Actor and openly gay performer Jordan Vasquez, an Illinois native now living in New York City, is giving Chicago audiences "the old razzle dazzle" in the fabulous musical Chicago.
This dynamically talented performer brings with him past experience in musical theater productions such as Head Over Heels, Cabaret and Sister Actnot to mention his work as a fitness model with his Instagram platform @iamjordan_official.
Chicago is the longest-running American musical in Broadway history and has been honored with six Tony Awards, plus a Grammy. Set during the jazz age, the story satirizes the very American idea of celebrity criminals.
Vasquez spoke on the phone right before a short run of Chicago in the Windy City.
Windy City Times: You are originally from Illinois?
Jordan Vasquez: Yes, a very small-town called Geneseo near the Quad Cities. I was born in Iowa City and we moved around a lot, but Illinois is where I call home now, because that is where my parents are still based.
I was actually in Illinois for the holidays. I spent some time there with my family, [which is] a rarity when out on the road.
WCT: You went to college in Illinois also?
JV: Yes, I went to Illinois Wesleyan University and I graduated in 2015 with a BFA in musical theater. It was a healthy mix of collegiate classes and a conservatory-style theater program. It was pretty intense, but close enough to home to feel far enough away! [laughs]
WCT: What led you to be a performer in life?
JV: I started at age 14 and did community shows within our small town. I really only knew plays and was in the choir. I ran into a friend who was auditioning for a musical theater program. She helped me get started, and after considering six schools, Illinois Wesleyan University felt like my home. It worked out that they wanted me.
WCT: When you began your career, did you ever feel you had to come out of the closet personally?
JV: While going to school, it was important to me to be my true self all of the time. Growing up, that wasn't always an option. Once I got to college, I realized I was accepted for who I was immediately, and didn't have to come out once I was there. It was a great four years of exploring who I was, on how I wanted to present myself to the world.
I am who I am, and I don't hold back. I just hope everyone likes me and what I have to offer.
WCT: What led you to be in the musical Chicago?
JV: To be honest, I didn't have much knowledge of the musical Chicago before the first audition and rehearsal. I knew it had been on Broadway for 25 years at that time and the song "All That Jazz."
I have since immersed myself in it and now it is one of my favorite musicals. When we were on break, I went to see the show on Broadway with a couple of friends. Even after performing in the show so many times, I am still excited to watch it onstage. It has the power to bring people in no matter how many times they have seen it!
WCT: What is different about the version you perform in compared to other versions?
JV: Every version I have seen I have loved for the different nuances, but our show is a much younger cast. We stay true to the text and the choreography, which is just as important as the songs. It is keeping it true, grounded and true to the humanity of every character.
WCT: Is your younger cast able to adjust the musical Chicago for modern audiences?
JV: It is such a perfect show that I don't feel there is much to be adjusted for audiences. I think they will take what they want from it. It will be successful enough that everyone will take something from it when they leave, no matter what age or background.
WCT: So not like the very different, recent interpretation of Oklahoma the musical?
JV: No, definitely not. They totally revamped Oklahoma, but Chicago stays true to what is on Broadway right now. The choreography is the same, but everyone's body is different. We keep it in the world of Bob Fosse but play with what works on our bodies.
WCT: Talk about the various roles you perform for the touring production.
JV: I am part of the ensemble and my features are The Bailiff and The Jury. As The Jury, I get to play six different characters in a five-minute scene. I have a really big winter coat that hides all my different props. I play a blind man, a very rich woman, a classic man looking for a wife, A Greek woman, [and] a kookie man who gets a little handsy sometimes and a drunk!
I remain in that world, but can still play around with all of those characters with some improvisation every night.
WCT: So that means playing with gender?
JV:Absolutely. I use props but ultimately use my body to bring each character to life. I have the opportunity to play two women and I have to say the first one is my favorite! [laughs]
WCT: Why is she your favorite?
JV: She is rich, with a fan and a beautiful headpiece. I get to play into my feminine side a little bit. It is fun!
WCT: Did you watch the FX limited series Fosse/Verdon?
JV: I did and enjoyed it, because I love everything Fosse. It was similar to Netflix's The Crown in the way that we don't actually know what happened, and some of it is make-believe within the real world.
WCT: Is Fosse's choreography taxing on your body to perform?
JV: This is not a particularly challenging show because we are not kicking up to our faces or making high jumps. What is challenging is the specificity of movement and the unique body placement that is not typically done in dance. It is very exciting to watch but tough to execute!
During rehearsal, they told us it is not a show that feels like exercise but is not a normal movement. It can be uncomfortable when you are first learning it and is definitely fun to perform.
WCT: Speaking of body, let's talk about your Instagram postings. Do you work out a lot?
JV: Being on the road and particularly in Chicago, audiences can see every little bit of me onstage, so I try to stay active in the gym. It is something I have always done. I was a gymnast growing up and did it for 10 years. In college, I danced almost every day.
Being physical and moving my body has always been a big part of my life and has never gone away! [laughs]
WCT: How long does the 25th Anniversary Tour of Chicago last?
JV: We just started our rehearsals again today after the break and we go through the end of May. The tour continues in South Korea and then returns to the United States.
WCT: Are you planning on going to South Korea?
JV: I have been thinking about it, but have not made my decision yet. I have a little dog who is currently staying with a sitter and I don't know if I can leave her for that long.
WCT: You can't leave your baby. What is her name?
JV: Her name is Lily and she is a little French bulldog. It was hard to leave her on Sunday, but I am really anxious to get back onstage and perform for audiences around the country!
Join the 25th-anniversary celebration of Chicago at CIBC Theatre, 18 W. Monroe Street, from Jan. 17-29 by purchasing tickets at BroadwayInChicago.com .