August 11, 2010

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Quinn VanAntwerp!

August 11th, 2010

By Frances Fong-Lee, Jersey Boys Blog Special Correspondent

I had the privilege to interview one of the youngest and super talented cast members recently:the gifted actor and singer, Quinn VanAntwerp, who’s plays Bob Gaudio in the Toronto Jersey Boys Company . This young man is truly talented – with his baby-faced good looks and his powerful voice which commands thunderous applause! Quinn shares some marvelous stories about how and when he became interested in theatre; his fascinating experience working with Brian Stokes Mitchell and Reba McIntire; the audition process for “Jersey Boys”; his favorites from the show; his amazing experiences portraying Bob Gaudio, and many other surprises!

FFL: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me, Quinn. How does it feel to be part of the award-winning, critically and viewer-acclaimed hit show “Jersey Boys”?

QV: Well, it’s been an awesome two years for us. To me, this is my first big show, so it will be really hard to top it, to be honest. As it’s coming to a close, it’s kind of bittersweet. I think everybody’s a little bit ready to get their feet wet with something else, but it will be hard to find a show that we believe in this much and that makes you grow as much as this has.

FFL: So…I dug up some dirt on you…

QV: Uh huh? –laughs-

FFL: I did some research and found out that you graduated from the University of California, Irvine for Drama and Music. Did you always know you wanted to be an actor?

QV: I did. My mother is a dance teacher and almost all of my mother’s side of the family is in the Arts in some way. I grew up, from the age of one or two in the studio every day. But dance was never really my thing, I mean, I always took classes because it was mom’s studio. I got into singing in high school and I started doing backup for my aunt Holly Near who’s a Folk singer, so I started touring with her off and on in the summers then, and it kind of became what I loved to do most. And then my other aunt is a director so I started doing shows with her and that’s kind of how I got involved. But during high school, it became very clear that that’s what I would go to school for after my baseball career ended because… well I wasn’t very good.

FFL: But you’re tall!

QV: -laughs- That’s right! Anyways, the theatre has always been the family business.

FFL: So would you say your family inspired you or do you have any other inspirations for getting you into musical theatre?

QV: I remember as a little kid, like six or seven years old, seeing John Raitt come to town, who became my idol when I was a kid. The first time I heard somebody sing with this huge voice that’s when I think I knew I wanted to do that. Because I was always involved in music, but that was kind of the first time that it was my vision of what I wanted to do. And he (John Raitt) actually ended up becoming a family friend of ours, and when I went to school, I got to hang with him right before he passed away – him and his wife in Southern California. It was awesome to be able to look through his old scripts and to see his notes and all that stuff. He’s kind of my first influence.

FFL: How did you get started in show biz?

QV: My first professional show was with my aunt Timothy Near, who was the Artistic Director at San Jose Rep. I played a cowboy ghost in a Bluegrass show called “The haunting of Winchester”, which started my Bluegrass show career –laughs-. And then I started working during my freshman year at college. I was 18, and I did a lot of shows at UC Irvine, but I also did a lot of shows around Southern California while I was in school. But then, right after my junior year, my third year of college, I booked a bunch of stuff, including the Hollywood Bowl and I got my Equity card, doing “Atlanta”, at the Geffen Playhouse, and then I booked “Four Christmases”. So that really became the first time I was living substantially off of just doing performing.

FFL: To follow up on that, I noticed that you were in “South Pacific” at the Hollywood Bowl with Brian Stokes Mitchell and Reba McIntire. What was it like working with those two big stars? And who did you play?

QV: It’s funny you ask that; it’s one of my favorite stories! And I was just a sailor in the chorus.
I grew up loving country music, and the first time I went to New York and saw a Broadway play, I was twelve, and I saw Reba in “Annie Get Your Gun.” That was my first Broadway show, and I stayed afterwards to get her autograph, and the security guy at the line gave me a place to sit, so I could be exactly where she would be… and then she skipped me! And then he got her out of the car to come sign it because he felt so bad. Anyway, so then the first day of rehearsals (for “South Pacific” at the Hollywood Bowl), I told her that story, and it was kind of like a full-circle thing: seeing your first show with this huge star in it and then being able to work with her. But really, more importantly, Stokes blew my mind. I grew up listening to that voice on a recordings and I thought such a huge voice had to be a big production, but the man opens his mouth and it just comes out.
Actually, I’ve never said this out loud –holds recorder closer to Quinn-, but that day, we heard him sing “Some Enchanted Evening” for the first time, and I literally crawled behind one of the set pieces and cried for a bit. I was so young and overwhelmed by it, but it’s awesome to be in this theatre where he worked on “Ragtime”. I remember him telling me this awesome story of doing dinner theatres in San Diego, because that was what I was doing after that, and he said that he used to sing “The Impossible Dream” (from “The Man from La Mancha”) to a bunch of people eating and not paying any attention, and he said: “Someday I am going to sing this song and people will listen.” And so, he got to sing it on the Tony Awards like a couple years later. I think that’s one of the coolest inspirational stories that I’ve ever heard – he’s an incredible man!

FFL: That’s so awesome! Time to move onto some “Jersey Boys” questions: What led you to audition for “Jersey Boys”? Tell us about the audition process.

QV: Mine’s a little different I think than everybody else’s. I went in originally for “Phantom of the Opera”.

FFL: WHOA! What??

QV: Yeah, I went in for “Phantom of the Opera” for Raoul, and I kept getting called back and called back for it with Dale Brown, who’s part of the Tara Rubin family; I was 21 or something like that at that time, and it just wasn’t working out cause of my age. And so one day, they randomly called me in for “Jersey Boys” from that audition because it’s the same office, and I went in for Merri Sugarmen, and me and Josh Franklin – we didn’t know each other at the time, but we went in for Bob on tour, (Andrew) Rannells’ part. That was when Andrew was leaving, and that was kind of my first round of them. I didn’t get it, and I was kind of bummed about it, and then I remember kind of forgetting about it, saying “Well, whatever.” Then I got another call for it, and I was like: “I don’t know, I’ve already been in so many times…” I’d only been in four or five times at that point, and now knowing that’s not a lot. So I went through another round with me and Shonn Wiley and they hired both of us on the same day. I came up here because I could start immediately, while Shonn had a couple weeks. But yeah, it just happened so fast! And I started rehearsals like the next day in New York, and within 10 days, I was in Toronto, and within 14 days of getting that job, I did my first show, which was like a whirlwind of excitement and fun.

FFL: Yeah, because I know the story of you replacing the actor in Toronto for the role of Bob Gaudio. What was it like to just jump into that role?

QV: It’s tricky especially because I was so young, but it feels like a long time ago! I was so young at the time that you had to kind of convince yourself that you could do it to instil confidence in everybody else. But you’ve got to have a lot of respect for Derek (Derek Krantz, the original Bob Gaudio in the Toronto “Jersey Boys” Company), for the cast that had just been through losing Derek, and I think it was very healing for all of us that first show. I don’t know if you know, my put-in rehearsal got cancelled; it was supposed to be a big run with everybody. So the first time we went on was that Friday night at that Cool Cap thing – the first time I met you!

FFL: What’s interesting is that I saw Derek’s last show (I didn’t know it was his last show), and I saw your first show!

QV: Yeah I know; I remember that! I remember sitting down at the piano and the Boys looking at me like: “is this going to be him?” because we had never sung together. And literally, [they were thinking], is this guy going to be able to do it? It’s so cheesy to say out loud, but it really is the first time we made that sound, our sound. And that is probably my favorite part of this entire two years is that moment: the moment when I sang “Cry For Me” for the first time with those Boys.

FFL: I was really impressed with you when I saw you go on for your first time!

QV: Aww, thanks!

FFL: After landing the role of Bob Gaudio, what did you do to prepare for the part? Did you do any research on Bob Gaudio?

QV: Because it was such a fast process, I put that (the research) off a little bit until I got into the shows because there were so many details to get down before I went on. When I was in NY, I went every night and watched Sebastian (Arcelus), and I basically just watched him every night that I was there. I probably saw ten of his shows; I just saw a bunch of them. But then when I got here, I finally got to look at the “Bible”, as they call it, the “Jersey Boys Bible”, which has every piece of information you could possibly want about the Boys. But I think what was different about my process a little bit was that most Bobs meet Bob (Gaudio) before they play him or at least on Opening Night. Mine was about six to eight months into it, and I remember meeting him for the first time going: “Oh! I should change some stuff” because now I have an idea of who he is, especially like older Bob in the show; I felt like all of a sudden I was like: “Oh, well that’s how he would say these things”. So it was a little backwards in that way. But getting to play that guy has been such a huge process for me because he is somebody I look up to so much, so I feel like every night I get to go practice to be someone like him.

FFL: Since we’re talking about Sebastian a bit, did he give you any advice on playing the role of Bob?

QV: I hardly got to talk to him. Me and Shonn Wiley saw the show a couple times together, but when you’re there it’s like you’re sitting in the back and you see them on their way out; we got to chat a little bit but we never got into any details of stuff. But him and Daniel Reichard are the only Bobs I think I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen Andrew, never saw Josh, all those guys. But I would definitely give him (Sebastian) credit with giving the basis of my show because I watched him so many times, so that can always be interesting when you’re thinking of what school of parts you come out of.

FFL: You know that thing you do during “Cry For Me” where you stand up and play the piano? Who’d you get it from?

QV: That’s from Sebastian! We’ve had this conversation before of not knowing who started that. Yeah, I don’t think I saw Daniel doing that. I can’t remember. I remember seeing Daniel, the first time I ever saw the show was before the Tony’s in 2006, and that was kind of exciting too because I remember seeing it, and I was in college still – I must have been like 18 or 19 years old, and I remember seeing it and just being floored by Daniel Reichard. I remember liking the show as a whole altogether, but you know when all of a sudden all you can see is one person; I don’t really remember what Christian Hoff did – I don’t really remember it. I just remember…

-we both start laughing-

I know that’s weird to say out loud because he was so incredible but I think I was more as a performer, just so amazed. I remember saying “I want to play that part someday and I want to be able to do that. “

QV: Wow! Dream come true kind of thing?

FFL: Yes, very much so.

QV: What is the toughest and most exciting part about playing the role of Bob Gaudio?

FFL: Bob is actually a pretty awesome part, I think. It has its ups and downs just like all four of the Boys do. I think it’s sometimes hard to compete with the writing of Tommy. I think Tommy is such an intense, cool dude, which makes him very hard to play but also very rewarding. Bob has a more subtler line to draw, and I think the notes, what they give you in this show when you play Bob, are frustrating sometimes because you want to compete with that. You want to be able to feel like you get to have your moment in the spotlight. But what Sebastian does so well is he underplays Bob which is Bob. And I think that’s always the battle of playing Bob is taking your moments to shine like in “Cry for Me” and “Oh, What a Night!” but also knowing that you’re not comfortable in the spotlight, and you are the businessman behind this.

FFL: What was it like meeting THE Bob Gaudio for the first time? When was it?

QV: It was August of last year for our one-year anniversary.

FFL: So that was your first time meeting him?

QV: Yeah, ever. We had shared some emails back and forth. I was very excited! You know, it’s hardly ever in life, in theatre mostly, do you ever get to play someone who is still alive. So that’s very nerve-wracking, but it’s also such an opportunity I didn’t want to let it pass. Early on, I had emailed him and kind of introduced myself, but it was one of the most nerve-wracking things ever: to know that he was out there in Row G, and his wife! I mean, who else knows that person better than his wife? I think he’s such an incredible man; a living legend in the music industry – I’m just happy that I got to have an impartation from him a little bit, even by just playing him every night.

FFL: Offstage, do you share any similarities with the Bob Gaudio character?

QV: I would like to think so. I’m a little nervous, as I said about topping this show because I feel like Bob as a character, is very close to me. That being said, I also look up to Bob a lot, so I’m not saying that I’m even on that level. I’m not a songwriter, but that drive – I really connect to that drive, and I’m always wondering what’s next. That’s kind of what I feel like I connect to the most. I’m also a Scorpio and so I feel like being the youngest always, and having to fight for respect because you’re the youngest – I like that! But I like everything he stands for too. To me, he really gets it: what it means to be a leader and to take care of people.

FFL: Also, what was it like being nominated for a 2009 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male in a Principal Role as Bob Gaudio in “Jersey Boys”?

QV: It was so odd! We (the Four Boys) were announcing the nominations, so it was top secret, and we got the list and the four of us were going to announce the awards, and I think all of us had this knot in our stomach of like this is going to change everything– we were all such good friends and we knew it wasn’t going to be hard – but it was going to be such a weird thing of whoever had to say who got nominated out loud. And I think the hardest part about it, and also the greatest part is that we were all four nominated in the same category, which never happens with “Jersey Boys” because usually you have a leading actor nomination and then a supporting actor nomination. So in some ways it was fantastic because we all got nominated, but in other ways, you go like, you know it would have been fun… because I think we all knew that Jeff should win this award – the amount of work that it takes to play that part. So it was really nice; it was nice to at least have a stamp of approval that we had made it a little.

FFL: I also noticed that you were involved in film, in the movie “Four Christmases”, which I have not seen yet.

QV: Good. –laughs- No, I’m kidding!

FFL: What was it like acting in front of a camera? What’s the difference between acting for film and acting onstage?

QV: That’s a great question because I’ve, actually in my time here, I’ve been taking a lot of film classes to try to figure that out! That seems to be my next challenge: I plan to start opening up trying to get into more TV and film. I think this show is great for that because I think the acting in this show is closer to TV and film than most musicals. Musical theatre is big choices, right? Because you’ve got to fill a theatre… people in the back row of the balcony have to see your choice too. The camera catches everything; you take a breath in a weird way and that’s acting. So I think this show is actually closer to maybe say, a Scorsese film in that way, which is really cool to get a taste of that.

FFL: It’s really interesting, because you’re going from theatre into film, while me, I’m doing film, but I’m thinking of going into theatre!

QV: Well, that’s such a huge thing! I mean it’s to know that just… It’s the same craft but it’s a different kind of craft. It’s the difference between us having a conversation and then like –waving his arms in huge circular motions- us having a conversation. And I think the people that are really great at theatre are the ones that can dig deep enough to justify the bigger choices, just as the people who are great at film are the ones that dig deep enough to justify the smaller choices.

FFL: Quick three questions: Favorite scene, line, and musical number in the show?

QV: Aww, geez, that’s hard!

FFL: You knew it was coming!

QV: Favorite scene in “Jersey Boys”… you mean my scene or any scene?

FFL: Any scene!

QV: I feel like the things I love most about it are the last monologues. I think the last monologues are so well-written that I think if you were to pick something, that’s what I would pick. But I feel like the incredible joy of playing this show is that it’s so well-written that each line has a part of life; you can live 40 years and they’ve distilled it down to lines that encompass so much. You know what I mean? What’s a good example: I can’t even give you one. Hahaha! All of them are so great!

Favorite line: I’ve got to say Jeff’s last monologue is my favorite.

¬-said in unison-“The first time we made that sound, our sound. When everything dropped away and all there was was the music; that was the best.”

Because I really do feel that way! I really do feel that we had that experience, at least for me, in my memory of them waiting for a Bob, and me, getting to do it. And I will never forget that.

FFL: How about favorite musical number?

QV: I’ve always loved “Beggin’.” That’s always been my favorite. Or “Walk Like a Man” because I think that’s our only time we get to, besides “Cry For Me,” the only time we get to sit and look at each other while we sing.

FFL: What is it like being one of the only Americans in this Canadian company? And why is this cast so fun to work with?

QV: I think this cast gets along better than any cast I’ve ever been a part of, but also, when you spend two years with [the same] people; if you can still every night go out with people and want to hang out with them outside of work, you’ve really got something special. And I think it’s fascinating; we’ve been so lucky that we were such good friends with Jer (Jeremy Kushnier) and now such good friends with Dan. The four of us have always been really close. And I think if that didn’t happen, it could really make it a really hard time to love this show as much as we have.

FFL: What is it about the story and the music that makes the audience feel so connected to “Jersey Boys”?

QV: Well, A) I think that it’s the distillation of emotions that’s perfectly written is great, but it’s also such nostalgic music too that just makes everybody feel like they’re at home; it reminds them of something in their lives that is so important. It’s about family too, and whether it’s the family of the four boys or whether it’s the family in large, it has a deep meaning that is not over-the-top and it doesn’t push it in your face – it allows you to find it yourself, as an audience member. And I think it’s really classic.

QV: Why do you think people keep coming back to see “Jersey Boys”?

FFL: Well, probably just what we talked about: the music and the writing. But I also think that you walk out of “Jersey Boys” so uplifted in the way that it ends, I have a lot of family in theatre, and they can’t come see things more than once, they just can’t do it; all of them have come at least three or four times. And I find that fascinating because you just can’t see it all in the first one – there’s too much detail, there’s too many lines that are really great that go by so fast, and that’s the beauty of it; it’s just like packed in! I think that’s why people keep coming back, because A) They can’t get the whole experience the first time, and B) the music and story are just so heart-wrenching.

FFL: Also, do you have a particular story or funny anecdote that has happened, either on or offstage, that you would like to share with the “Jersey Boys” Blog readers?

QV: When you join an International family like this, everyone is bound to know everything that has happened, like show reports go out from all over the world from different companies and everybody reads them. Everyone makes mistakes and do funny things…

FFL: But you gotta give one specific one, Quinn!

QV: Well the one that comes to mind is my last one; I’m the last one to kind of mess up in our company. It’s not even a big mess-up, but I think the line flubs are some are the funniest ones, because you do something so many times, you think: how in the world… Two weeks ago, during the “Dawn” pre-monologue of like the “we weren’t a social movement like the Beatles…” I gave a full shout-out – I totally lost where I was, of like who our fans were, and I said: “our people were the guys who shipped overseas and their sweethearts; uh… the… the traffic workers… the iron industry…” Don’t ask me how I came up with the iron industry! Rick Elice emailed me the next day going: “Wow! Really interesting choices Quinn on who to give a shout-out to!” I think it sounded like what a cool thing to do actually in subsequent companies is like, if there is say, a concierge service in America! Like give them a little shout-out! We can change the line every night!

FFL: But you shouldn’t.

QV: Nope.

FFL: Also, last two questions: Do you have any advice for actors who would like to play Bob Gaudio or one of the other Four Seasons?

QV: Oh geez, I don’t know… all I’d say is you’re going to have the most fun doing this show. If you get this show, it changes your life, and hopefully if you embrace it and respect it, as huge as it is, it’ll turn your mind to things that will make you a better person. I feel like I’ve grown so much just getting to play him. And being part of this show makes you strive to do your best. Like a lot of shows, the bar is set here! And so every night, you’re playing the material that is maybe not so hard to do, but this show is so hard that every night you have to try to get up there to it. You must strive to rise up to the material – it’s huge to be able to do that!

FFL: And last question for all the Quinn fans out there: Do you have any projects lined up after “Jersey Boys”?

QV: Umm, nothing I can officially tell you about, but I will now be splitting my time between L.A. and New York looking to do some more TV and film, but theatre will be kind of my “bread and butter” for the next while.

FFL: So there’s nothing you can say…

QV: But nothing specific!

FFL: But you will keep your fans posted!

QV: I definitely will! You can check out my fan page and soon there will be a website as well… Thanks Frances!


  1. You mean all this time I’ve been going to the Church of Jersey Boys and they actually have a bible?!? Great interview!

    Comment by Nicola — August 11, 2010 @ 11:23 am

  2. Another great interview, Frances. Well done! Jolly well done!

    Comment by Chiara — August 11, 2010 @ 9:48 pm

  3. Wow Frances, you’ve done it again! Another very impressive interview. You get better and better each time. Quinn is certainly an interesting young man with a great insight into his craft. I’ve met him a couple of times and I think he’s just great. He’s a living testimony of getting the job by being in the right place at the right time and just going with it. Lady Luck strikes again and this one came out a winner. Can’t wait for that last show on August 22nd!

    Comment by Gary — August 14, 2010 @ 7:23 am

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