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KINKY BOOTS

Now showing, Open Run

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Tony Winner

Tony Winner

"A love- and heat-seeking score that performs like a pop star on Ecstasy!"

Ben Brantley, The New York Times

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BWW Interview: Sam Zeller of KINKY BOOTS at Salle Wilfred Pelletier

I first met Sam Zeller as a Freshman at Cal State University Northridge (CSUN). His efferescent energy and warm, friendly demeanor instantly drew me in and we became fast friends. After college, I moved away overseas and we lost touch. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, we reconnected in 2009 and have stayed in touch. I am thrilled that Sam is touring with Kinky Boots and that we will be able to spend some long, overdue time together. I had the chance to catch up with Sam via telephone from his tour stop in Connecticut.

Sam Zeller was born and raised in Anaheim, CA, the youngest of three sons. Zeller went to Walt Disney Elementary school and grew up, in his words, "a very fantasy like type life, because I always thought everyone was surrounded by Disney characters all the time like I was. But of course, nobody was." Zeller's parents, who were married 65 years until his father passed away, followed not long after by his mother, were very encouraging. Zeller loved school. He was class president all four years of high school and was an honor student. He played sports and was also editor of the school paper. Zeller played minor league baseball with the Minnesota Twins organization in the mid 80s and got a sports scholarship to USC thinking he was going to be a sports hero. Once he got to USC, he realized he wanted to learn something, other than sports. Since he loved journalism, having been editor of his high school paper, he began working for the Orange County Register. Zeller started at the Register filing photographs and typing up the Dear Abby column. Little by little he started getting assignments, such as covering concerts and theatre and interviewing musicians such as Michael Hutchence from INXS and actors including Kenneth Branagh. While interviewing Branagh, Branagh asked if he was an actor. Zeller told him he wasn't and asked why he thought that. Branagh told him his questions were questions actors ask each other. At that point, Zeller thought he might go into entertainment journalism. After giving a dinner theatre production of HELLO DOLLY, the producer told Zeller he was just a frustrated actor and Zeller thought, "well, maybe I am." At that stage, Zeller auditioned for the school play and was cast. The following year, Zeller's scholarship was cut in half and his parents couldn't afford to cover the tuition so Zeller transferred to CSUN. He immediately immersed himself in the theatre department and became a "big fish in a little pond." After leaving CSUN, Zeller did a conservatory for three years before getting a double degree in broadcast journalism and theatre from UC Irvine. Right after graduating, Zeller booked his first professional job, a Western Civic Light Opera (CLO) contract doing SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS. He has not stopped working professionally since.

In 1995, Zeller got his Equity card. He was the understudy for the role of Pedro in MAN OF LA MANCHA. The night before first preview, the actor playing Pedro broke his leg on stage and Zeller was told he would have to go on. The next night, he did just that. After the show, MAN OF LA MANCHA book writer Dale Wasserman's wife Martha came back stage and handed Zeller $100. Wasserman, having learned through the grapevine that Sam had replaced the actor playing Pedro in less than 24 hours, wanted to give him a small reward as he had no idea watching the show that Zeller had been the understudy. Years later, when Wasserman produced his own his multi media heavy version of MAN OF LA MANCHA, Zeller was involved again. In 1998, Zeller made his Broadway debut as Gentleman Starkey and a pirate, along with understudying Mr. Darling/Captain Hook in PETER PAN. He has played such diverse roles as Jean Valjean in LES MISERABLES,

Zeller as Jean Valjean in LES MISERABLES

Edna in HAIRSPRAY, Old Deuteronomy in CATS, Gaston in DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Tevye in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, Tarzan in DISNEY'S TARZAN, Tony in WEST SIDE STORY and Che in EVITA. Of the roles he has played, Zeller lists Jean Valjean as one his favourites. He was so moved by the character and his journey that every night while he was singing Valjean's death, he would bawl his eyes out. Zeller has tremendous love for all of the roles he has played thus far. In his words, "God gave me another life to play with today. For two and half hours, I get to be somebody else. Even if I am third guy on the left, it's the most important two and half hours of my life, so I'm going to dive in and have the best time. I love being able to live in the world of the story we get to tell."

Zeller as Edna in HAIRSPRAY

In 2014, Zeller went to the Los Angeles casting call for the Kinky Boots tour. He was called to go in for the role of Don, a blue collar, homophobic factory worker. Zeller walked into the room and the team was so happy when they saw him. Physically, Zeller looks the part. A big, tough guy. Unfortunately for Zeller, walking into the room as Sam and not Don, he was deemed to friendly at the audition and didn't get a callback. Zeller contacted a friend in the Broadway company who encouraged Zeller to put his audition on tape and told him he was going to hand it directly to Jerry Mitchell. Mitchell saw it and said he wanted to see Zeller. Zeller purchased a flight and hotel and made his way to New York City to audition. His audition was the last day of callbacks and the entire production team was in the room, with the exception of Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein. Zeller's audition lasted all of four minutes, "the most expensive four minutes" of his life. On his way out the door, he bumped into Lauper who asked him

Zeller as Don
with J. Harrison Ghee as Lola
in Kinky Boots

if he was auditioning for Don. Zeller told her he had just been in and she replied that she wanted to hear him sing. Zeller said he would go back in, but she said no, he had already auditioned, but told him he looked perfect for the part. Minutes later, while at the corner deli, Zeller's agent called to tell him they had hired him to understudy Don and two other principals as well as performing in the ensemble. Rehearsals began in the summer of 2014 with the tour opening in Las Vegas in September of that year. Zeller and the current Lola, J. Harrison Ghee, are the only two remaining original tour cast members.

I asked Zeller when the tour ends, what might his dream role be. He replied "Billy Bigelow in CAROUSEL is up there, but I would have to say hopefully my dream role hasn't yet been written and I will get to originate it. I love musical theatre. I love the opportunity to create and be different people, while I am singing beautiful songs." There is no doubt in my mind that my old friend, this passionate performer and multifaceted actor will be able to accomplish anything he sets his mind to. I will be cheering him along every step of the way.

KINKY BOOTS runs from January 3 - January 8, 2017 at Place des Arts Salle Wilfred Pelletier. Tickets are available by clicking HERE.

For more information on Sam Zeller, visit his official website www.samzeller.com.

Article reprinted with permission from www.BroadwayWorld.com

What You Say

5 reviews, average rating: (4.2 Stars)

Nancy Thompson Mahler: “LOVED LOVED LOVED IT!”

I had seen the movie Kinky Boots a few years ago and loved it so when I h... more

Doris: “You Have Got To See This!”

I saw this show in March and almost booked a second performance - the matin... more

Roberto And Lana: “Roberto And Lana Loved The Show !!”

We both saw the movie years ago and frequently watch it. When we heard it... more

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