Larry Cahn's Take on Walter Hobbs in 'Elf'

Will Blum (Buddy) and Larry Cahn (Walter) in "Elf, the Musical" at the Kennedy Center.
Amy Boyle
Will Blum (Buddy) and Larry Cahn (Walter) in "Elf, the Musical" at the Kennedy Center.

Larry Cahn is on the road again, and he likes it.

Right now, he’s playing Walter Hobbs, the apparently cold, money-oriented businessman who’s landed on Santa’s naughty list in the touring company of the hit Broadway musical “Elf,” which was a hit comedy for Will Ferrell playing an oversized Santa’s helper and finding a dad in James Caan, who co-starred as Hobbs.

It’s all at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House through Jan. 5, with Will Bloom as the “Elf” in question. “I got the part of Walter Hobbs the old-fashioned way,” said the veteran actor and performer Cahn, no six degrees of separation from Caan. “I auditioned for the part.”

In a cast that includes a lot of wide-eyed, high-energy young performers, especially Bloom, Cahn is the kind of been-there, all-purpose professional that every road company needs and usually has. “You do this long enough, and you realize you’ve done a lot over time," Cahn said. "Sometimes, there are dry spells. But this is fun. We did it in Chicago where I have a lot of friends and memories, being a Northwestern guy, and I have to tell you, what they call a snow storm around here is nothing."

“This is just a really great family show," Cahn said. "It keeps you busy. It’s aimed straight at the heart. We were working on it in October, in Kentucky, and we did a rehearsal in a school as a performance, you know, making sure we were getting right, an open rehearsal, and it was amazing to me, anyway. That was a great audience.”

If you see pictures of Cahn you think you recognize him. Even over the phone the voice sounds accessible and familiar. “I can do everything, that’s for sure, always have,” Cahn said. “A little bit of this, a little bit of that. I can carry a tune. I can dance a little. I’ve done television and movies, witnesses and parts on 'Law and Order'—and that one, used to be the life blood of New York actors."

Back in the 1980s, when a periodic revival of “Anything Goes” was produced, Cahn had numerous roles in the production: he was Reporter No. 2, he was in the Chanty Quartet and a member of the Lady Fair Quartet, he understudied both Billy Crocker and Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.

Cahn understudied eight different roles in the company of “The Graduate” in 2002. That was the play which starred Kathleen Turner in the iconic role of Mrs. Robinson. “There is an actress, a star, that you would do anything for," Cahn said. "She insisted that we were all part of a family, we were all in it together, down to earth, blunt, honest, with a big heart.”

“Touring the country like this is hard, sure, but it's invigorating," Cahn said. "When you’re in a tour, you get to see the country, all sorts of different audiences. I wasn’t worried about the movie. The movie was the movie, you know. James Caan—well, you don’t try to imitate him or sound like him. It was a fun movie. This is, to my mind, a great entertainment."

Cahn is a New Yorker, but he also spends time in Los Angeles with two dogs. “I’ve got to get a dog for my apartment in New York," he said. "But it’s tough on them, when you’re on the road.”

Washington isn’t exactly unfamiliar to Cahn. He was in a production of Ken Ludwig's “Lend Me a Tenor” at the Kennedy Center, a touring production of “The Pirates of Penzance” at the National Theater, and a musical called “Is There Life After High School?” “You remember that?” he said. “Wow. It’s good to be back. The town has changed a lot since then.”

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 12:45:00 -0400

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