Bill Murray has made a career out of doing the unexpected, but his latest project is a bit of a surprise — even for him.
The acting legend and comedy icon recently teamed up with cellist Jan Vogler for "New Worlds," an album that blends classic tunes and literature from artists like Mark Twain, Van Morrison and Leonard Bernstein. The collaboration came about after Murray and Vogler became friends following a chance meeting at an airport several years ago.
Since the record landed at the top of the classical charts last year, the duo has been hitting the road for concerts across the globe. The tour stops at the Orpheum Theatre on Thursday night and returns to New England for shows at Worcester's Hanover Theatre on April 22 and Portland's Merrill Auditorium on April 23.
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We caught up with Murray and Vogler to chat about the message of the show, performing in Boston and more.
Both of you have spent some time in Boston over the years. Have any fun plans for this trip?
Bill Murray: We're looking forward to the town. I like the town. I've got some food plans already. We're going to hit some museums. We're going to be back-and-forth a little bit because we're coming to Worcester, and we have a day off as well. It's going to be nice. We're going to have a pretty good time. We're going to look up some people that I haven't seen. If you've got any suggestions, let me know.
Since you're a big baseball fan, what about Fenway Park?
Murray: Well, I don't know if they got the Cubs. I did see the Cubs play at Fenway a couple years ago, before the Red Sox even won a World Series, I think. That was exciting. I remember how gracious the fans were, even though they didn't win the game.
I think the Red Sox fans have changed since they've won championships. They've become almost like Yankees fans with the arrogance. They're just unbearable. I hope that doesn't happen to Chicago fans. I don't think it will. I think we have better manners. I don't know what's happened to Red Sox fans. They're so difficult to be with, golly. We're going to address that subject during our concert, during our show. We're going to talk about that. We're going to have a little sit down.
Speaking of the show...
Murray: Do we have to talk about the show or can we talk about the NL Central? Really? OK.
It's such an interesting examination, though, of the world and America's past through classics, from greats like Leonard Bernstein, Walt Whitman, etc.
Murray: It's sort of a journey. The Bach piece is sort of a, "Wake up, here we go. Wake up everybody." Then the Walt Whitman is like, "We're going to go some place, you want to come along? Are you in or are you out?" The first thing you do is describe the "where." It's a theatrical thing. Where are you? We're in nature. We're on Earth. We're in this beautiful place and there's music to describe it and words to describe it. We layer them so we have this experience of nature.
Then we start to jump around and say, "Where else can we go? Can we go some place that's interesting and exciting, where there's creativity taking place?" So we go to Paris. We go there with Hemingway and we see what's going on there. Then we come back to America and we say, "What kind of a people are we? We're a nation of immigrants."
What does the show have to say about today's America?
Jan Vogler: Of course everything is an answer to our current life situation, always. But it is more like, "Open your eyes. Be aware." It's not a political answer. It's more of a human reminder that life is great and has so many possibilities to be useful and to be helpful. That is more the message, and I think people are getting that.
How important is it for us as a culture to continue to revisit these powerful artistic works of America's past?
Murray: People come out of the show and go, "Gosh, that felt great." It really is a reminder of the lessons of America. This is a country that had a revolt. It's a nation of immigrants. There's never been one like this. I think that's part of the amazement that the rest of world had for America for so many years. How could you possibly do it with a nation of immigrants? Now it seems like more nations are like America than ever before. There are more people dealing with their immigrants than ever before. They're much more aware of the fact that they're a polyglot nation.
Germany, England, there's all kinds of people there that never used to be there. Now, people are not sure what the hell there country is like. "Wait a minute. Make England great again! Let's make Germany great again!" What does that mean? That we don't have immigrants? That time has passed. That mode is stale. The world is a common market and people from all over the world live all over the world. The world is everyone's oyster. No one has a right to say, "This is my land and my land only."
If you go:
April 12, 7 p.m., Orpheum Theatre, 1 Hamilton Place, Boston, $45+, crossroadspresents.com