Victor Wallace Goes from Sky to Sam
by Stephanie Bossy
Weddings, parties, multiple lovers, and one illegitimate child… just a typical day in Las Vegas. At least, it is for the cast of Mamma Mia! who just recently celebrated their five year anniversary performing at the Mandalay Bay, making it the longest running Broadway musical ever on the Las Vegas strip. Whether you're an ABBA lover or hater (a.k.a. closet ABBA lover), the upbeat, energetic Broadway show is sure to have you up on your feet by the end, swaying along with the rest of the crowd. According to Victor Wallace, who has just recently rejoined the cast in the role of Sam Carmichael, everyone has a soft spot in their heart for this entertaining musical. Wallace certainly does, as he originated the role of Sky in the Las Vegas production. His credits include Escamillo in Carmen: The Musical, directed by Franco Dragone, Enjolras in Les Misérables, and Raoul u/s in The Phantom of the Opera.
Interview with Stephanie Bossy
S: Well, welcome back to Las Vegas!
VW: Thank you. It's good to be here.
S: Has the city changed at all since you were last here?
VW: Oh yeah, I mean the skyline is completely different.
S: Has your perception of Vegas changed since you left?
VW: This time around I'll be approaching living in Las Vegas a little more maturely. I kind of stay away from the whole scene on the strip now. Being out on the strip is fun to do, from time to time, not always.
S: Do you have any new places, like restaurants or bars, that you especially like to go around the city?
VW: I especially enjoy a place called Martins it is over in Summerlin. Then there's Mandalay Bay which has a club called Mix. It's kind of a neat spot with the best view. There has been a lot to discover in the city.
S: Besides Mamma Mia! of course, what's your favorite show on the strip?
VW: There are so many! I did enjoy The Phantom of the Opera… the Phantom Spectacular! Also I liked Mistere and Ka. The cirque shows are so interesting and put you in this euphoric state. And I think everyone needs to see Jubilee just because that's old school Las Vegas. It's a slice of the original Vegas.
S: Las Vegas is a city that's pretty well known for "out with the old and in with the new" so it's pretty hard to find something that's preserved like that.
VW: Yeah, definitely.
S: So I've learned that you spent some time in New York in between playing Sky the first time you performed in Mamma Mia! and coming back to play Sam. What were you doing in the meantime when you weren't living and working in Las Vegas?
VW: I toured with the last Broadway touring company of Les Miserables for a little over a year. Then I went to do Franco Dragone's Carmen at the La Jolla Playhouse in La Jolla, California. Carmen is the same story, though not the same music, as the famous Day opera. All new music. But it was incredible to work with them. But I find myself always being pulled back to Vegas. I keep moving toward a warmer climate.
S: According to the show, you've aged quite quickly over the past few years. Do you think that you're ready for this kind of role?
VW: I wasn't sure at first. I was quite surprised when the creatives brought me in to audition for the role. I sort of compared it to when a character in a soap opera leaves the show and then comes back in two or three years as a grown adult. That's kind of the magic of theatre and the magic of being an actor. You present something to the audience and they're willing to go with the story. It has really worked, and I haven't had any opposition to it being believable.
S: This show is so upbeat and energetic. How do you get yourself prepped for such a lively show?
VW: Just in itself, the music, for one. I've always been a fan of ABBA, I know not everyone is. I think people tend to be a fan of the music without knowing they are and if they say that they aren't, they secretly are. (Laughs) It's such a fun, light-hearted show and especially after having done shows like Les Miserables and Phantom, which are such dark shows, it's a change. It's easy for that the light-hearted energy to happen certainly in a show like this, where all the audience response and laughter really feeds the energy. In many ways, it's hard to believe that they actually call this work. It's more like playtime.
S: What about on a bad day? Do you use a lot of coffee to get yourself started?
VW: You know, I always start my morning off with coffee. (Laughs) You know, there are always those evenings where you're human and you'd rather just sit at home and watch TV or whatnot. But it's really not a tough job to do. It's so much fun. And not just the show itself, but the people I work with, the cast is such a great group of people, with such a good energy in the show right now, it's almost like social hour when I got to work. (Laughs) It's sort of ridiculous that I'm getting paid to do this.
S: Definitely. There is a great energy. And as the audience walks out of the theatre, even if they didn't like ABBA when they came in, they're humming the tune or singing the lyrics as they leave.
VW: It's so true. I always think that when the show first opened, wives would drag their husbands and the husbands would be like, "What did you bring me to?" And then at the end, you see the husbands on their feet, clapping and singing along. There's something that goes down during the show that pulls the wool over their eyes I guess.S: How about the Las Vegas audience? What's it like to perform in front of a Las Vegas audience?
VW: It's very unpredictable. Vegas is such a transient town and it so depends on what big convention is in town or whatever else. The demographics change so much that it's hard to really know what night is going to be a really electric audience. Sometimes I feel that the weekend audience is a quieter evening. You never really know what you're going to get. Sometimes we'll start the show and it seems like we're getting a quiet response but by the end of the show they're crazy on their feet. In a way it's fun to not know. I know in other venues, other cities, you can pretty much count on your weekend audience being more lively but here you just never know. It's a big gamble… to be a cliché.
S: Which role do you prefer? Sam or Sky?VW: I'd have to say Sam. Of course if I was in Sky now I'd probably say Sky. (laughs) But it's been a bit more…. A bit more challenging, more rewarding. It's been fun to approach this same show at a different angle. It's a whole new show for me. And I do more I don't know if it's a reflection of the new role I'm playing, I feel more mature.
S: I guess so. How has the show changed besides having several new actors?
VW: I don't
think much has changed. Other than cast… The show has been running for so
long and there have been people who have seen the show so many times. These
people come back again and again. I don't know. It's a formula that's
worked and it's stayed pretty much true to form. Before the show even came
here in 2003, I think the casino wanted a capped version of the show and the
producers were so resistant to tinkering with anything. Why fix something
that's not broken? I think that was really smart on their part. A lot of
people in New York don't realize that our show here in Las
Vegas is the exact same show that you see on Broadway. I think you ask the
question, "Why has it lasted so long?" Well, because it worked.
Yeah it's kind of a sordid love story. It sounds kind of shady, but it's
handled in the show affectionately and tenderly, so it doesn't come off as
trashy as it sounds. I mean a mother being with three different guys and not
knowing who the father is… (Laughs)
VW: I definitely think it will be. Part of me doesn't believe that it will actually close. And I don't say that because I know anything. I'm absolutely the last one to know anything. Actors are the last to know, we're kept out of everything. It will be sad… but well I find it hard to believe that it will close because we do so well, audience-wise. It would be sad to see it leave because it's been such a milestone in Vegas, it's opened the doors to bring these other Broadway shows into Vegas. (Pauses) We'll see what happens.
A Las Vegas native, Stephanie Bossy spends most of her time scheming about how to continue her travels abroad. She is a University of San Diego graduate, where she studied English literature, Spanish, and Philosophy. After college, she obtained her TEFL certificate in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and taught English while writing on her spare time. A longtime Broadway enthusiast, Stephanie is very excited to be a part of BroadwayWorld.com as it allows her to do two of her favorite things: go to theater and write.