Howard Magazine - Page 36 - Born To Perform - Continued from Page 35

Howard Magazine
- Page 36
Born To Perform - Continued from Page 35

Acting came later in life for Biedermann, a Navy brat who was born in Virginia and attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he majored in theoretical math. A Vietnam veteran, he served aboard an aircraft carrier, then worked as a flight attendant for three years before turning to acting. He was 29 and living on a houseboat in the Potomac when an audition notice caught his eye: Burn Brae Dinner Theater in Burtonsville needed chorus boys for a production of “Mame.”


Biedermann’s entrance at that tryout was underwhelming, at best.


“I had no resume, no pictures and no music, so I sang ‘Happy Birthday,’ ” he recalled. “Then I danced — I’d taken ballroom lessons. That I lived on a houseboat piqued their interest, and they hired me for a three-month run.”


Biedermann blossomed onstage, said John Kinnamon, then Burn Brae’s owner, producer and director.


“Robert was a fledgling actor who fit right in and took off from there,” Kinnamon said. “He’s a good, solid character actor, a first-class talent and person who could do this anywhere, from soaps to films to Broadway. But when he sheds his makeup, he prefers to go home, so dinner theater became his ilk.”


Other gigs followed “Mame” until, in 1989, Biedermann opened at Toby’s as the Major General in “Pirates of Penzance.” Midway through its run, he left the show. His brother, who had leukemia, needed a bone marrow transplant. His sibling was a perfect match. Though surgery was successful, Kurt Biedermann died soon after.


The actor returned to Toby’s and earned the title role in “The Wizard Of Oz,” still Biedermann’s favorite.


“It’s magical.” he said of the part, which he later parlayed into three national tours of the Frank Baum classic that played 193 cities in the U.S. and Canada between 2008 and 2011. Even now, without prodding, Biedermann will lapse into character and deliver his favorite lines to the Tin Man:


“As for you my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don’t know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable. And remember, my sentimental friend, that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”


Those words were almost the last that Biedermann ever spoke. On March 31, 2002, after an Easter Sunday performance of the musical at Toby’s, Biedermann was shot in the temple during a robbery attempt as he arrived at his home in Silver Spring.


“I can still hear the sound of that .22 hitting my head,” he said. Bleeding profusely, he reached for something to stop the flow. It was the shirt he’d just worn as the wizard.