ve found separates me from most other musical theater performers.  I have a strong classical foundation that gives me choices when it comes to changing styles and still protecting my instrument. Working in the pop style is so much fun for me because I get to throw out the window a lot of the things I worry about in legit music and just let it rip. The Last Five Years is a tour de force and really taught me in a sink-or-swim fashion. I actually credit the work done there with preparing me to sing those virtuosic doo wop standards for Life Could Be a Dream.

You had two Cathys in The Last Five Years—your Life Could Be A Dream costar Jessica Keenan Wynn and Toni Smith, a sensational  Cathy at the performance I attended.  How did it affect your performance doing a two-character musical opposite two very different actresses?

It changed the dynamic of the show a lot night to night. Both of those women are stars in their own right, and mostly I was just trying to keep up with them. Toni was a little darker and harder Cathy than Jessica, and the relationship reflected that I think.  

Jim Holdridge, Ryan Castellino, Doug, and Daniel Tatar in Life Could Be A Dream 
 Photos: Michael Lamont

Then came Life Could Be A Dream, easily the biggest musical hit in L.A. since its sister musical The Marvelous Wonderettes.  How much pressure did you feel going into that project? 

The team working on Life Could Be A Dream was extremely  supportive and easy to get along with, so the only pressure I felt was from trying to work in rewrites quickly. I will say trying to do justice to that music was a task.  The singers of that time are pretty hard to follow up.   

What was it like for a soloist to sing so many harmony songs? 

Actually, I spent my entire school career in choir, so I feel equally at home singing in an ensemble.  

What was your favorite part of being in Life Could Be A Dream?

That had to be working with such a strong team.  It wouldn’t have been nearly as fun without having such fun, warm, and talented people around me … especially since its such a long run in a really small space!

     Doug and Shannon Warne in Camelot/Photo: Craig Schwartz

Now you’re in a revolutionary re-imagining of Camelot as an eight-actor musical, down from the original Broadway production’s cast of fifty-five!  In what ways does David Lee’s conception make this Camelot different from (and hopefully better than) others which have come before? 

I have to say that I am really proud of this show.   I feel like this show is really not a musical in the way that we think of them with jazz hands and happy endings.  This really has become a play with music. To me, that was really interesting.  We tried really hard to find a new way of looking at the piece. It’s highly theatrical, and requires a bit more imagination than other productions.  However I believe that allowed us to get deeper into the relationships than other productions of this piece usually do. 

Looking at some recent productions of Camelot, the King Arthurs seem to keep getting older and older, presenting many Guineveres with the choice between a hot young Lancelot and a retirement age Arthur?  The stakes seem considerably higher with Shannon Stoeke vying with you for Shannon Warne’s heart.   What effect does it have on the romantic triangle for Lancelot to have a bit tougher competition for Guinevere?

Hahaha…  Well, I’m still not sure Shannon is all that much competition.  Just kidding. It really makes this show more about a happy marriage that is destroyed by passion.  It’s less about the ideals and ideas of Camelot and more about something a little more intimate and uncomfortable.  It also raises the question as to why Guinevere leaves Arthur. There has to be something that she is lacking in that relationship that Lance fulfills. It’s more about their personalities and energy than simply that Lance is a better match than an older guy whom she was arranged to marry.

You’ve sung Rodgers & Hammerstein, Bernstein & Sondheim, Jason Robert Brown, a bunch of 60s Dos Wop composers, and now Lerner & Lowe.  If you could only sing one of these five for the rest of your career, which would it be?

I hope I never have to answer this question. I always long for the other one when I’m doing one style for too long.    I will say Bernstein is my favorite composer though.  

I asked you the following question two years ago.  Hopefully you don’t remember what you said at the time, so I’ll ask you the same question again and we’ll see what happens.  Doug, tell us about your career goals. Where would you like to see yourself five or ten years from now? 

(Here’s what Doug had to say two years ago:
I’d love to try some more pop/rock theater. I know it’s strange for an opera singer. I’d also love to make a niche in the more legit theater as well as doing some operatic work. Beyond that I’ll be happy if I can do a run of Les Miz at some point in my career.)

(And here he is in 2010:)

I would really like to continue performing for a while, and maybe even make it to Broadway at some point.  A European tour or world tour is somewhere on that list as well. However, one my goals continues to be to have a family, and a home somewhere with a job that allows me the flexibility to spend time in one place.  I’ve really begun to enjoy teaching, and some day I hope to do that full time at a college teaching musical theater students classical singing technique. For now I intend to get in more acting and dance classes as I try to make some of this happen for me!

Thanks so much Doug!  Wishing all the best in the year ahead!

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