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Meet Coatesville Theater Sensation Duane McDevitt

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Photo by Kim Douglas

The Coatesville native and theater sensation is now part of the longest running play in the history of New York theater.

Duane McDevitt’s robust performing career encompasses opera, operetta and musical theater. Some of his signature operatic roles include Papageno in The Magic Flute, Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro and Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus. He’s performed across the United States and traveled to more than 100 countries with wife Michele McConnell, performing their duo act Opera on the High Seas and the acclaimed On a Classical Note aboard the ships of Regent Seven Seas and singing for two seasons in Switzerland.

Oddly, McDevitt doesn’t sing a note in Warren Manzi’s Perfect Crime, a sassy whodunnit whose intimate off-Broadway setting and quirky plot has been delighting audiences since 1987, making it the longest running play in the history of New York theater. His character, Lionel McAuley, is mad-eyed, eccentric and unbalanced—and he could be a murderer.

Duane McDevitt

Photo courtesy of Duane McDevitt

MLT: How did a classically trained opera singer land in a play without any music?

DM: No one was more surprised than I was. But in this business, everything is so specific—and at the same time, there’s always overlap. I build scenery and stage manage, because in a way it’s all the same thing. You’re either right or not right for a part. I turned out to be good enough for this one—although I’m not sure what to make of playing the crazed Lionel “so well,” according to some friends.

MLT: What has made Perfect Crime so successful? Thirty-five years is a long time.

DM: Catherine Russell, the female lead, has been with it forever. When I started, she said, “There’s always someone else who hasn’t seen it.” It’s a clever, funny play. Based on the sheer numbers who live in and visit New York, the audiences are different every night.

Perfect Crime

MLT: Any local shout-outs?

DM: As late as high school, I was dead set on military college and computer science. But I won a vocal scholarship and started studying with the late Alan Wagner of West Chester University. I began competing with some success—and that was the first time it crossed my mind that I could sing professionally. WCU was an amazing place to study vocal performance. I was able to create my own opportunities there as a bit of a Guinea pig who helped set up their musical theater concentration. Being a professional musician wasn’t my plan. All along the way, something would come up that changed something else, and I just kept going. It takes a lot of perseverance.

MLT: Where can people find you?

DM: I’m currently covering some voice classes at Western Wyoming Community College with my wife, Michelle McConnell (the longest running Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera), who’s an adjunct professor. We both teach at New Jersey City University. We both teach master classes constantly and have a 2019 Christmas CD, Believe: A Holiday Celebration, on all downloadable platforms. We’re happy to sign them and drop them in the mail.

Learn more about Perfect Crime on the show’s website

Related: West Chester Native Grace Slear Performs in “The Tattooed Lady”