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Actor, singer, Springfield area native Lucas Grabeel to give concert at Landers Theatre

Lucas Grabeel and Penny
Lucas Grabeel with his dog Penny at KSMU

The concert will start at 8 p.m. Friday, August 12.

Michele: "I'm talking today with actor, singer, director and producer Lucas Grabeel who's from Springfield and who is in town getting ready to put on a performance at the Landers Theatre tomorrow night. Lucas, thanks for stopping by."

Lucas: "Thank you so much for having me."

Michele: "You've had a really successful acting career so far. You've done numerous voices for animated series and still do, roles in the "Halloweentown" tv movies. You were Laurie in the 2018 film, "Little Women" and many more, but made you widely known was your role as Ryan Evans in the wildly popular "High School Musical" tv movies, which was a worldwide sensation. How did you get that role?"

Lucas: "I moved out to LA when I was 18. I did get some really instant success with booking a few commercials and then even my first Disney Channel movie, "Halloweentown," within being in LA for five months, and then it kind of dried up for a little while and I was like really struggling and then, you know, this audition came along. It was like untitled high school musical project, and it was an audition like anything else and, yeah, I wasn't very confident that I was going to book it at all, but I got the call and went out to Utah for five weeks and, yeah, had an amazing time, and little did we all know that it was going to become what it did."

Michele: "What was it like to part of such a successful production?"

Lucas: "I've been to around 30 countries, and there hasn't been a single country that I've been to and I haven't been recognized. It's a really weird shift in existence and perception to go through that change, which was shocking and scary at first, and I didn't think that I deserved it, but, over time, what's really helped not only accept what happened with that but accepting what my role is in being an artist and being in the industry is when I hear stories from these people all over the world that tell me how "High School Musical" or another project that I was a part of helped them through something or brightened their day or inspired them to sing and dance or to go towards some endeavor that they wouldn't have had before. That's a great honor and responsbility, and I'm just touched every time that it happens now, and I'm reminded of how fortunate and special being a part of that project was."

Michele: "And you said you didn't feel like you deserved it. What do you mean by that?"

Lucas: "Well, coming from a small town to the big city of Los Angeles I thought, 'ok. This is going to be a very long period of time where I'm going to have to work my way up and slowly get the bit parts and the commercials and then maybe a television series and then maybe a small part in a movie and then, you know,' and never thinking that I was going to be famous or known or anything. And so, it went from nothing to everything within two months of that movie coming out—I went from my tiny hole-in-the-wall apartment to being whisked away to New York City and being on Good Morning America and all of these, you know, crazy PR shows and, you know, just like madness and people screaming and just mobbing us and having to enter buildings through the kitchens and having military police escorts in South America. And when we went on tour it was nuts. We were selling out arenas all across the country, and it was like Beetle mania. It was nuts."

Michele: "How did you adjust to that because that's a huge adjustment. I mean, your life does a 180 basically?"

Lucas: "Yeah, and also happening to all of us at such a young age. That's really what was the scariest part to me. I feel like if it would've happened to me now, I would've had a much more objective point of view towards a lot of it and been able to take a step back. But, when you're that young and susceptible—and, yes, I wanted to have success. I wanted to work a lot, but then you get all of these opportunities thrown at you and all of these people everyday, all day, telling you how amazing you are, it gets to be really confusing and cloudy and—who do you trust? Who's actually telling you the truth and who's actually just trying to get something from you or whatever? It's a mine field, and I was not prepared for it. I don't think any of us were. But, I'm so incredibly grateful that it happened because now, going through that, I just have—one, been able to live through something that—and view the world from a point of view that so few people get to, as scary as that might be, but also, like, just the experience and how much life I got to live in that short period of time."

Michele: "So, from there, you know, you've had several roles. You've done a lot of voice acting as I said. What do you like best and what are you doing now—most of?"

Lucas: "Doing voice over for cartoons is definitely something I've been working on for a long time, but it's really become my favorite. I mean, I love making films and movies, and, you know, I've only been in one television series as a series regular, but that was a lot of fun, too, having something that was more consistent and regular, but, man, I think the best job in the world is working in automation. The stakes are different. The people—it's not such a rat race comparatively to the film world and the on camera things. It's just a lot more...I think the animation world's more accepting, more creative, even more weirdos (laughs), and there's just nothing better than going in a studio and making silly voices for a few hours and calling that your job. It's so fun."

Michele: "And I think there's a whole lot more chance to use your acting abilities because you do have to adapt to so many situations."

Lucas: "It's a completely different skill set knowing you have to visualize the scene instead of, you know, put yourself in it with the costumes or the people that you're interacting with you have to do it all in your imagination whether you're talking really close to someone or (yells) 'hey, come back here' throwing your voice and all that kind of stuff. Plus, there's so many characters that I've been able to play in animation that I would not physically look the role for, and I've played old people, babies, everyone in between, women, men, aliens, hot dogs, horses...all sorts of animals, you know, so many things that wouldn't happen onscreen."

Michele: "Do you sing much anymore because you're a great singer, too. Is that part of your career still?"

Lucas: "Oh yeah. With animation, I'm constantly singing in a lot of the shows that I do, and during the pandemic I spent a lot of time writing new music. I never really stopped, but ever since I was a kid I've been playing different musical instruments and writing music, but, yeah, you know, with a lot more free time and a lot more things happening in the world, you know, there was a lot more time to focus on music, so it's been great. I always loved music, and I'm always going to be singing."

Michele: "You grew up in the Springfield area—graduated from Kickapoo High School. What and who during that time helped lead you to a career in acting?"

Lucas: "So many people really. Springfield Little Theatre was my home away from home. A refuge, if you will. At Kickapoo, there were definitely some great teachers and peers of mine that supported me, but, you know, it's high school, and there was a lot of ridicule, and I was definitely the weird one and outcast in a lot of ways. People knew who I was because I was, you know, really active in student council and choir the theatre program, but that doesn't necessarily mean I was very well liked (laughs), which was fine, you know, because after school I would go to the Landers and see my family—my chosen family—of people who were more like me and very accepting and super creative and artistic, and that was where I hung my hat, you know. Beth Doman, now the executive director at Springfield Little Theatre—she was one of my main mentors growing up. I saw her come to my school at Rogersville for career day and talk about acting and comedy, and I was like, 'that's what I want to do. That sounds great.' And, she put me in a performing troupe called YES Troupe when I was in eighth grade or so and just taught me so much. Mick Denniston, he was the executive director at the time at the theatre, was another amazing mentor and was the first person to tell me, 'hey, I see a lot of talent. I see a lot of kids coming through here, and there's something called the X factor, and you have it, and I really hope that you pursue this, and, if it weren't for that I don't know that I really would have pursued it as hard as I did."

Michele: "You're going to give a concert at the Landers Theatre Friday night (August 12). What can we expect?"

Lucas: "I'm trying to put together a concert that's going to be fun for everybody, so, yeah, bring the whole family. I'm going to be singing some of my favorite Disney songs—maybe some "High School Musical" songs—I don't know. We might start something new, I don't know. We are all in this together at the end of the day. And also some other Disney songs that I grew up singing and that are just, you know, close to my heart as well as a bunch of original music, so, yeah, there'll be kind of a ,mixture of everything, plus, I'm going to be telling a lot of stories from my time at Landers to, you know, being out in Hollywood and being on set and probably taking some questions. It's going to be a great, fun night. It'll be laid back, but it'll still be action-packed."

Lucas Grabeel will give a concert Friday, August 12, at 8 p.m. at the Landers Theatre. For tickets, visit springfieldlittletheatre.org.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.