Sunday, November 9, 2008

Adam Simmons Interview - from 2005

The following is an interview with Adam Simmons that we did in 2005 after his phenomenal success in Dorian The Musical at NoHo Arts Center (fall 2004). The interview first appeared

When we sat down to chat over tea in NoHo recently, Adam Simmons told me interestingly enough that he was no stranger to Dorian. In fact, the combination Opie (young Ron Howard in The Andie Griffith Show)/Bart Conner look-alike had auditioned 3 years earlier for Dorian's incarnation in Denver, Colorado and ended up being the second choice to play Dorian. Simmons held on to one of the original songs that was eventually cut from the show "Hold Still" and performed it for his LA audition. Producers James J. Mellon and Kevin Bailey were undecidedly impressed and cast him this time around.

Simmons is a totally positive person and believes fiercely in the value encounters that lead one to the next level of success - "planting the seeds". Through a friend who saw Dorian, he learned that the musical Bark! needed understudies/replacements. He proceeded to audition for creator and musical director David Troy Francis who hired him on the spot.

During his teen years in LA, Simmons served as a veterinary technician for 5 years and entered Iowa State to study Veterinary Science. He didn't become a vet, but has never lost his love for dogs. And so, keeping at arm's length the old show biz adage "No dogs or actors allowed!" he currently gets a chance to prove that love 3 times a week as he sings out passionately "I Am the Terrier from Mars" in the guise of canine Ben onstage at the Coast Playhouse in Bark!

Simmons describes himself as bicoastal, having recently purchased his apartment in New York City. He first moved there after graduating from Iowa State with a triple major in Veterinary Science, Business and Performing Arts. It was Pirates of Penzance at Iowa State that got him hooked on the stage. "I was bit by the bug". His first job in the Big Apple was a booking in the largest Equity children's theatre tour of Young Tom Edison that he took through the midwest, northeast and on into Alaska before returning to NYC and landing a gig as a swing in the 2000 Broadway version of Jesus Christ Superstar. He calls his casting "one of those flukes". He understudied 18 roles and went on in 12 of them, including the part of Annas. After Superstar, it was a wonderful 6-month tryst in End of the World Party with Jim J Bullock and then on to LA "to give it a try".

On the day of our conversation he was off to a booking of an episode of Showtime's The Cell about a terrorist cell in which he plays a green FBI surveillance agent. This is definitely "against type" as "I get a chance to say a lot of bad words". With some roles on TV and 2 major ones on the LA stage to his credit, Simmons forges full speed ahead, believing in himself as an actor: "I am a good storyteller." As far as music is concerned, "David Troy Francis will make me a better technician/musician. He will give me the tricks, the tools to be more engaging. I practice and I value my work, but he (Francis) has made me aware of 'perfect practice': doing it right the first time by looking at every note and respecting it."

When I suggested that his young age (28) might be a factor in not having it all together, he reminded me that Orlando Bloom is a star. "I don't want the excuse to be that I am too young, but rather that I am not prepared". How does he define success? "Getting to do what you love, getting paid for it, doing it well, and getting some recognition for it, in whatever form that takes".

Simmons' business mind is clearly at work as he calculates his rise. He also wants to be a producer like the phenomenal David Merrick, "but nicer". During his early beginnings in New York he got involved in summer stock with the Northern Lights Playhouse in Wisconsin that offers a "true rotating rep". In show biz terms, that means a different show 7 days a week: set comes down and the next one goes up in a matter of hours. During that time as well as acting in the various plays, he learned marketing and advertising and on his return to NYC in 1998 went to work in marketing and promotions for such shows as Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon and Julie Taymor's now esoteric Green Bird. Not a bad start, kiddo! He also finds time to learn Mandarin. Why? With China's super power status imposing more and more, why let a language be the barrier? "So I can take my Broadway shows to China. It's good business; it's where the people are".

Robert Sean Leonard, Guy Pearce, Johnny Depp and Ian McKellan are role models, so Simmons definitely aims high, but still has his feet firmly planted. His ultimate goal? "To tell great stories, even if it's in a small theatre in Wisconsin, as long as I can make a small, but livable wage".

And the role he longs to play more than any other? "Fool in King Lear. He embodies the humanity that Lear progressively loses during the course of the play. It is 'love' that we want to follow us around even though life happens".

For a man his age, Simmons seems to possess enough wisdom to get him through the hard times. He will not accept just any part to get by. "I have a hard time with gratuitous, foul language and nudity in a show. Nudity needs to have a reason. There's enough shock value in the world".

At 2 or 3 points during the conversation Simmons referred to himself as a 'great' singer, then, perhaps for fear that I might interpret his as an overly audacious ego, changed his phrasing to a 'good' singer. Quite to the contrary, I am impressed with audacity, as long as you can put your money where your mouth is. Adam Simmons certainly can. I interrupted him by saying, "No, Adam, you are a great singer and, with your consistent efforts and perseverance, you are well on your way to becoming even greater".

No comments: