Conducted by South Hill Park’s former CEO, Ron McAllister, we take a look back through Vinny’s career in the West End to his start on the Wilde Theatre stage.
1. Hi Vinny! Congratulations on your run in Les Misérables in the West End, and the tour of Miss Saigon. What a fantastic start to your career! You are visiting practically every major city in the country over the course of the next year or so: how is life on the road so far?
I absolutely loved my time at the Queen’s whilst in Les Misérables! You can’t beat being in Central London, there’s such a great atmosphere within the West End itself, I never thought it would become a reality. Having only just begun my journey with the Miss Saigon family, I have to say I am loving every second of being on the road. I am incredibly lucky to be able to work under Cameron’s Office again and working with the creatives who work in such fine detail. Everyone’s been brought together because they are working at the top of their game and the camaraderie within the cast and creatives is that of a family. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the big cities of the UK. Leicester and Curve has been such a beautiful venue to open in and has given us the perfect place to create something which I think is extremely special.
2. What is it about Miss Saigon that makes it so special?
I think the issues which the piece deals with are incredibly precious currently with everything that is happening in the world and I truly believe Miss Saigon offers an evening full of thought and history which shows that regardless of how far we’ve moved in time, there are problems which we haven’t dealt with as a human race. It gives the audience a chance to watch the realism of the Vietnam War from their seats, focusing on aspects of the war itself and how life was in Vietnam during this time. Each scene is so precisely crafted by the creatives and cast combined because the story has to be told truthfully due to the events being real, it’s just one tiny segment of what happened during the Fall of Saigon. From a personal point of view, I have fallen in love with the combination of how the two cultures have bonded during the rehearsal period, the show has bought a collection of people from across the world together to tell this story. That is a truly special power which I believe sets this show apart from the rest because each member of the company is 100% invested in the production and the message we are trying to express.
3. How did your interest in Musical Theatre begin?
I’d always loved singing from an early age, I loved all types of music from Motown to Elvis, Musical theatre to U2. I grew up surrounded by great music and I never lost the passion for it. As I’m sure we all did, I started locally, at my Bracknell primary school Fox Hill in school productions. I then got involved with SHP for the first time for the community production of Fab, Fab, Fab: it was my first experience of being on stage in front of a paying audience and even though I was only 7 or 8, I loved the feeling of being on stage which has never left me since.
4. When did you first fall in love with South Hill Park and what do you miss about the venue?
It has to be doing the Pantomimes! I was in three, Cinderella (2006-2007), Aladdin (2007-2008) and Beauty & the Beast (2008-2009). It never ceased to amaze me how professional the productions were, there’s very few theatres in the country which offer such detail in every aspect of performance from the direction and performance quality to the unbelievable sets and overall standard of production value for the audiences. There was a clear desire to achieve something special every time I performed at the Wilde Theatre. Everyone in the South Hill Park building was always loving, caring and supportive and could never do enough to make sure we felt valued as performers and individuals. It’s very rare to see one building with the ability to bring a community together.
5. How important was South Hill Park to your early career development?
It was at South Hill Park where I began to really want to pursue Musical Theatre and started to push myself to see what I could achieve. I worked with actors such as Paul Taylor and Hayden Oakley, creatives such as Auriole Wells, Ron McAllister and Bart Lee, whose CV’s speak for themselves. Working with people who wanted to achieve the best from everything they set their minds to, rubbed of very quickly on myself. I got used to working in a professional environment and loved the feeling of achieving something special. Every time I was on the stage at the Wilde Theatre, I engrained the feeling of wanting to make each performance my best, as though every show was my last and that has been something which has never left my mind throughout my career journey so far!
6. Tell me about your training route into the profession
I began building repertoire at my Amateur Dramatics Group – Platform Young Professionals, run by Tracey Eley. She helped me build confidence in my singing, acting and dancing. I also took private singing lessons alongside the classes there, where I began to learn about singing technique. I then auditioned for the National Youth Theatre, and managed to get onto their Youth Summer Course at Rose Bruford College, which is when I really started to work with industry professionals and creatives, I learnt a lot about the art of improvisation and straight theatre. We finished the week by performing The Flood outside the National Theatre in London. Having studied BTEC Performing Arts at Strode’s College, Egham. I decided that I wanted to try auditioning for Drama Schools. I auditioned at Arts Educational Schools, London, and instantly fell in love with the building, the atmosphere and the staff. Luckily enough I was offered a place on their 3 Year Musical Theatre Degree Course. I can honestly say it was the most exciting and valuable experience I have been through, I changed as a person and performer with their guidance. I would recommend to any performer if you want a place to go and hone your skills and become the best trainee actor you can be, you should audition for Arts Ed. It’s an extremely special building which I will hold fondly in my heart forever. A special mention to Chris Hocking who works wonders for that school!
7. How did you land your roles in Les Misérables and Miss Saigon?
I was very lucky to audition for Les Misérables having still been at Arts Ed and was even luckier to be recalled through four rounds, and after being offered the job. Each round was a mixture of singing my own repertoire and material from the show, going in and giving the performance which you feel best suits each character you are portraying and then making sure you listen and attempt to take the notes on board from the panel as quickly as possible. It was slightly different with Miss Saigon because when I went to audition for the show, I knew a few more people on the panel so I was able to relax slightly more and enjoy the process. Again I auditioned through three rounds, before being offered the job just before Christmas 2016 which was an amazing Christmas gift! I’ve been extremely lucky and will keep working hard and learning from each day of auditions and/or working.
8. What were the challenges of working in the West End and how does it differ from touring?
I think for actors it’s very similar, whether you’re in town or touring because you have eight shows each week. When you’re a performer in any show, especially Cameron’s shows there’s an extremely high level of performance needed, so you have to look after your body and your voice like an athlete. It’s tough but incredibly rewarding at the end of each evening. I think the big difference with being in town and tour, is the fact that I’m away from the family and loved ones, being on the road for a year means you’re away from home and constantly moving. We are lucky enough with Miss Saigon because we are in most venues for more than a month so we can settle slightly in each city. I don’t think there’s any massive challenges because we get to do what we love every day and are very lucky to be able to do so!
9. So what’s next for you?
I am very lucky to be where I am right now, I wouldn’t have dreamed of having these experiences in my career, let alone one after the other, so for the moment I’m just focusing on doing a good job in Miss Saigon. I’m also covering the lead role of Chris, so I’m working hard to make sure I can make the most of this incredible opportunity. I do have productions which I would love to do in the future, Phantom of the Opera, Book of Mormon & Next to Normal to name a few but I’ve always said work for today and never tomorrow! So who knows what’s to come next but that’s exciting!
10. Finally, could we see you back at South Hill Park soon?
I would absolutely love to come back and perform at South Hill Park! I owe South Hill Park and the people there a lot! Watch this space!