As a graduate of Northern Kentucky University, Tennessee Governor's School for the Arts, and the Upright Citizens' Brigade Improvisation program, John Walton West is a performer on the rise. He has been seen in the National Tours and Regional productions of "The Drowsy Chaperone" (Man in Chair), "The Producers" (Carmen Ghia), "Tony" in "You Can't Take it With You" (Florida Rep), "Moby/Coffin" in the American premiere of "Moby Dick! The Musical" (Seaside Music Theatre), "Jack" in "The Importance of Being Earnest," "Treves" in "The Elephant Man," and "Oscar" in "Sweet Charity."
Currently, he is starring in the hit Off-Broadway production of "NEWSical the Musical" starring Christine Pedi, Michael West, and Christina Bianco and produced by Tom D'Angora at the Theatre Row complex (410 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Ave). Click here for tickets!
For more John be sure to visit http://www.johnwaltonwest.com.
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My mom directed the annual Easter pageants and dinner theater productions (Bit By a Werewolf, The Butler Did it...Again!) at the First Baptist Church in Huntingdon, Tennessee. These were mounted to help the youth group raise money for their annual "mission trip" to Florida. So I got my start under her evangelical directorial eye.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? I suppose now having done Newsical I'll simply respond as Patti LuPone did when I asked her that at a Q&A after her concert - "My Heart Matters", or some such title - "There's no one left. I've worked with everyone who's living that I care to."
3. What attracted you to "NEWSical the Musical"? I remember being at the audition and the producer Tom D'Angora was in the hallway making COMPLETELY politically incorrect (but hilarious) jokes with perfect strangers. Then when I got in the room with the team it was the same thing...I thought...these people seem about my speed.
I had been familiar with the show for years, and I knew that audiences consistently loved it. I've been a fan of Rick Crom's since I saw him in "Urinetown." He is an absolute genius, and the breadth of his talent is astonishing. The material's great fun; it's one of the only opportunities a performer has to do celebrity impressions without seeming (overly) obnoxiously masturbatory.
4. What has been the best part about being in "NEWSical the Musical"? What is your favorite skit? The fact that audiences have so much fun - that never gets old. I think when people leave they are genuinely thrilled with their choice, and that's always been important to me when deciding what shows to do. Not so much "Is this a juicy role," or "Is this an important artistic achievement" rather, "Will people be exhausted from laughing after seeing this show?"
Also the the cast, creatives, production staff...and hanging out in the dressing room. Half hour call is my favorite time of day.
My favorite sketch is any one where the other guys do their impressions. Rick's great at writing for them, and the people I share the stage with are the very best at celebrating the idiosyncrasies of the likes of Celine, Larry King, Oprah...the list goes on.
5. What have you learned from working with Tom D'Angora, Christine Pedi, Michael West, and Christina Bianco? From Tom, I've learned temperance. From Bianco, how to stand tall. From Pedi, balance. From Michael, pianissimo.
6. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? If it's a drag show, the initial consultation with the makeup artist where I bring in clips from magazines to show her what I have in mind. In a conventional piece, I would say the meet and greet (everyone's always so fresh!) and the sitzprobe. For this show - which is a little bit of both - the material always changes, so you get a number of opportunities to workshop a number. And the puzzle of how to make things work best for an audience is always fun.
7. Where is your favorite place to rehearse on your own? I'm sorry? You mean...outside of...formal rehearsals? Why would one...
New York is tough obviously. Hard to Justify spending $18 at Pearl to sing through "My Defenses are Down" a couple times before an audition. It makes me miss Tennessee, where I had a big, isolated empty house and a car to practice in. Here invariably it ends up being walking down the sidewalk. I practice in falsetto with the strained logic that because it's softer it will make me seem less weird.
8. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? I think the roles in which you're cast give you a great deal of insight into both yourself and how others perceive you. After I kept getting cast in ridiculous and predominantly "surface" shows, it confirmed my suspicions that I was not a very deep person.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? I used to answer this question with what Dixie Carter told me when I was 11: "They don't pay us for the performing. That's what we love to do; we would do it for free. They pay us for the heartache, the rejection. The endless auditions where we're led to believe we're not good enough." But then I compared my paychecks during periods of performing and during periods of unsuccessful auditioning and realized the woman (may she rest in peace) was mad as a hatter.
10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Christine Pedi, performing Angela Lansbury having phone sex (which she does in Newsical). It's the hardest I've ever laughed at anything in my life, so hearing it eight times a week isn't enough. Plus, it's a hilarious dream and an erotic one rolled up into one - two birds!!
11. Favorite way to spend your day off? Favorite way to stay in shape? They are one in the same. Crossfit.
Oh, sorry...I mistakenly thought I was my adopted brother Michael West for a moment (www.michaelwestfitness.com).
12. Boxers or Briefs? I was wearing some underwear the other day that I think was from Wal-Mart in high school, and Rick Crom came into the dressing room while my pants were down (...just another Tuesday) and remarked on my "mini-skirt."
14. "Glinda" or "Elphaba"? I used to have the biggest crush on Kristin Chenoweth. I mean...c'mon. I literally flew to NYC when I was in college just so I could be there for her Carnegie Hall debut. She was...perfect. But at some point I realized that I had no realistic shot - and now I can't even peruse my copy of "A Little Bit Wicked" without feeling that gaping hole. So...for self-preservation's sake...Elphaba.