Talking “The Book of Mormon” with actor Teddy Trice

Near by my home, across the Missouri/Kansas state line, is the town of Shawnee Mission.  They have several high schools and one of them, Shawnee Mission West, has proudly laid claim to such alumni as Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis.  This week I’m giving the students at Shawnee Mission NORTHWEST the chance to brag about their alum, actor Teddy Trice, who is currently starring in the national tour of the Tony Award winning musical “The Book of Mormon”  Teddy took some time out from his schedule to talk about the show, his career and his dream role.

Mike Smith:  How did you catch the acting bug?

Teddy Trice:   I started early.  I went to Trailridge Middle School and I did my first musical when I was in seventh grade.  I did “Into the Woods.”  I was twelve years old and I remember vividly thinking when I was done with the show, ‘I have to keep doing this!’  I didn’t know in what capacity but I knew that it was going to be a part of my life. And I’ve been doing it ever since.

MS:  You started out doing a lot of local Kansas City theater.

TT:  Yes, I worked at the Unicorn Theater, KC Rep, the Coterie, part of the American Shakespeare Festival.

MS:  What was your first show away from home?

TT:  Besides college, my first show out of town was when I did summer stock in Rolla, Missouri. I stayed pretty local.  But then
Mormon” started and they shipped me off to Australia.  I started the company over there and then I came back and did “Sweat” at the Unicorn, which I just closed last month.  And then I started the new “Mormon” tour three weeks ago.

Teddy Trice in “Sweat” at Kansas City’s Unicorn Theater

MS:  Was “Book of Mormon” your first tour?

TT:  It was my first big tour.  We set down in Australia and played for a year in Melbourne and then it moved to Sydney.  It’s still going on in Sydney.  I did six months there.

MS:  How did you get the role?

TT:  I auditioned in Kansas City first.  The casting people pop around regionally and I had my first audition in Kansas City. They called me back the next day. I did the same audition the next day and they put it on tape.  About three weeks later they called me for a call back in New York.  I did the callback there.  I knew at the time they were casting for both the Broadway production and the two national tours.  I didn’t know about Australia until I got an email asking if I was interested in being in the Australian company. 

MS:  YES!!

TT:  That’s exactly what I said.  I emailed them back and said, ‘for sure!’  And then three months later they called me and asked if I wanted to start the Australian company and I gave them an ecstatic ‘YES!’  And the show has been treating me well ever since. 

MS:  Did you have to audition, or have you ever done the show, in front of (show co-creators) Trey Parker and Matt Stone?

TT:  Yes. They actually came to opening night in Australia.  They met with all of us.  They are the coolest guys…very down to earth.  Obviously, they’ve had wild success but they work incredibly hard.  They put out an episode of “South Park” every week and it’s been on the years for almost 20 years. 

MS:  Did you know they were in the audience?  Does that add any pressure to your performance?

TT:  There’s definitely some pressure there because you know that the people that put everything together are watching you but they have a hand in everything.  Casting,etc goes through them.  So you know that when you’ve been cast they approved it. So there’s actually a level of comfort there because they selected YOU to keep this going.  And when you’ve got 1,800 people in the audience every night, that’s enough pressure to take on,  I think my favorite expression maybe “No pressure…no diamond.” 

MS:  You’ve done both drama and musicals.  Do you have a preference?

TT:  I don’t really have a preference.  It kind of comes down to the material.  I did “Sweat” at the Unicorn right before I started the tour and that’s a contemporary drama.  A little bit different from the big musical/comedy that “Mormon” is.  I love the craft of acting so much that, whatever I’m drawn to is what I want to do.  Singing is a great passion of mine so I do have a great affection for musicals but I love them both. 

MS:  Do you have a favorite  musical? Or, better question, if age wasn’t an issue, what role would you most like to do?

TT:   I would love to do Coalhouse Walker in “Ragtime.” It’s a role I’d have to age into a little bit but the musical score is one of my all-time favorites.  Doing an “American Dream” story and building a legacy…I’d love to do that one.

MS:  You’re doing “Ragtime” and Brian Stokes Mitchell is in the audience.  What do you do?  (NOTE:  Mr. Mitchell originated the role of Coalhouse Walker on Broadway.  Television fans may remember him as one of Lea Michele’s fathers on “GLEE”)

TT:  (laughing) If I found at after the show that he was in the audience I would take him out for a drink and ask him about his experiences with the role and what Icould do to learn from him.  I’d rather hear that than have him say, “wow, you really did an injustice to the part!”  (laughs)

Teddy and cast members from “The Book of Mormon”

MS:  How long is the tour?

TT:  Well, the tour will go on forever.  I signed on last month and I’m committed to it for a while.  I’ve been with the show for two-plus years now.  It’s been a long ride.

MS:  Is it still fun?

TT:  It is. It’s given me the opportunity to travel. To be able to go across the country with the show is pretty cool.  It keeps it fresh…it keeps it alive.  And every night you get a new audience andyou get their reactions for the first time. As an actor I keep challenging myself. How do I discover new things and keep perfecting the show?  And I think by having those small goals it keeps it fresh for me.  But when you’redoing eight shows a week for an extended period of time, monotony can creep in.  So you have to keep your brain switched on to give your best performance, especially when there are people in the audience who haven’t seen the show. 

Blu-ray Review “Musicals 4-Movie Collection”

Starring: Howard Keel, Cyd Charisse, Douglas Fowley, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ann Miller
Directors: Stanley Donen, Vincente Minnelli, George Sidney, David Butler, Gene Kelly
Number of discs: 4
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: March 3, 2015

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

There is something about old time musicals. 1952 and 1953 were big years for musicals. This latest 4-Movie Collection includes “Calamity Jane” (1953) / “The Band Wagon” (1953) / “Kiss Me Kate” (1953) / “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952). Other than “Singin’ in the Rain”, the rest of these three films are making their Blu-ray debut in this collection. Personally, the real draw here is the fact that “Kiss Me Kate” is being released in 3D. That’s right, 3D as the film was original made to be seen. Along with these movies, this also includes collectible art cards. If you love musicals, this a must own.

“The Band Wagon” Official Premise: Tony Hunter, a fading film star decides to return to his former glory, the Broadway stage. His playwright-songwriter friends hook him up with Broadway’s hottest director, Jeffrey Cordova, who proves that the “new” theater traditions can be an awkward fit with the old.

“Calamity Jane” Official Premise: When she isn’t tearing up the town, Jane spends her time cussing out Wild Bill Hickok. The plot gets under way when Jane promises the citizens of Deadwood that she can persuade classy Chicago stage star Adelaide Adams to perform at the local opry house. Through a case of mistaken identity, Jane brings Adelaide’s maid Katie back to town. Katie proves to be a success all the same, and out of gratitude promises to make a lady out of Jane, who is sweet on handsome Lt. Gilmartin.

“Kiss Me Kate” Official Premise: At his New York apartment, actor Fred Graham and composer Cole Porter discuss plans to recruit Fred’s ex-wife, actress Lili Vanessi, to star in their new show, Kiss Me Kate , a musical version of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” Lili arrives, and after singing the love duet with Fred, agrees to consider taking the role of Katherine. They are interrupted by the arrival of flashy dancer Lois Lane, who has used her wiles on Fred to secure the role of Bianca. Jealous words fly between the two women, and Lili prepares to leave, after informing Fred that she is going to be married soon.

“Singin’ in the Rain” Official Premise: Silent movies are giving way to talking pictures – and a hoofer-turned-matinee idol (Gene Kelly) is caught in that bumpy transition, as are his buddy (Donald O’Connor), prospective ladylove (Debbie Reynolds) and shrewish costar (Jean Hagen). Rediscover the musical masterwork, “Singin’ In The Rain”, with a downpour of celebratory special features that salute not just this all-time favorite but also the musical legacy of its producer, songwriter Arthur Freed.

The 1080p transfer for look great for each of the films. I really enjoyed the 3D transfer for “Kiss Me Kate”. This is cool to see since it has never before seen in this format since its theatrical release. So this is real treat. “The Band Wagon”, “Kiss Me Kate 3D” and “Singin’ in the Rain” have equal DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks. They are all equally impressive. The music really works well and sounds very impressive. “Calamity Jane” only carries a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track. It is still solid but lacks the pop of its fellow films.