Q&A: 'BLAST!' performer Jason Moncrief

Tennessee Performing Arts Center's first production of the new season, BLAST!, will be presented Sept. 27 - Oct. 2.

Born on athletic fields across the nation, BLAST! is a novel art form evolved from the showmanship of outdoor pageantry. A celebration of movement and music, BLAST! explodes the genre with the artistry of the theatre. BLAST! is musical spectacle; it is music in motion.

“BLAST! is wholesome, family entertainment that crosses cultures and generations,” said Kathleen O’Brien, President and Chief Executive Officer. “The musical talent, athleticism and high energy of the young performers is breathtaking. This show is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, celebrating an American tradition in the same way Riverdance stages Irish dance and Stomp plays with percussion. Everyone has a great time!”

Jason Leon Moncrief began to tour with the Broadway show after graduating from Youngstown State University in 2002. The musician and theater performer has been involved with both BLAST! and BLAST II as a tuba soloist, traveling to England and Japan among other stops on an international tour.

Moncrief, now a New York City resident, speaks with Out & About Newspaper about his life as a traveling performer.

Will this be your first time to Nashville?

When I was in college, I came here for a conference, but I didn't get to see the city much. I don't remember much about it since we were only there for a weekend. But I know that it's a beautiful place: the music is great and the culture is great. I'm looking forward to seeing all these things.

Tell us about your particular role in the production.

In this production, I play the tuba and do percussion. It's an interesting show when you see that everybody does a little bit of everything. That's the beauty of it all. You get to do a lot of quirky, silly things. There's lots of movement. It's because it brings instrumentalists on stage, talking them out of the pits and putting them at the forefront. You get to communicate a lot of emotions through the movements and through our faces. That's what's most special and makes it universal. You don't have to speak English to understand. It reaches out to a lot of different people.

What's the one thing that might surprise people about this production?

The most surprising thing is how much we do. It's a true theatrical event; it's a unique genre in itself. The fact that we don't speak except for a small section of the show means we have to communicate through motions. It keeps you intrigued and makes you pay attention. Your eyes can be drawn to different places. It takes you through the story and you can follow along with that story, but you can interpret in your own way what we're trying to give musically.

What's your typical day like before a performance?

On a normal show day, you want to eat something healthy and fulfilling. We start with a warm-up. We're different from traditional theaters because our call time is usually a couple hours before the show. We have to come in and warm up and stretch, and there's a longer prep time. You have to do different things personally to prepare, and then you come together as a group and run through things.

What have been your favorite travel experiences?

It's always good to travel through the US. We (as Americans) always aspire to go other places, but there are so many beautiful places in the United States. This is my first US tour since 2003. I would say my favorite place is Japan. It's so beautiful. I've climbed Mt. Fuji and gotten to experience the culture. My favorite place in the US would be Montana. I'm sort of an outdoorsy person and out there you're surrounded by the Native American people and get to be submersed in their culture, and it's such a beautiful culture.

In just a few words, make your last sales pitch to potential audience members.

It's exciting and it's high-energy, and not your traditional show. You don't have to be silent. We interact with the audience. It's lots of entertainment and lots of fun, and it's a family production. You begin to people you get to meet and people you get to perform with. You just cherish the moments, and you always have to keep it moving. You have to stay humble and stay in a good place.

Winner of the 2001 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event, and the 2001 Emmy Award for Best Choreography, BLAST! kicks off HCA/TriStar Broadway at TPAC 2011-12 Season. It will play Sept. 27 - Oct. 2 at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Jackson Hall. Performance times are as follows: Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m and 6:30 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $25-$67 and are available at the TPAC box office at 505 Deaderick Street (downtown) or the new Satellite box office in the Mall at Green Hills, located at the mall’s concierge desk, near J. Crew and Express. Order online by visiting tpac.org or by calling 615-782-4040.

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