Wopat to perform Sept. 30 at Janesville Performing Arts Center

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Frank Schultz
Wednesday, September 6, 2017

JANESVILLE—Music fans might be in for an interesting concert Sept. 30 when Wisconsin native Tom Wopat brings his voice, his art and his recent personal difficulties to the Janesville Performing Arts Center stage.

Wopat, who hails from Lodi and who has relatives in Rock County, is of course best known for riding around in a 1969 Dodge Charger dubbed “The General Lee” in the 1980s sitcom “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

He most recently gained notoriety for being arrested as he was rehearsing for a musical-theater performance in Massachusetts, after he was accused of touching a fellow actor inappropriately and possessing cocaine. That was July 23.

Wopat has denied the incident as the court case moves forward. He said on his website that he would take “taking personal time to address his ongoing struggle with substance abuse.”

The Gazette was unable to reach Wopat or his representatives, but JPAC Executive Director Nathan Burkart said last week he has spoken with Wopat's agent, who assured him Wopat would fulfill his contract and perform in Janesville.

“It is obviously still a delicate situation.” Burkart said.

The agent said the Janesville date was important to Wopat, because “he really wanted to do some sort of home concert,” Burkart said.

The Gazette could find mention of no other performances since the July incident, so JPAC might be Wopat's first gig since then. That can only make a Wopat fan wonder whether he will address his recent troubles as he faces what is as close to a hometown crowd as he's likely to get.

The rugged-looking 65-year-old worked on Broadway stages before becoming TV's Luke Duke. He has continued to work in musical theater for decades while also putting out several albums. He even has a Christmas album to his credit, with fellow “Dukes” star John Schneider (Bo Duke), in 2014.

Wopat was nominated for a Tony Award for his role as Frank Butler in a revival of “Annie Get Your Gun” in 1999, when he held his own opposite the indomitable Bernadette Peters in numbers such as “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better).”

Wopat also has a new album coming out in October. In Janesville, he'll likely sing jazz and musical theater standards in his repertoire, along with his own material, Burkart said.

Burkart figures Wopat will sing the jazzy Broadway tune “I've Got Your Number,” a song for which he's known.

Wopat is also known to throw in a few country tunes, as befits the Luke Duke character and a singer whose work climbed as high as No. 16 on the country music charts in the 1980s.

Burkart hopes to sell at least 200 tickets to the performance, which means there should be plenty of tickets in the 633-seat venue available at the door. However, Burkart urges people to order tickets online to avoid the line at showtime.

For those who loved Wopat in Janesville, they can catch him nearby again this year. He is scheduled to perform Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Stoughton Opera House.

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