The Black Sheep Interviews: Chris DeAngelis, Jersey Boys Swing
- Article by Brendan Bonham
- September 19, 2011
Tony Award-nominated Jersey Boys is coming to East Lansing from September 28th to October 16th. We were lucky enough to sit down with swingman Chris DeAngelis to talk about the theater, how to be an actor and delicious sandwiches.
The Black Sheep: What led you to a life of stage performing?
Chris DeAngelis: It just randomly happened. I started doing shows in high school, really enjoyed it, went to college, got my degree and started working in Chicago in theater. I was on the first touring production of Ragtime, moved to New York, spent 2 years auditioning for a Broadway show and finally got it. It took a lot of years and a lot of hard work, but I got it.
TBS: What is the audition process like?
Chris: There’s a general audition, there could be anywhere from 200 to 500 men there--it’s worse for women—you’ll go in and audition where they’ll teach you a combination, you do it, and they’ll make a cut. After that is more call-backs, more auditions.
TBS: You’re a “swing” in this presentation of Jersey Boys, what does that entail exactly?
Chris: As a swing I cover six members of the cast. So, based on who is off, or who’s sick or on vacation, I can fill in any of six roles. I can be one of the Four Seasons one day, one of the ensemble the next. I’ve even had to play two roles in the same show before.
TBS: What is practice like for you?
Chris: It can be something different every day. When I first started I had never swung a show in this type of musical, so it was very interesting trying to remember the cue lines for each person. When you’re just starting out you’re looking at your clothes and thinking to yourself, “This is where I’m supposed to be standing today.”
TBS: When you first got the role how long did you have before the first actual stage performance?
Chris: For a show like this we’re trying to give one of the main guys—one of the Four Seasons—at least four weeks before they step into a role. Ensemble guys may get two weeks, others get one, it really depends. With touring it’s difficult because you can’t rehearse the first week in the city, because everything is getting set up.
TBS: How else are things different on the road?
Chris: It’s interesting, it helps us keep things fresh, because every three weeks we have an opening night again; we get reviewed again. Things are new again and funny again. It’s interesting to see how the show warps and changes to suit the city that we’re in.
TBS: Can you talk about the physicality of your job? Like, do you have to stay in shape?
Chris: Everyone has their own thing. Some do yoga, some do stair climbing, some do weight lifting. You do need to keep yourself going so you have enough stamina to do the show eight times a week.
TBS: Do you have a pre-show ritual?
Chris: Basically when I know I’m on I’ll know an hour and a half before the show starts. I’ll warm up my voice at home, go through where all the changes are and get to the show a half hour to start getting ready. As a swing I have a set of note cards that takes me through my scenes so I’m not having to refer to a whole script. I’ll be set to go a few minutes before the show, stretch a little bit and I’ll be ready to go.
TBS: If a mistake happens on stage, how do you deal with it?
Chris: Mistakes happen, and they can be big or small. If someone forgets a word or drops a line we’ve been together long enough as a company where we can smooth it over pretty easily and no one would notice. It’s live theater, so things can go wrong. You just have to get through it. Very rarely has the show had to come to a grinding halt because something was screwed up.
TBS: Do you sing in the shower?
Chris: Sometimes, yes.
TBS: What would go on your perfect sandwich?
Chris: I would say turkey, white American cheese, lettuce, tomato and lots and lots of pickles.
TBS: Drink of choice?
Chris: Starbucks passion tea. Nighttime would be Patron on the rocks with a splash of lime.