Meet Emile DeBeque!
South Pacific Profile: Veteran actor Nicholas Greanias makes his Summer Place debut
Nick Greanias is proud and delighted to have the opportunity to portray Emile de Becque. Nick actually lived and served for three years in the South Pacific, as U.S. Consul General in New Zealand, also covering Samoa, the Cook Islands, and lots of other historic places in a huge oceanic territory that includes the islands of this show! He totalled 30 years of federal service, nine as an Army Judge Advocate General's Corps captain and major, and then 21 years as a State Department diplomat.
Now he is a Greek Orthodox priest, and pastor of Annunciation parish in Kankakee, Ill. He also teaches American Foreign Policy at Loyola University. He says (and clearly believes) he is proudest and happiest as husband of Mary and father of twin sons Johnny and Teddy.
Nick came to musical theatre rather late in life, but is as hooked as anybody. He has performed in nine countries and 15 states, and likes the old stuff best.
South Pacific opens on June 7!
Get your tickets here
QUESTION: Who or what inspired you to start doing theater?
NICHOLAS GREANIAS: I was in the Army as a JAG prosecutor near a big city, burned-out big-time and looking for something, when I went and saw an extraordinary production of A Man for All Seasons. I was emboldened to try out for that group's next three shows, and got hooked. In short order I was in The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, and Julius Caesar, my first shows ever at age 30. In my next posting, I even did South Pacific, a skinny Army captain playing Seaman Tom O'Brien.
Q: What was the musical that had you fall in love with musicals?
NG: If you'll forgive this little odyssey: First, my sainted mother and I used to love watching The King and I on TV. It's the only musical I remember seeing in those early years, when I didn't really know what American musicals were.
Then in seventh grade, we had a variety show at school and four pretty classmates dressed in blue jeans, white blouses, and straw hats, and danced to an original soundtrack recording of the title song of Oklahoma. I didn't know anything like that even existed! I went to the Goldblatt's near my father's restaurant, and bought the soundtrack recording, listening to it over and over and memorizing the notes on the orange album cover: I treasured it and have it still, a prized possession.
And then, as a freshman in college, our Men's Glee Club went to New York City for some concerts. I stayed over and went to a Wednesday matinee of 1776, sitting in the second balcony for $3.30. William Daniels came on stage as John Adams and said: "I have come the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace....and by God, I have had this Congress!" I was completely and utterly transfixed. I didn't want to leave the theatre: they actually had to throw me out.
Finally, that same year, the movie of My Fair Lady was re-released. I had never seen it. I went and beheld perfection. I returned five times, the last three showings on the same day, ten hours straight. I enjoyed the last one as much or more than the first, and saw new things each time. And Audrey Hepburn! I think that is the greatest musical of them all, and a rare example of the movie being as good as the play.
There are lots of other indelible flashbacks and seminal shows, but these stand out in my boyish memories. These shows, and these people - the authors and composers and actors and singers and dancers and musicians - are a gift from God. The miracle of the American musical fills a gap in my life from time to time when I need it most. I guess that is true for hosts and hosts of us, and probably for most of us who have come together to recreate South Pacific.
Q: What is the favorite role(s) you've ever played?
NG: I have been lucky to be in the right place at the right time often. My favorite roles have all been a huge privilege to try to play: Tevye, Don Quixote, Henry Higgins, John Adams, the King of Siam. Those five are about equal in my heart. And I must add, in Brigadoon I played Tommy and met Fiona, and married her in real life, my wonderful wife Mary. So I should probably list that first!
Q: What is the dream role you still want to play?
NG: I'd like to play Javert in Les Miserables. I was cast in it while living in New Zealand, but had to drop out early as my dad was ill in the United States. I'd surely like another chance.
Q: What is the most challenging part of bringing this story to life?
NG: I want to be completely honest: Jorge (Bermudez) is such an inspiring director that I just hope I can meet the challenge of matching his vision. I have already learned as much or more from him than I have from any director, ever. There is also the challenge of meeting the audience expectations on Emile's two iconic songs. Our equally gifted music director Emma (Gingold) is helping me with those with skill and understanding. I'll do my best.
Q: Do you have any performance superstitions?
NG: Not really. I usually sing some energetic Gilbert-and-Sullivan music to rev me up.
Q: If someone was going to make your life into a movie, who would you want to play you?
NG: Gee, seems kinda presumptuous of me. Anyhow, my favorite old actors are mostly all dead - Spencer Tracy, Dean Jagger, Walter Pidgeon, Paul Muni, Gary Cooper, Frederic March, on and on. They all brought something individual to their roles. For instance, I loved Dean Jagger's earnestness. My three favorites today - at least those that come to mind - are ones that are always showing something truly interesting in their portrayals: Jeremy Irons, Mandy Patinkin, and Denzel Washington. Honest casting however would probably compel me to say that Michael Constantine - the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding - should play me.
Q: What do you do when you’re not doing theater?
NG: I like almost everything - to paraphrase Alfie Doolittle - "...in this 'ere planet...full of all its wonders and marvels." I especially like to introduce and to share the things that I love with my friends and with other people as well, and make them love them too: sort of a Pygmalion complex, I must admit.
Q: Which character from South Pacific would you most like to have dinner with and why?
NG: Billis for sure. I like projects too.
Q: Why should people come see this production of South Pacific?
NG: It's a masterpiece, of a genre not performed often enough anymore, and a great cast and directors. I think we'll acquit ourselves honorably in attempting it. I believe people will be glad they came.
Come see Nick and the rest of this talented cast when South Pacific opens on June 7!
Learn more about our production here Get your tickets here