Former Penn State student George Vickers V stars in national tour of A BRONX TALE
George Vickers V may be embarking on his first Broadway tour, but he is no stranger to a life of performing and traveling. He recently returned to the United States after working for fifteen months at Universal Studios Japan, where he performed in various shows across the park’s venues.
The overseas opportunity was ideal for Vickers, who is passionate about performing and experiencing new cultures.
“Japan is a beautiful country with a beautiful culture, and I enjoyed the chance to immerse myself in that culture, even becoming conversational in Japanese,” Vickers says. “Having a job while in Japan gave me the means and access to travel all over Asia.”
Vickers, who attended Penn State for several years, will return to the University on October 30 when A BRONX TALE makes its State College debut at Eisenhower Auditorium.
The musical is based on the life of Chazz Palminteri, who wrote and performed in the original one-man, Off-Broadway play of the same title in 1989. While the musical is inspired by true events, Vickers does not feel any added pressure.
“I recently got to meet Chazz in the Bronx and tour his hometown. He shared how the musical’s script is so polished at this point that the story tells itself, so the pressure is taken off of the actors,” Vickers says. “The idea and heart of the story naturally come through.”
The musical is set between 1960 and 1968 in the Bronx, where the main character, Calogero, is torn between his father and the mob boss who mentors him. The show also touches on interracial love, as Calogero, who is white, falls for Jane, an African-American friend, in a racially divided neighborhood.
“A BRONX TALE, in a nutshell, is Jersey Boys meets West Side Story. It’s a show about fathers and sons, love, underdogs, and above all else: family,” Vickers says. “It’s a story anybody can connect to with the focus on family and being torn between potential and desires—something people in college are dealing with. Everyone is learning about themselves and what it means to be a person.”
Vickers admires his character, Tyrone, who is Jane’s brother in the musical.
“He’s a brother trying to protect his own, living in a time when racial divides are stark and bold—rather similar to today,” he says. “His motivation is protecting his family. He’s a strong character who stands up for what he believes in, and I really respect that.”
Vickers says he is grateful to be a part of a show connected to award-winning stars—Oscar, Tony, and Grammy winner Alan Menken, who wrote the music; and Oscar winner Robert De Niro, who adapted the original one-man play into a 1993 film and co-directed the musical.
The actor says he also looks forward to being on the road to “experience more cultures because that’s where my passion lays, and performing provides that opportunity.”
From Universal Studios Japan to a national Broadway tour of America, Vickers’ journey shows there is more than one path to success in the theatre world. His experiences inform the advice he shares for upcoming theatre graduates.
“Keep an open mind. There are a lot of different ways to work in this industry. Broadway is amazing—I assume—but there are so many opportunities you probably don’t realize are available,” he says. “You can work just about anywhere, doing any content. It’s really an industry to explore who you are and who you want to be, so have an open mind to take advantage of any opportunity.”
Jessica Sensenig, a recent Penn State graduate, is a feature writer for the Center for the Performing Arts.