I greeted a pixelated smile over a Skype call at 6pm on February 8th. Brady VanVaerenbergh, an actor hailing from Chatham, ON, is currently overseas with a German production of Grease. This is Brady’s second time with the show and I’ve asked him to share his tips and tricks with us on how to survive being part of a touring production.
Where are you right now?
I’m in Dussedolrf, Germany. Our show is being performed in the Musical Dome in Cologne so we have to commute to the show every day.
How many cities have you gone to so far?
This is our second city on the tour out of seventeen cities. Next stop is Brauncshwieg, a few cities beyond that is Vienna, a few beyond that is Frankfurt and a few beyond that is Zurich. We really get to see a lot.
You were offered a part last year in Grease in October? How did you feel when you had to pick up and leave for a new country?
It was crazy because the whole thing happened so fast. I got a message from the show’s choreographer, Melissa Williams, and she told me that one of her ensemble guys had to drop out and asked “Do you want to come to Germany and perform Grease?”
I got a call from the producer and after a few phone calls back and forth, he said “We can use you. When can you be here?” I naturally responded with, “Whenever you need me.”. So he said ” Great. Can you be here tomorrow?” And I said yes. I called my parents right away and explained that I needed them to come to St. Catherines to help me pack and to drive me to the airport.
What was it like being in a new city?
Well, my first experience wasn’t the most pleasant of my memories. I had gotten so lost in the airport because that was the first time I had ever been on a plane, let alone been to Europe. I eventually got my luggage and hopped in the first cab I saw. I informed the driver of where I needed to go but he couldn’t punch the address into his GPS and he couldn’t speak a lick of English. I was sweating. I ended up having to pay him six euros just to take my bags out of the trunk so I could hail a different cab. I was on the side of the road and I could have been anywhere. And that was how I got acquainted with Germany.
How did you get accustom to the culture?
The cast of Grease all spoke English and they we so helpful. They taught us phrases that allowed us to get around the city. If you can say thank you and excuse me, you can get anywhere.
How did you deal with being away from home eight months?
The whole tour was really overwhelming for me at first because rehearsals were so intense. We had we rehearsals all day and by the time we got back to our hotels we were exhausted. But having the right technologies helped me to adjust quite well. Being able to communicate with friends and family back home through Skype and email made things a lot easier for me. Of course, it was still hard but at least I had that.
How does this year’s tour differ from last year’s?
The show has almost an entirely new cast with the exception of three people and they are all so great. So it feels a lot different in that regard. I find knowing the show already made rehearsals a lot easier. Don’t get me wrong, they still make me sweat but now i know what to expect. It’s not so overwhelming and I’m enjoying myself more.
Name 5 things you can’t be without on this tour.
Coffee. I brought a ton of Starbucks and Tim Horton’s with me this year. My Kindle E-reader which fills a lot of my down time. My laptop, deodorant, and pictures and cards from home.
In this production you understudy for a couple of roles. You are 1st understudy for Eugene and 1st understudy for Doody. Tell us about having to learn three different parts.
Understudying is really new for me. The most important thing is to keep the character consistent but to make it your own. The other actors are very different physically so it’s interesting to learn their movements because it’s something I would never naturally think of.
It’s a really fun experience. It can get quite confusing though so I have to be on my game. Each track is so similar on stage but they are all subtly different. Every time I’m on stage as ensemble, Eugene and Doody are on stage too. I make sure to take a lot of notes which are very clearly written out. I constantly review them before every show, especially when I’m about to play Doody. I can track Eugene in my sleep now.
Actually speaking of which, My roommate had once informed me that he overheard me clapping and doing the hand jive in my sleep. I have no recollection of it but that’s just one example of how natural the show becomes after a while. Being able to play different characters on stage really keeps the show alive for me. I can be someone new every night.
What advice do you have for actors about to go tour?
One of the hardest things is the travelling itself. Being on a bus for five hours really makes me feel like, “Mom, Dad. Seriously, are we there yet?” Also getting accustom to every theatre and every backstage area proves to be quite the challenge as well. But being on tour is actually a ton of fun. You get paid to see new things and places. The set stays the same but every audience is different and that makes it fresh every time.
See Brady’s website here: www.bradyvanv.com
For more info on Grease das Musical click here: http://www.musical-grease.de/