April 27, 2010
By Michael Mellini

In the past decade, Tony Vincent has gone from one rocking show to another. Following a stint as Mark in Rent, he won raves as Judas Iscariot in the 2000 Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, then created the role of Galileo in London’s smash Queen musical We Will Rock You, later traveling to Vegas with the show. Now, after years of touring with his own music, Vincent is back on Broadway as magnetic drug dealer St. Jimmy in American Idiot. He recently chatted with about working with Green Day, performing at the Grammys and getting in touch with his villainous side.

After appearing in so many rock musicals, you must feel right at home in American Idiot.
TV: I do. I think this brings a new genre of rock 'n' roll to theater. [Green Day] is a legitimate punk band and American Idiot is one of the best rock records ever recorded. It feels comfortable to me because this is the world I was raised in. I did a lot of theater growing up, but rock 'n' roll as a genre was always where my work was based.

What were your initial thoughts about the show?
TV: I was skeptical! But because of the creative team involved, you have to trust that if the band handed [the album] to them, there’s a certain amount of credibility. On the back-end, I’m dumbfounded, almost nightly. I think it’s amazingly groundbreaking.

In Superstar you played Judas and now you’re the sinister drug dealer St. Jimmy. Are you drawn to playing villains?
TV: I certainly like playing them. You get a chance to exorcise a lot of ghosts in roles that tend to be a bit dark. What's cool about this character is that he doesn't have to be one-dimensional. If you make the bad guy enticing and dangerous, that's where the excitement of playing the role really kicks in. I don’t get to do that in my normal day-to-day life. Life is too taxing to go to those dark places.

Does going to those dark places every night take a toll on you?
TV: Sometimes, but I’m drawn to dark characters, and to things that are really weighty. A lot of the characters I’ve played have had some sort of deep self-torment, but maybe that’s just who Tony Vincent is [laughs].

So, are your dark places similar to those of St. Jimmy?
TV: I see a lot of similarities between me and Johnny [the character played by John Gallagher Jr.] and his trouble—if he’s going to allow the dark side to overtake him or if he can keep his head on straight and find the good things in life.

Are you enjoying being in a show with your wife [swing Aspen Vincent]?
TV: It’s fantastic. What’s great is that we’re good enough friends that we don’t really get sick of each other. This is the third show we’ve done together—we go to work together and go home together, so something in our relationship must be working.

What’s it like sporting St. Jimmy’s half-shaved-head haircut outside of the theater?
TV: I just went to lunch with a friend, and six people who’d seen the show stopped me on the street. I think I’m going to have to get a stocking cap or something.

Working on Rent, you must’ve had met the show’s devoted “Rentheads.” What do you think die-hard American Idiot fans should be named?
TV: The Idiots! We as a cast call ourselves that.

What’s the audience reaction been like? Green Day fans don’t necessarily seem like frequent musical theatergoers.
TV: It’s been off the hook! That’s what surprised us most. We thought we’d get a lot of Green Day fans who dug the show, but we’re having people who are their parents’ age, and even older fans’ kids who are coming to see the show and completely loving it.

It must have been a thrill to perform with Green Day at the Grammys.
TV: The fact that they invited us to share the stage with them is a very humbling, awesome opportunity that any singer would give their right arm for. I don’t know of another stage cast that has performed on the Grammys.

You’ve now done shows based on the music of Queen and Green Day. Are there any other musicians you’d like to bring to the stage?
TV: I think some records need to remain records and not stories that are told on a platform like this. I can’t imagine [Radiohead’s] OK Computer on the stage, for example. But I’m all onboard with any project where the songwriters are involved and endorse the show. You really need that support to create something that’s authentic and true.

Finally, you’re playing a character named St Jimmy at the St. James Theatre… coincidence?
TV: I think they should rename the theater the St. Jimmy!