BWW Interviews: Vince Nappo of MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET
Sam Phillips was instruemtal in making that evening happen. As the founder of Sun Records, Phillips helped to launch the careers of some very notable people including Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. Vince Nappo plays Phillips in the the current tour of MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET.
How did you get started?
After grad school is when I got into the business. I was around for a couple of years in Seattle between university and grad school but grad school is where I got serious training and moved to New York. Part of the transition into the professional world for my grad school was you go to New York and you do a showcase in front of an invited audience of agents and managers and casting directors from New York. Our showcase was a series of scenes; there were 8 of us in my class and we each did two scenes. You showcase some of your strengths or versatility. I came out of the showcase with legit agent representation and commercial representation. That was my intro to the business and actually going out and finding work professionally.
Where did you go to school?
I did my training at the National Theater Conservatory which is the Master's Degree program at the Denver Center Theater Company which sadly was shut down this past year. The Board decided to shut the doors on the Conservatory which was a real bummer because I think one of the top conservatories in the country. It was a really fantastic program.
How did you get the part of Sam Phillips?
I started working with a manager June Julyish of last year. He's the one that came to me with it. He said, "Hey, you want to audition for MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET?" I said, "Well, it's a musical and I sing but I'm not like a Broadway belter." And he's like, "No, we want you to go in for the Sam Phillips character." So I auditioned in New York and I got a callback and then I got another callback. The casting house knows me pretty well. I've been cast in several things there over the years from commercials to films to theater stuff. The whole team was there. All the producers and director and music director; they were all in at my audition and seemed to really like me.
When did you start touring with MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET?
I started in November (2012). I started a couple of weeks later than I was supposed to because I was filming this television show for ABC. I was filming all of October in Vancouver Canada. I had to stay there into November and I was set to start rehearsals the very beginning of October. I'm a pretty big replacement in terms of the line load. They worked with the television show and I just flew down. I ended up flying back from Vancouver which was crazy because New York had just had that horrible storm Sandy. I literally flew in early November and had less than 48 hours to pack for 6 months and I just threw stuff in a bag and I hopped on a flight to Ft. Lauderdale and I went into rehearsals there for about 2 weeks. They weren't regular rehearsal days. It wasn't 8 hour days. I was doing like a couple of hours a day and working a lot with the understudies because the starters were all onstage at night. It was a pretty insane process but really amazing and really quite a learning experience. I barely had any time but things you look back on and stretch your ability. They let you know what you can handle and how much you can get done in a crunch. So I rehearsed for 2 weeks in Ft. Lauderdale and the plan for me was to jump into the show in the next city which was Greenville. Two weeks later I was onstage in Greenville and I've been on ever since. All of a sudden I'm at 140 performances; might be more than that. It's funny how quickly it flies.
The TV show you were talking about is Red Widow?
Yeah, my first episode was on this past Sunday which was really cool. A bunch of us from the show got together and watched it. It's a midseason replacement and it has like 12 or 14 episodes. Its first season is 8 episodes. It's with Melissa Rosenberg who wrote all the Twilight films. I think it's a really great show. I don't think there's anything quite like it on television. Some of us (from MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET) have been meeting up every week following the story as it goes.
Tell us about the rest of the cast of MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET.
Oh wow. It's an eclectic group and it's changed a bit. When I joined they were losing a couple of people and I was together with when I launched then we lost our Jerry Lee Lewis and our Carl Perkins because they were going out to open a production of the show in Vegas so we got replacements then. It's changed off and on but I love this group we have right now. We've got Ben Goddard who's over from Britain. He's a big time musical theater guy over there. He's been playing leads in the West End for 15 years and one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's guys. He's done a lot of Andrew Lloyd Webber. He's a fantastic actor and a brilliant singer and pianist. We got James Barry. We didn't know who we were gonna get for our Carl Perkins replacement because I was on the show for 50 performances or so before we had to get a new Carl Perkins and you're always nervous. I'm sure they were nervous about me coming in. You don't know which is most important; for them to be a great nice person, for them to be a great actor, a great musician and James is all of those. I remember we were sitting at a bar one night and I decided to just Google him and I realized that I had seen him do Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson on Broadway and I turned to the guys and said, "Oh, we're gonna be just fine." We got Kelly Lamont who plays Elvis' girlfriend. She's played something like 1500 performances. She goes all the way back several years ago doing the show in Chicago for a long time. She stayed in Chicago there, she didn't go to Broadway. But when the tour came around they asked her to go out. We all have similar and then very different backgrounds. Kelly has something to teach me. This is the longest run I've done of any show. And I worry that when I hit performance 130 or something, "I just don't know how to keep it fresh." I'm so comfortable out there that I feel like I don't know what's important. So it's important to have someone like Kelly who has done it 1500 times. Someone like Ben who did a year of Jesus Christ Superstar a year and a half on tour and to see them keeping it fresh is inspiring. You know, it's not that hard to keep it fresh. You find your way and share your craft. Your process is always evolving and you just find a way especially if you love the story which I do. I'm happy that this isn't a drama. It would be hard to have to go there every night for 200-300 performances. I'm thankful that this is a fun show and the music is fantastic. I love my character.
What do you like to do if you have free time?
There's a lot of factors that go into that. Some weeks in terms of our commitments inside the show itself whether there are promos or interviews; I don't normally do as much of the promo. My manager is based out of Los Angeles so a lot of my free time the last couple of months has been doing a lot of auditioning over my iPhone actually because it was the LA pilot season. I was auditioning sometimes 3 to 4 times a week which means I have to be memorizing lines after the show or early in the morning. It's funny how much of the auditioning actually happens that way. That's how I booked "Red Widow." They cast me right off my iPhone. I got super busy for 2 months doing that. If it's a lighter time it really depends on the city you're in and how close we are. It depends on the town. It depends on where you're staying in the town. If you're on foot and you're right by downtown, great. It stinks sometimes when they have to get you a car and you're 10 miles out from the town because you have the responsibility of having the car and we're usually sharing cars. So there's sometimes where we spend loads of time at our hotels hanging out and then you get lucky. Austin will be pretty close and San Antonio we will.
MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET comes to the Bass Concert Hall in Austin, Texas from April 9-14th. For tickets you can visit their website.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy Daniel