BWW Interview: Rob Clove of BANDSTAND at Times Union Performing Arts Center

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BWW Interview: Rob Clove of BANDSTAND at Times Union Performing Arts Center

So, I saw this show when it was premiered in movie theaters and it had an incredible impact on me. How has this show affected you?

It is something that needs to be seen, especially the places we take it. We are seeing a lot of military towns, where these are real life characters to these people. Where they can really see themselves in the story line. For me, this show has impacted me in many ways. Professionally, it has taught me how to go on stage and be present. We have to always remember that we are telling real stories. We are on our 80th performance of the tour and each night we have to make sure that we're saying the words like it's the first time we've said it. We have to be really vulnerable in a lot of situations. The show takes a lot out of you. I have learned to be present and take care of your health on the road are very important things, and I will take these lessons with me in my career. Personally, I have done a lot of research of World War II, and not just that but also from the frame of being an African American. Figuring out, what was it like in 1945 to be an African American? I got to ask my grandparents questions. I asked my grandad, who was born in 1933, what it was like to be a little black boy and what he had to say about soldiers and what did it take for a black soldier to be in the Navy in 1945. I learned so much in regard to how people can really set themselves up for greatness if they have the will to do so. That to me was the biggest take away that I could I have from the show.

2. It is interesting that you say you have been hitting a lot of military towns. It did not occur to me because Jacksonville is so big, but we are a pretty big military town with two naval bases stationed here.

Yeah, we will be in Jacksonville for a week. After seeing you guys, we will be heading to Fort Lauderdale for two weeks. We are really hitting military towns because it is the demographic of what the show is. It is dealing with military veterans. It's good to meet the veterans after the show. I have heard stories of military veterans leaving the show early because they are so moved by it, and it is so real to them they can't console themselves and have to leave early. I have met people at the end of shows who are crying and are thankful for the story we are telling. We are appreciative of this. I would say it is not like most musical theater experienced that you would expect. It is not the fluffy stories with the nice bow at the end of it. It is a story that gets gritty and speaks with real issues like PTSD, alcoholism, and mental health issues. There are so many things that are so real. At the time, in 1945, people didn't understand what they were or how to talk about these things.

3. You play Jimmy Campbell in the show. What has the character taught you and what does the character mean to you, personally?

This role has taught me that I, in fact, can be a theater actor. My work in terms of acting has only been TV film work, some minor independent films, as well as films for major universities. I was coming from that world and doing this character has shown me that TV and film is less forgiving as it is for theater. Jimmy Campbell has taught me that no matter what, there are so many nuances and ways I can keep developing. I think that this Jimmy Campbell is much different than the character portrayed in the Broadway show. Especially since this is Black History Month, it comes with a lot of the race relations that happened. The nuances of what it was like to be a lawyer in 1945, and a lawyer who is black who just finished defending the country, and the country is not defending him at the same time. He is fighting for a country where he doesn't even have rights. So that developed a lot of the character. Why would he want to join a band and still do everything he can to get to New York City? Why is he trying to be lawyer and what is he really fighting for? So, each night I can play with that. On TV and film, you film it and that's it. It is not as forgiving as going out and finding those nuances each night with Jimmy Campbell.

Yeah, I have always heard from other Broadway actors that it is almost easier to be a TV and film actor because you get to have multiple takes and these instances where you can mess up and fix it. With 8 shows a week, it is a little bit harder and not as fresh. But it sounds like you've really found the way to keep it fresh and new?

Yeah, and I love that about it. We are able to keep developing these characters to the end of the show. If you see the show in the beginning of October, you're not seeing the same show at the end of March. I find that is a beautiful thing because just like these characters, and just like real human beings, we are always developing. Although we have the same lines, there are so many ways you can find those little details about what makes this character tick. It is why I love acting so much. I'm a musician, I play saxophone. I get to play 3 different saxophones in this show. It made this role a bit difficult compared to other roles. We have a lot of music that is memorized, as well as a lot of lines. It's a daunting task when you first see this role. You have to wear so many hats. It is well worth it.

4. That was actually my next question! Did you feel that this role was made for you with your previous experience as a saxophone player?

In many ways, I do. I can say, honestly, I would hope to feel that way about any role I take. I usually don't audition for a role unless I think there is something within me that would really be able to connect with the casting director or artist that would see it. With Jimmy Campbell, particularly, I thought this was a perfect way to dive into Broadway and a National Tour. I'm happy that my first experience booking a role in the theater was with the First National Tour of a Broadway show. I feel enthralled by that. I think having the musical background for me, helped me to shine within the auditions. I feel very comfortable with my instrument, as we should be. Music plays a pivotal role in this production. It is how these soldiers deal with a lot of the issues they have. I use this in real life. Music is what that is for me, and it is the same way with Jimmy Campbell.

5. Is there a favorite number or scene you love to perform?

In terms of singing, I like to do "Band in New York City." By the time we reach "Band in New York City" we are at the end of the show, we're pretty physically exhausted. This is a final number where we are all singing, and we get to be idiots and silly on stage. We're finally in New York City, and we're exploring, laughing, and joking on stage.

My favorite scene that I like to do is at the very end when we find out about the contract the Donny Nova Band has signed. I think it is the moment where you see Jimmy and the importance as a lawyer and understands legalities. That is a very fun scene for us to do. Then we go into the big number "Welcome Home" with Julia, played by Jennifer Smith. That is a beautiful moment that we have on stage that builds up to that number.

6. What would you like Jacksonville audiences to know before you guys make your debut next week?

I would say if you are looking for a show that is speaking to the heartbeat of America, this is the one. I truly believe that. I think people will come out for a great time of dancing, laughing, maybe some crying, but all in the end it is a beautiful experience.

Performances for Bandstand will run February 18-23.

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From This Author Jordan Higginbotham