BWW Interview: Ryan Vasquez on Oklahoma!, Aaron Burr, and Bay Area Sports
The much-anticipated run of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! at Broadway at Music Circus is finally here and brings with it some serious star power. Ryan Vasquez is taking a short break from starring in Hamilton on Broadway to join us in Sacramento as Curly. He is the only person to have played five of the principal roles in Hamilton (Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, and Hercules Mulligan/James Madison). Vasquez spoke to Broadway World Sacramento about his roles on Broadway, his new single, and more.
Welcome to your Broadway at Music Circus debut! How has Sacramento welcomed you so far?
It's been great. I grew up in the Bay Area so it's been nice to spend time with friends and family and the director, Linda Goodrich, was my dance teacher in college at the University of Michigan. There's a nice familial feel to this theatre and the actual theatre itself has that vibe too. It's like a family environment there. Everyone has everything down to a science so you can breathe a little bit even though the process is really fast.
You are currently on Broadway in Hamilton. What made you decide to take this break to do Oklahoma!?
I think it's important for all sides, me as a person and as an actor and as an employee, to wipe the slate clean every once in a while. Vacation can do that but I think that doing something that's completely different-exercising your body and voice differently-and doing something out of the routine is really helpful and can really refresh you. Even though we open tomorrow and I'm so excited, I also am excited to get back to Hamilton. I also decided to do Oklahoma! because Linda is directing and I'm so fond of her and I get to come back to California. It just worked out in a perfect storm type of way.
You've been the only person to have played five of the principal roles in Hamilton. How are you able to compartmentalize each character and have the right one come out of you?
That's the game, for sure. It's obviously demanding and takes a ton of concentration and the nice thing is-and Oklahoma! is the same way-I find that things that are really good, where the words are all thoughtful and the blocking and choreography serves the story, that it's pretty easy to learn. You're not shoehorning things into spaces where they feel unnatural. Hamilton has so many words, like one 3 or 4 minute span has as many words as all of Oklahoma!, but it feels natural because it's all speech and done so well, I've never been confused. The structure is so good that you feel sort of safe in it. All of the archetypes in Hamilton are so clear that you fit into the groove. Of course, it did take a lot of work but now that I'm on the other side of the learning curve it's in my bones. A week from my last performance here in Oklahoma! I'll be playing Alexander Hamilton on Broadway, so we'll see how I do after the break.
Which is your favorite character to play?
There are elements of everyone that I love but the only one that I still get nervous for is Aaron Burr. For some reason, I get a call that I'm on for Hamilton or any of the others, I'm good. Aaron Burr is still the one where my adrenaline spikes because it's the first one I learned. I remember thinking, "How in the world am I going to do everything that Joshua Henry does?" That role still gives me the shakes but in an exciting way.
Do you feel that being in the Hamilton cast has opened up more doors for you?
Absolutely, yeah. There's such a premium on Hamilton and it's an amazing company to be a part of but, for me, I've been there so long and every show you feel like there are hundreds of people, if not the entire audience, that are really being changed by the show. Thinking about something that they weren't thinking about when they walked in. It's palpable in the building. You can see people that are moved. People always want to meet you and there are cool perks but the thing that is really revitalizing about it is you can really see people being affected by it.
How does it compare to your Broadway turns in Wicked and Waitress? You've been in a trifecta of amazing Broadway shows.
I've been lucky to be in some really cool ones. My time in Wicked-there's an element that really feels like it's a well-oiled machine. You can see the show anywhere but you get Wicked because it's been around so long. With Waitress, we developed it from the beginning and through the run we were discovering things and I left after 8 months and the dust was still sort of settling, even with the original people. Hamilton is a concentration more on the individual actors. You can get the same message but a different show. It's so evident in the casting. The 3 male standbys share coverage for different roles and we could not be more different. The energy you bring changes the show. Different life experiences, humor, and dramatic chops change the show. No show is the same.
Your character in Oklahoma!, Curly, is an earnest cowboy trying to win the hand of his love. What is your favorite part of playing this role?
It's got to be the company and the cast around me just because the girl playing Laurey is a Michigan graduate, also, and she's so present and willing to play and do different things and try things out, exploring from an academic perspective. You have a lot of people who have done a ton of Broadway shows and have a ton of experience that are bringing that. Curly is a character that is that old-school musical theatre style where not everyone is on stage at the same time. Very classic in the way that the old-school love interest works and the supporting actors are secondary comic relief. Hamilton is new where all hands are on deck. In Oklahoma! you have dancers that are dancers, like Taeler Cyrus and Stephen Hanna who did the dream sequence. You have elite dancers that you get to watch. They get to do their thing and I do my thing. Everyone is in their groove and it's amazing to watch. It's really cool to see people really in their element.
I understand that you're a dog dad to Lemon. Tell us all about her.
I have a little labradoodle. She's very sweet and she is a tiny one. She's only going to be 25 or 30 pounds. She'll be a year in September, which I'm looking forward to. I miss her so much. She's home right now and that's the number one thing that's been tough about being here. I haven't been away from her for more than a day. Her Instagram handle is @itsyagirllemon.
As a Bay Area native, were you rooting for the Golden State Warriors? Giants or A's? Raiders or 49ers?
I'm a huge basketball fan and have been going to Warriors games since I was a kid, so yes, yes, yes. I love the sport, too. I'm happy for Toronto but that was brutal. I've been likening it to when you have to put down an old animal because of the injuries. It was so sad. Giants. I'm not a football fan, really. I've never been a football fan. I went to Michigan so I'll always root for the Michigan graduates that go to the NFL. It's hard to be a football fan from the Bay Area. Or in New York, really.
Your new single, "Pray", is available for purchase now. Can you tell me about your music? Is there an entire album in the works?
I'm working on it now. I was in Los Angeles about a year ago and it was after I was done touring with Hamilton and I got connected with a guy who runs a studio. I wrote this song and put it out there and the reception was good. I was new to the whole process but I loved it and now I've been trying to get something done so I can get some studio time and crank out some new songs. It's available on all platforms. Apple Music, Spotify, anything like that.
What is next for you?
After this, I'm going back to Hamilton for 6 weeks and in the fall I'll start a show called The Wrong Man that is at an Off-Broadway theatre downtown called MCC. It follows a guy who is wrongfully accused of a murder. The music is written by multi-platinum songwriter Ross Golan, who has written music for Pink and Ariana Grande. The music is great. Tommy Kail, who directed Hamilton, is directing this. Alex Lacamoire is also coming from Hamilton as the musical director. That will be about 4 or 5 months. After that I'll go back to Hamilton and see what happens and keep moving.
Tickets for Oklahoma! start at $45 and are available by phone at (916) 557-1999, online at BroadwaySacramento.com, or in person at the Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office, 1419 H Street in Sacramento. Evening performances are Tuesday through Saturday, June 25-29, at 7:30 p.m.; matinee performances are Thursday, June 27 and Saturday, June 29 at 2:00 p.m., and Sunday, June 30 at 3:00 p.m. For more information, visit BroadwaySacramento.com.