BWW Interviews: Daniel Robert Sullivan Talks Places, Please!, JERSEY BOYS and More
Have you dreamed of one day becoming a big Broadway star? Do you want to see your name in lights? Do you watch shows like Glee and Smash and imagine yourself being a part of those worlds? If, like so many other young theatre lovers out there, you find yourself dreaming of a career on the Great White Way, there is a book about to be released that is tailored made for you. Written by Daniel Robert Sullivan, a former member of the Toronto production of the smash-hit musical Jersey Boys, ‘Places, Please! (Becoming A Jersey Boy) is an extremely detailed account of the journey from young dreamer to star in a mega musical.
Daniel’s big break came when he was cast to replace Jeremy Kushnier as Tommy DeVito in the Toronto run of Jersey Boys. After many years of auditions and countless hours of hard work, Daniel suddenly found himself exactly where he had always dreamed he would one day end up – in a big Broadway show. While he was pursuing his dream, Daniel documented every detail of his journey. After landing Jersey Boys, he began to compile all those little details into Places, Please! Which promises to be an honest, inspiring look at the journey to becoming a musical theatre star.
Since Daniel got his start in Toronto, it seems only fitting that he return to our great city for his book’s official launch. He will be on hand at The Toronto Centre for the Arts after the July 25th performances of Million Dollar Quartet, another musical which takes a look at four very talented musicians from a forgotten era. Daniel will be doing a meet and greet with fans and signing copies of his book. He also took a few minutes to speak with BWW about why he chose to write a book, what the journey has been like for him and what he hopes to do next:
First of all, congratulations on Places, Please! I understand that your Toronto appearance is a bit of a formal launch for your book – is that correct?
Thank you! These days you don’t really need a formal launch date, but with that being said we’ve decided to call July 25th the official launch. It will be available in all forms on that date in Canada and the United States.
Why choose Toronto to come and launch your book?
This is where I got my start! I spent a great deal of time at The Toronto Centre for the Arts performing in Jersey Boys, and I’m thrilled to get to come back. Dancap and Aubrey Dan were very generous to me on a personal level, and I’m glad to be able to return to where it all started.
I will be doing a meet and greet and signing copies of my book after the performance of Million Dollar Quartet on July 25th 2012. I think it will be a great way for me to meet some of my fans, but also hope it will help spread the word and connect the Jersey Boys phenomenon with Million Dollar Quartet. After all, the audience for one would likely enjoy the other. I will also be appearing on Canada AM on the 24th of July to do an interview and talk about Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio stories.
Could you give us a brief overview of the book?
It’s an extremely detailed account of what it’s like to become a part of a mega musical. I wanted it to be very detailed as a way to both inspire young people who are interested in this genre and also realistically portray what life is like for the very average actor. I read a lot of books when I was a young actor, but none of them were quite long enough or detailed enough to really tell someone what this process is like day by day. That’s what I wanted to do.
We have a lot of young readers who want to one day be in a mega-musical, and it can be a very discouraging process for them. Especially these days with a struggling economy and many shows closing earlier than anticipated, it can be scary to try and carve out a career in this industry. How do you handle that in your book and what would be the message of inspiration?
The theme of the book is ‘work hard and you will get a reward’. That’s the inspiration behind it. In all the detail and drudgery of auditioning and re-auditioning I came to believe very firmly in pursuing your dreams. If you actually work at your dream every single day, eventually you’ll see some kind of pay off. That’s what I truly believe and that’s what I’ve written about.
I’ve had this dream since I was in the fifth grade, and I’m a big cheeseball. So you can quote me here and forever – I love the idea of doing what you love at almost all costs. I work hard at it every day, I still work at it. Life isn’t easy but piece by piece it will all come together eventually. Work hard at what you love, and you will reap the rewards.
Was there any point in your journey where you thought about giving up?
I want to say no because I never felt that I would completely give up, but that being said there were many times where it became very challenging to keep going. In the midst of Jersey Boys callbacks, before I even had a job offer, I had two shows that were the equivalent of six or seven months work and both of the theatres went bankrupt. So those two shows back to back meant that I had lost about seven months of employment. Those were the low points. I can honestly say I never gave up at those points, but they did hit me very hard, and I do write about that in the book. I have tried to be personal and reveal a lot about how I was feeling in those moments in an effort to bring realism to the reader.
In regards to pursuing Jersey Boys, it was such a perpetual process but there was no point where I gave up. Many days I would wonder if the phone would ever ring again! It’s a hard thing to wait and wonder, but I’m glad I kept at it.
So the day you found out you landed Jersey Boys was a true dream come true. What does it feel like to be handed your dream?
It’s the ultimate pay-off. It doesn’t get any better than that. Perhaps someday I will top that moment, but for now all I can say is it was an exhilarating experience. Those two years of auditions were all worth it in that one moment. You ride that high for a day or so and then the work sets it. You uproot your life and realize just how much you have to learn and how much things are going to change. So while it’s thrilling, reality does kick back in when you realize your ‘dream’ is still a job, and a very challenging one at that.
Jersey Boys was also the longest job I have ever done and that was because I loved it so much I wanted to keep doing it. You get into a routine and it’s quite nice. Also, Dancap and Jersey Boys provided me with many wonderful opportunities like singing at The Blue Jays game, meeting many celebrities and sports stars and engaging with the great Toronto fans. It was wonderful.
What made you decide to write the book?
I’ve been wanting to read a book like this for my entire life, so part-way through my audition process I realized that I might be in a position to create the thing I’ve always wanted to read. I started taking detailed notes of everything I was doing with the hope that if I ever landed the role, I could write a book about it. When I landed Jersey Boys, I used all my free days to put my notes together in readable form.
In the end, it was really about writing the thing that I wanted to read when I was a young actor. While there are many great books out there, I found there weren’t any that gave me all the detail I craved when I was starting out. I wanted to know how many hours one would spend a day rehearsing, what kinds of rehearsals there were, what the roadblocks would be. Those are the kinds of details I wrote down, but I have tried to make it entertaining and light hearted as well.
It sounds like your book would be great for people who are in a post-secondary musical theatre education program. Have you ever thought about going out to talk to school groups?
Absolutely! It’s a niche audience that I’m passionate about and my personal agenda includes using this book as an educational tool. Those students have a dream they’re pursuing and I get to tell them what it’s like in the real world. That’s pretty cool. Plus, let’s face it. I’m not the big famous actor – but I am the working actor. And that gives me unique experiences that would really benefit up and comers.
What are you up to now?
Right now I’m in Gloucester, MA working for a theatre called the Gloucester Stage Company doing a production of Carnival. After that I head for Toronto for the book launch and then I’m doing a workshop of a new musical called ‘Still Getting My Act Together’ which is a sequel to the seventies musical ‘I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking it on the Road.’ The original writers have come back to work on the sequel and hopefully something wonderful will come of it.
When and Where?
Daniel will be at The Toronto Centre for the Arts July 25th after the matinee and evening performances of Million Dollar Quartet to sign copies of his book.
You can purchase Places, Please! (Becoming a Jersey Boy) directly from the publisher at http://danielrobertsullivan.iguanabooks.com/places-please/ or online and in stores at all major retailers after July 25th, 2012.
Million Dollar Quartet runs at the Toronto Centre for the Arts until July 29th 2012. Tickets can be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at 416-644-3665 or online at www.dancaptickets.com.