Chase Ramsey, a graduate of Utah Valley University, is the new guy in town.
The “town” is actually New York City, as Ramsey took over a starring role in a Broadway musical in mid-August. He is portraying Elder Arnold Cunningham in “The Book of Mormon.”
“This wasn’t the avenue I thought I would take on Broadway, for sure,” he said.
A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints himself, and a former missionary, in fact, Ramsey acknowledged that the multiple Tony-award-winning play includes aspects that some may consider offensive, but that his character doesn’t compromise Ramsey’s own values.
“The play wasn’t intended to be a commentary on the Mormon church,” he said. “It’s about two guys being thrust into a crazy, dangerous world. It is about developing and growing, finding their testimonies.”
Nevertheless, it is a comedy.
“I am the chubby, funny guy,” he said.
For five years, Ramsey has had a show on the Food Network — “California Dream Eater.” He and his family were comfortable doing that show and living in California. Then a different dream materialized.
“Someone saw me doing a play about six years ago, and still remembered me,” he said. “Somehow, I got set up with my manager and auditioned for the part. It all kind of happened.”
Ramsey plans on taking breaks from his Broadway stint to continue filming his show.
Before Broadway, before television, Ramsey was a theater major at UVU. Many people credit their higher education with laying the foundation for a future career, but Ramsey went one giant step further.
“My time with (former professor) Dave Tinney launched my life,” he said. So much so, in fact that he and his wife are donors to UVU’s program and members of the artistic committee.
“I give a lot of credit to UVU,” he said. “My dream job, once I have done all this and figured it out, is to come back and teach for UVU. I got a B.S. in theater. Let’s get a master’s program one day.”
He credits UVU set designer Steve Purdy for teaching the craft, but also demonstrating how to be a good human being. Lisa Hall Hagen’s classes were a wealth of information, he said.
“UVU is truly a hidden gem,” he said. “The biggest thing I learned from all these people is that we create our own destiny. We open up doors and make pathways for ourselves. Even if we go out in the world and are uncomfortable, we can be creative and do what we need to do.”
Many of his UVU peers were so much more talented than he, Ramsey said. One thing that helped him stand out was that he learned to be a hustler. “I am a person who goes out and gets it,” he said. “I work as hard as I can.
“UVU gave me a whole lot of heart,” he said. “They instilled confidence in me to trust my story, my person. No program could have done that for me like UVU did that for me.”
He has also enjoyed training he has received in New York.
“There are other perks,” he said. “One is having Liz Caplan as a vocal coach. They pay for me to go work with her. I am definitely an actor before I am a singer.”
When he was doing the television show, they had no plans to pursue anything on Broadway.
“We really weren’t looking for it,” he said. “We were a day away from moving to a new apartment in LA. We were definitely Western people.”
But they are becoming Easterners, at least part-way.
“Yesterday, we walked to the Museum of Natural History,” he said. “Two blocks from our house is Central Park, which is just beautiful. There are so many things here we are going to take advantage of.”
One distinct disadvantage, however, is the price of housing.
They moved from a seven-bedroom place into a three-bedroom apartment with 1,000 square feet, for which they pay $3,500 a month, plus utilities, and have to walk up one floor.
“I think the biggest change for me is that New York City is such a different world,” he said. “You have to experience it to know it. It is insane.”
Just one more thing for him to tackle.