BROADWAY TODAY

TONY VINCENT

BY: Jim DeBlasi

Before taking on the role of St. Jimmy in Broadway’s AMERICAN IDIOT, Tony appeared as Judas in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and Mark / Roger in RENT on Broadway.  In London’s West End he portrayed Galileo in WE WILL ROCK YOU. His film credits include FREUD’S MAGIC PROVIDER, FABLE, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s MASTERPIECE.  Mr. Vincent can also be heard as the voiceover for Pepperidge Farm, Fisher-Price and Mrs. Fields.

 

CUE: How did you get your start in theatre?

TV:  I grew up in New Mexico and I had my sights set on doing music at a very young age and theatre allowed me the opportunity to sing and perform in front of people. When I was in college I ended up securing 2 records with a major label out of Nashville. After that, I moved to New York looking for a mainstream rock deal and I wound up landing a role in the touring company of RENT. That pretty much set me on a course of doing theatre full time.

CUE: So it wasn’t exactly theatre that peaked your interest?

TV: No, I always anticipated doing music exclusively. When I first became interested, there weren’t the same advantageous type of theatre experiences as there are today so I never really thought of theatre as a true option.

CUE: Was there a particular event that led you down this path?

TV: When I had my record deal with EMI I was traveling to NY and actually saw RENT  – I thought it was one of the most exciting things I had ever seen. That was 2 or 3 years before I actually thought about moving to NY. So I would say it was at that point when I was exposed to the idea of RENT and the belief that other theatrical projects similar to that show would exist and be possible for me to pursue.

CUE: What was your family’s reaction?

TV: Not like mine. That time when I came to NY and saw RENT, my folks met me here. The show then was so hot we were unable to get 3 tickets for one performance, so I saw it on a Wednesday and they saw it the following day. When I got to the hotel from seeing the show I explained that it was the coolest piece of theatre you might ever experience.  Now I came from a pretty conservative background so that show was not at all what they expected. It took me being in the show to get them to see beyond their initial perception.

CUE: What do you consider your first big break?

TV:  I think my record deal with EMI. I was in college and I put out an independent record  — when I heard a song that I wrote on the radio for the first time, that was when I not only began to believe that this can be done but it was actually happening.

CUE: How did the music deal actually come about?

TV: My school had a strong music and music business department. I used a recording studio to put together a 5 song tape that was hitched to what was called reporting stations – they were the top 15-20 stations that reported their playlist to Billboard Mag. We gathered enough momentum from a New Mexico station to get onto other stations until we were ultimately a non-existent record label – you couldn’t

buy this record even if you wanted to.  We continued to get air play so we tried to launch it nationally and that is what triggered EMI to take notice.

CUE: What has been the biggest hurdle to overcome?

TV:  Trying to get another record deal after you’ve done professional theatre.  There is a certain stigma that people have if you are an actor and if you have had any sort of accolades or recognition regarding your acting. People tend not to take you serious as a musician or serious artist. I think that it might be easier for a female singer but if you want to do rock ‘n roll in a legitimate way, being a guy who does theatre – it is tough.

CUE: You don’t think that perception may be changing with the introduction of musicals like AI & ROCK OF AGES?

TV: Once people have a perception of you on stage not doing your own material, you can screw yourself.

CUE: How did you get involved with AI?

TV:  My agent called and said that they were looking for one more role to fill – a kind of stark, brooding, alter ego of the central character being played by John Gallagher, Jr.  They asked if I was interested. At that time I was getting ready to leave NY and head to the west Coast.  I was into Greenday’s music so I decided to go right in the midst of packing up my apartment. I got a call that I got the role actually after I had already left NY, so I had to come back.

CUE: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

TV: I think the entrance of St. Jimmy is really cool – it just comes out of nowhere.  This character is like out of space and he immediately makes his presence known. He raises questions as to what he is, who he is and what is the point. It is really invigorating to the audience.  Sometimes you can hear cheers because people now the music and know he is coming or else you might hear gasps from those people who have no idea.  MY favorite song in the show though is LAST NIGHT ON EARTH.

CUE: Any aspect of the show more difficult than you anticipated?

TV:  I think singing that music 8 times a week is taxing. I do tend to find myself in roles that prevent me from having much of a social life because vocally it demands everything I have. I don’t go out after shows otherwise I wouldn’t be able to give what I feel the role needs and then I couldn’t be proud of my performance.

CUE: Was this more of a sacrifice than you thought?

TV: No, but it might have been had I not done Judas in JC SUPERTAR before this  – that role was not only vocally taxing but it was emotionally draining as well.  So I was aware going in what St. Jimmy would require of me and it was going to be everything I had to give.

CUE: What types of roles attract you?

TV: Possibly because I come from a conservative upbringing but I like roles that are left of center or ones that are darker in nature. Perhaps it is because those roles allow me to exercise and explore my own demons in a safe environment. I am not really into the guy next store type. 

CUE: How do you deal with auditions?

TV: I hate them – I am a very poor auditioner.  I am actually surprised I have been cast in anything. I hate the process and the dance of them – it is not exciting to me at all. I am still as nervous at auditions as I was before I was on Broadway. They are very clinical and even if the people behind the table are fans, the environment is so sterile that it affects you and you get nothing back at auditions and without that audience feedback, I am a shit performer.

CUE: Are you aware of the audience?

TV: I am aware of their presence but I never focus on them  – when I look at the audience I am not looking at anyone person – I just feel them out there.

CUE: Has Broadway changed over the years?

TV: Prior to this year’s nomination period I would have said yes it changed but with AI being overlooked I think that the old school voting committee is still old school. I had thought or at least hoped we had become more progressive.

CUE: Is Broadway too much the measurement of success for actors?

TV: During the last 5 years we have seen a lot of shows being built around celebrities who aren’t necessarily stage performers. I think this helps minimize people’s idea of what it takes to do a B’way show or to get on a B’way stage. Broadway is not necessarily a measurement of quality all the time – there is some of the best theater that you will find but you can also see brilliant theatre all over the world.

CUE: Is it harder to get or stay on Broadway?

TV: I think it is harder to get there – once you are sort of in that family and have the credit people are more willing to give you attention over a stranger off the street. It is easier to stay but not a given.

CUE:  Your thoughts on the influence of reviewers?

TV: From the time AI started both critics and audience responses were off the charts. I think reviewers play an important part in a show’s success. Otherwise you need to have a machine that is willing to dump so much money behind the show to counteract any negative publicity. When I did WE WILL ROCK YOU in

London, it was critically crucified however, they were able and willing to ride it out by funneling enough dollars into the show to move the critic’s responses away from the show.

CUE: When is it time to leave a show?

TV: It can be a combination of two things: artistic fulfillment – when I did RENT I never got tired of that journey. Or out of plain fatigue – when a role becomes just too taxing which is why I left WE WILL ROCK YOU in London – I was vocally screwed.

CUE: What’s the best career advice you were given?

TV: I think I am still waiting for it – I can’t recall any great nugget of wisdom. My advice is always reminding people that the business is hard and it is yourself that you are putting out there for people to judge and that can have serious repercussions. So unless you can find your self worth outside of the arts, you will have a difficult time.

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