Until recently, Patrick Cassidy assumed that he was coming to Boca Raton’s The Wick Theatre as “an homage to my dad,” late Broadway and television star Jack, who originated the role Patrick is playing in the theater’s production of “She Loves Me.”
But after a sad but revelatory week here in South Florida, he believes the plan involved another Cassidy — his brother David, who died Tuesday evening in Fort Lauderdale.
“I had never before gotten a regional show in the state of Florida … And I said ‘You’re not gonna believe this, but I’m doing ‘She Loves Me,’” Patrick Cassidy recalled Monday, the day before his brother’s death. “Then I came down here and he took a turn for the worse. And I know that the point of it all, the reason I’m down here, was to be here with my brother, to have five days to sit with him, and talk to him.”
David, the massively popular 1970s heartthrob, star of “The Partridge Family” and singer behind the chart-topping. “I Think I Love You,” revealed earlier this year that he was suffering from dementia and retiring from entertainment. About a week ago, it was announced that the actor and singer was in organ failure and in dire need of a kidney transplant. A Broward County resident, he died in a Fort Lauderdale hospital.
Since his brother’s condition worsened, Patrick says, “my whole family has been here” around 67-year-old David’s bedside. For him, the timing of his show, so close to his ailing brother, has been an unexpected and important gift.
“I’m doing Dad’s role, but I’m here for David, to have been able to sit with him and talk to him,” he says. “It’s such an honor.”
Patrick, along with David and brother Shaun, a successful television producer and director (“Cold Case,” “Blue Bloods,” “Emerald City”) and a former heartthrob in his own right from his days on “The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries,” is part of a continuing family show business legacy. His mother is Academy Award-winning actress Shirley Jones, who was her stepson David’s “Partridge Family” co-star, while David’s daughter Katie Cassidy has starred on the CW’s “Arrow” and “The Flash.” Their brother Ryan has worked as an actor and as a set designer on television shows including “The King of Queens,” and Patrick’s son, Jack Gordon Cassidy, was a contestant earlier this year on NBC’s “The Voice.”
“I teach at colleges, and if the younger performers in this show don’t know who David or Shaun are, I explain it like this,” Patrick says. “I say ‘My brother David, from 1970 to 1974, was The Beatles. There was no bigger star on the planet. And from 1977 to 1980, my brother Shaun was like Justin Bieber.”
Patrick, now 55, also entered show business young, with roles spanning television, movies and stage, including Johnny Castle, a part originated by Patrick Swayze, in a short-lived TV version of “Dirty Dancing,” the touring and Broadway productions of “The Pirates of Penzance” and in “42nd Street,” and a recurring role as Lana Lang’s biological father on “Smallville.”
He says he was intrigued when approached by The Wick to play the sly Stephen Kodaly in “She Loves Me” “because I had never played one of my dad’s parts before,” having pulled out a chance to play Stephen a decade ago in order to shoot a TV pilot for Warner Brothers. Now, he says, “I had to do it. It was the one that made (Jack Cassidy), that made him very successful and very famous.”
Besides a physical resemblance to his father, who, like Patrick, began graying early, the actor says he planned to “channel everything I knew about him” into the role of Stephen, “a womanizing cad who wasn’t even the lead. There’s a gift my father possessed, to make those types of characters likable. You want to be a likable cad, because at least he’s charming and fun. It’s so him. So many of the lyrics and pieces of dialogue were crafted around what he did … He had a big smile (full of teeth) on his face. A reviewer wrote ‘Jack Cassidy’s teeth were dancing across the stage.”
Patrick Cassidy says that he bears physical similarities to his father and plays them up in “She Loves Me” and when he references him in his one-man show. “My father has been gone over 39 years, but he still lives in each one of us … But David (had) so much of my father in him, all of his mannerisms … his facial gestures.”
There will be even more family spirit woven into his time here. Mother Shirley Jones will be attending Saturday’s opening night, and he’s also going to do his new cabaret act, “Just Another Family Tree.” That show, featuring Cassidy family photos and clips, happens to be on Dec. 12 at the Wick, the 41st anniversary of his father’s death.
The brothers Cassidy had always been close, Patrick says, with David as “my best friend.” But at the time he was cast in “She Loves Me,” the brothers “had spent a time out of contact,” for reasons Patrick does not elaborate on, for an amount of time he prefers not to specify except to say that “it was significant.”
But that changed “about three months ago, when David called me and it was like nothing had changed, like no time had passed,” he says. Patrick says he considered it a bit of schedule-based kismet to be doing this particular part, so close to his brother. But when David became so ill, “as fragile as he was, it’s been a remarkable reunion, with my whole family. I can thank The Wick and ‘She Loves Me’ for that.”
“Even my brother Shaun said that to me, that ‘It is so perfect that you’re down there doing that show in honor of Dad,’” Patrick says. “That was my whole attitude about it. But now, there are three of us playing the part - me, my dad and David.”
“She Loves Me” starring Patrick Cassidy plays The Wick Theatre and Costume Museum Nov. 24-Dec. 23 in Boca Raton.