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Q&A with Lucas Grabeel

417-land's Hollywood star Lucas Grabeel looks back at how his time with Springfield Little Theatre shaped his career as he prepares to perform on stage at Landers Theatre again this Friday.

By Jo Jolliff

Aug 2022

Lucas Grabeel
Courtesy Springfield Little TheatreA Kickapoo High School graduate, Lucas Grabeel has found success on the big screen with roles in High School Musical, Halloweentown, Switched at Birth, Family Guy and more.

417 Magazine: Tell me about your life growing up in Springfield?

Lucas Grabeel: I'd say growing up in Springfield was pretty Norman Rockwell. I lived out in nowhere when I was really young. I had a lot of space to roam and grew up in the woods, which I loved. At a very early age found out that performing was something that I really wanted to do. At career day at school, they had someone from the Landers Theatre come out and talk about performance, singing, dancing and acting. And I was like, “Oh, I wanna try that.” 

So I went and signed up for some classes and that was kind of it. I just decided right then and there, that's what I wanted to do. And then it was just a full shift from playing sports and doing things at school to spending all of my time down at the Landers theater learning as much as I could before I graduated high school. Then I packed up the car and drove out to Los Angeles. 

417: What advice would you give to young singers and actors performing on the same stages you grew up practicing on? 

L.G.: You know, I think being a sponge is the best piece of advice that I was given when I was younger. A lot of times, especially in the arts, you have a certain skill set that you need to learn, but the other thing that you need to focus on is your personal connection to that ability. Being able to express yourself and tell your story through your art is what makes you an artist. 

When learning you can't shy away from any other knowledge, you want to be able to soak it all in. As an actor, you never know what people are gonna ask you to do, everything from horseback riding to carpentry. The more knowledge that you have, the better of an artist you're going to be and you'll to be able to pull from experiences and perceptions that you've gained to make your story or your expression that much more poignant and relatable to your audience. 

417: How did your early performances and work at Landers Theatre help prepare and shape you for the future? 

L.G.: Landers is all about teaching. Especially back when I was there, it was about learning every aspect of the theater. If you wanted to be a performer, that's fine, but you needed to learn how the theater works and everything from working in the office to down at the box office, taking tickets, being an usher, sweeping floors and hanging lights.

We worked tech hours, office hours and we performed not only on the main stage but on the streets of Walnut for Cider Days and Arts Fest, as well as at nursing homes and different parties and events. We were really gaining that experience and perception of what it looks like from every angle which really taught me how to appreciate what so many other people do. 

It's not just one person that puts together any sort of production or piece, so to have that respect for everyone involved is incredibly important. You can be grateful for the team that you have and then you become a family and you support one another and then whatever you're making tends to be better. I was really fortunate to be able to be thrown into the Landers with such freedom to be able to go and see all of these different facets and the gears and pulleys and how everything worked from every angle and be able to put it all together and then perform.

417: How does it feel to be back in town and soon-to-be back on the Landers Theatre stage? 

L.G.: I still have family here so I come back pretty often. It's always a different experience, you know, sometimes I'm just focused on visiting with family, sometimes it's more about seeing friends. The majority of times that I come back, I usually don't hang out around town that much and that's changed this trip for sure. One, because I've been here longer than I normally stay and two, because of putting this show together.

It all started with me coming to surprise the kids who were putting on High School Musical Junior. It was such a great, serendipitous moment that they happened to be putting it on when I was in town and surprising them was just really special and cute. They were so excited and it was really fun to be able to chat with them for a minute before they went on stage for their first time.

And, you know, something special happens every time I go on that stage. So many memories and nostalgia flood back and I think about all of the lessons and the fun times. And I just was like, “I gotta do something. I need to get back on the stage.” Normally I don't have time to put something like this together, but this trip I do.

So we immediately started putting things together and figuring out what it was going to be. I talked with Beth Doman who basically rolled out the red carpet for me and said that anything I wanted I could have. It was just incredibly sweet and everyone at the theater has just been so helpful and just going out of their way to make me feel like I'm home and I'm welcome.

They're eager to help me put on the best show that I can. It's so touching, it's just really, really sweet. You know, it's always a weird feeling coming home. I get recognized more here in Missouri than I do in Los Angeles, for sure not as many celebrities around here, but whenever I walk into the Landers all of that goes away and I just go back to all of those memories and experiences that I had on that stage. 

It just takes me back to this safe place. I was a weird kid when I was growing up and being a weird, emotional, theatrical kid in Missouri in the ‘90s was not easy and I didn't always feel accepted and appreciated. But going to Springfield Little Theater was safe and I could be with other weirdos who were just like me. It was such a magical place, a playground, a church and a home. All of those feelings of support and love just come flooding back to me whenever I go back. I always feel safe when I go there, which is just a really nice feeling. 

417: What can fans look forward to hearing at your show this Friday? 

L.G.: I'm gonna be singing some Broadway show tunes, some Disney songs—maybe some high school musical songs—and then I'm gonna be singing a lot of original music as well. 

I have a great band of local musicians that are backing me up. It's gonna be a night of fun. It's gonna be laid back, but I'm trying to deliver the best hour and a half of music that I can muster.

I really am trying to make something that is gonna be fun for everybody. There's gonna be a little bit of everything and I'm gonna be sharing lots of stories about moving away to Los Angeles and a little bit of what life has been like in Hollywood with some fun anecdotes of being on set and experiences that I've had out there.

417: How can our readers purchase tickets or partake in the VIP experience? 

L.G.: There are three different tickets that you can purchase for this show. You can just go to see the show live at the Landers. Or you can then add on to that ticket with the VIP experience after the show for a meet-and-greet that we're gonna do. 

Then the third ticket you can purchase will be a streaming ticket if you can't make it or you're out of town and you'd still like to see the show. All of that is available at Springfield Little Theater’s website.

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