BWW Interviews: PIPPIN's Sam Lips
Sam Lips, star of the national tour PIPPIN talks about getting started in the business, life on tour, and how the role has changed his life. Sam is no stranger to the stage--he was in the Broadway cast of PIPPIN and has prior experience on Broadway in Rodgers and Hammerstein's CINDERELLA as the understudy for Prince Topher. Other national tours include WICKED as the understudy for Fiyero.
How did you originally get involved in theatre?
I started when I was 7-years-old in tap class. I was a dancer and entered the dance competition circuit. When I got to high school I wanted to go to a performing arts high school for dance. My dance teacher at the time told me I should try for acting or singing. I was accepted into the acting program and from then on I realized that musical theatre was my calling.
You have had quite the journey these last few years stepping in as Topher in CINDERELLA on Broadway and now touring as Pippin in PIPPIN. Were you excited when you found out you were being asked to continue the role on tour?It was a really exciting day. After I got the call I just laid on the floor. [laughs] I was blown away about what I had just heard. I was expecting to be unemployed for a little bit and I was getting ready to pound the pavement again.
Understudying a role is a difficult thing to do. You want to make the role your own but at the same time you have to fit this existing mold. I think the hardest part is keeping the show running smoothly. It was quite a difference to take on the role and to make it my own.
You've been an understudy for quite a few roles. Do you have any secrets for being a great understudy?
Tour life is known for being a challenge with traveling to new cities every week. How do you cope with tour life?
I travel with an electric skillet. I can make eggs in the morning, chicken and vegetables for lunch and dinner. It's a huge help to eat healthy on tour, especially since we live out of hotels which only have a refrigerator and a microwave.I do have to say, the most exciting thing about tour is that you are in a new city every week. I look at it as a new beginning every week. Life doesn't feel as stagnant as it does when you're in the same place for a long time.
It's really crazy and surreal that it's coming to a close. I haven't really thought about leaving the tour because there is still a lot to do. There's cast turnover and the show is morphing as I'm leaving. I do know that it's going to be really hard for me to say goodbye to this role because it has made an impact on my life and my perspective of this business. I've connected a lot to this role, even from my original audition. Taking on this role has definitely been the hardest thing I've done, but definitely the most fulfilling piece of theatre I've ever been a part of.
Chicago is the last stop for you. How do feel about leaving the tour?
Do you have any favorite moments from the show?One of my favorite parts of the show is that we get to interact with the audience and break the fourth wall. At intermission I get to go out into the audience and sit for the first scene in the second act. It's funny to see the audience react and to watch them try to converse with me. A lot of them get very jittery and it's just so much fun. It's definitely my favorite moment.You have been very successful since you graduated, do you have any advice for actors entering the business? Do everything you can and don't be afraid to do something that scares you. If you are someone who sings really well and is not a great dancer, go take dance class and make yourself as well-rounded as you can be. It will open up your realm of opportunities and it's also going to teach you a lot about yourself and about entering this business. Most of this business is about putting yourself in uncomfortable situations and learning how to deal with it. The more you can get used to that and remain humble and to always find ways to improve--I think that's the secret to getting by in this business.
PIPPIN has something that everyone can enjoy. Most people do not know what the show is about and I think it's better when people come in with little expectations. The show speaks to people in many different ways and it can get a little cerebral, but if that's not your thing then it is also really entertaining with circus acts and great music by Stephen Schwartz and choreography inspired by Bob Fosse. There is something that everyone can enjoy. I highly encourage everyone to come check it out.
Do you have anything else that you would like to include about the show?
PIPPIN runs July 29-August 9. Individual tickets for PIPPIN at the Cadillac Palace Theatre range from $27-$95. Tickets are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., 18 W. Monroe St. and 175 E. Chestnut), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000, all Ticketmaster retail locations and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com. For more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com or www.PippinTheMusical.com.