Matt DeAngelis :: A Quadruple Threat in ’Once’
Matt DeAngelis is a 28-year-old triple threat: he sings, acts and dances (he even had ballet training). He also has an impressive resume, having performed on Broadway and the West End, as well as national tours of "Hair" (as Woof) and Green Day’s "American Idiot."
But for his role in the surprise 2012 Tony Award winning musical Once, the actor and the rest of the cast had to be able to play their own instruments. (Does this make him a quadruple threat?)
In "Once" DeAngelis plays Svec, a Czech immigrant and roommate to the female lead (known only as Girl), who, he explained, is "always trying to become part of the Irish culture."
The actor was in Chicago, the second-stop of a tour that continues throughout the country through October. (Follow this link to view the cities on the tour.)
"He’s shows off his Irish accent. (He’s a) very excitable character, very silly. But he takes care of his family and cares about the lead character (Girl) and the other Czechs immigrants."
Not that this jumble of European accents came easily. "It was tricky," DeAngelis says, "to master a Czech accent, doing an Irish accent."
The musical is based on an independent Irish film about a disheartened Dublin musician (Boy) about to give up his dreams when he meets a Czech pianist (Girl) and they make bittersweet music together.
Directeed by John Tiffany (who also staged the acclaimed revival of "The Glass Menagerie" currently on Broadway), the musical has a book by Enda Walsh and score by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who won the 2007 Best Song Academy Award for "Falling Slowly."
The musical all but snuck into New York in 2011, opening at the New York Theater Workshop, where it was an immediate sensation. This prompted a move uptown to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre the following February. It was nominated for 11 Tony Awards that season, winning eight (including Best Musical, Best Director and Best Book).
One of the more unique aspects of the staging is that all of the actors double as musicians. DeAngelis plays "guitar, drums, mandolin and banjo.
"It’s the fourth element to juggle, on top of acting, dancing and singing. It’s an added level of difficulty. We’re dancing while were playing and singing. It’s an interesting challenge as an actor to continue on with the storytelling if you play the wrong chord... There are so many moving pieces, you have to keep them all going in the same direction, even if you play a wrong note," he observed.
The authentic flavor of the songs in "Once" attracted DeAngelis immediately, "It something we focused on in rehearsals and it’s very important to us performing it. We’re not doing big, Broadway style acting either. We’re trying to be intimate and honest and tell this compelling story, and the story is very real... about lost love. We’ve all had a situation where we were in love and timing wasn’t right. Life is not about beautiful love stories all the time, things are messy sometimes and don’t always work out."
DeAngelis has previously worked in regional theater around Philadelphia and that it is one of his favorite cities. "We’re hoping to do a jam session during the run in Philly, I know some musicians there. I try use the platform that we have for fundraising and advocacy for gay rights," he said. He originally got involved with the advocacy with his "Hair" co-star Gavin Creel.
"Gavin started Broadway Impact, which is an organization for Marriage Equality in the theater community, so he got me on board. But I’ve always believed that love is love and there should be equality. And personally, in 2010 my sister came out, so I was off to the races with this fight. She has a steady girlfriend and they are kicking ass and taking names. We need to educate the heterosexual community," he said emphatically.
When the versatile Bostonian isn’t performing and stumping for gay rights, be can be seen at Fenway Park in Boston cheering on his hometown team as their "number one Red Sox fan" as he puts it. Will he be available to sing the National Anthem at a Red Sox game, especially if they win the World Series title? "I want to so bad. When I was in high school, I sang it for the Boston Celtics a couple of times. But I never got to do it a Fenway Park and I’m hoping, one day." he said.
Meanwhile, they will have to win the series without him, because he will be on stage at the Academy or singing out for marriage equality at a Philly club.
ONCE runs from Oct. 29 - Nov. 10 at The Academy of Music, Broad and Locust St. Philadelphia, go to www.kimmelcenter.org for more information.