5 Questions: Paul O’Keefe
5 Questions is a series by Steve Duffy –
Paul O’Keefe is best known for his work as Ross Lane, the younger brother of Patty Duke’s character Patty Lane in the television series The Patty Duke Show and for the movie The Daydreamer. Born in Boston, MA, he began his schooling at the Immaculate Conception School and at the New England Conservatory of Music. He appeared on television with such actors as Sid Caesar, Sarah Vaughan, and Bob Hope. At the age of 7 years, he played Winthrop Paroo in the 1959 musical The Music Man on Broadway. Prior to his engagement for The Music Man, he played Little Jake to Dolores Gray’s Annie Get Your Gun at the Carousel Theatre in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Since the deaths of Jean Byron in 2006 and Patty Duke, William Schallert and Eddie Applegate in 2016, O’Keefe is now the only surviving member of The Patty Duke Show’s main cast.
SD: What do you enjoy most about coming back home?
PO: I get to see some of my relatives who still live in the Boston/Everett area.
SD: What is the best part of touring with a show like Rent?
PO: You get to travel to places that you normally wouldn’t get to go. I thought I had traveled a lot until I did my first tour and I discovered that I really haven’t. I have been to Tokyo, China, and all over the US.
SD: What does your role of Assistant Musical Director involve?
PO: Mostly, it involves playing in the show and to some extend being able to help the musical director. The band for this show is small. There are only 5 of us. I do play keyboard and guitar.
SD: Why is ‘Rent’ and its music still relevant?
PO: When “Rent” opened, it really resonated with a lot of people, because we were in the middle of the AIDS epidemic at a time when the therapies that had been developed were not available. The show is set in the mid to late 80’s. That is what really reached out and grabbed people. The realities of the cast and their struggles is what really struck a chord in the hearts of the audience. What has helped it to stay relevant 20 years later is the theme of acceptance and family.
SD: Favorite memory of working on “The Patty Duke Show.”
PO: I have been in show business since I was a little boy. I born in Boston and grew up in Everett until I was 7 years old and then I got a job in New York in the original production of “Music Man.” I moved there with my mom and one of my sisters and would come back on holidays and weekends.