It’s not Broadway, but for Victoria Lynn Socci, Peoria is still pretty exciting.
That’s Peoria, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, where the 23-year-old South Salem resident is currently performing in the Arizona Broadway Theatre production of “Hairspray.”
Starring in the role of Tracy Turnblad through Nov. 10, Socci is acting, singing and dancing her way through the latest chapter of a career that she hopes will someday lead to the Great White Way.
When WAG caught up with Socci by phone to see how things were going, the up-and-coming performer was filled with enthusiasm, sharing that the production has already proven “a lot of work – but it’s fun.”
The show, set in 1962 Baltimore, follows the “pleasantly plump” teen as she strives to dance on “The Corny Collins Show.” First featured in the 1988 John Waters film, Tracy – called the “big girl with big hair” – ends up helping fellow teen dancers fight against racial discrimination (and win the boy she loves) along the way.
Socci is continuing Westchester’s own connection with the role. The 1988 movie starred Ricki Lake, who grew up in Hastings-on-Hudson, while Broadway’s 2002 production starred Marissa Jaret Winokur, a graduate of Fox Lane High School in Bedford.
“I didn’t always think that I could play this role,” Socci says, as she is slimmer than the previous Tracys. But then, she says, she started to see “similarities to myself” and thought “So what if they need to put a little padding on me.”
And seems she needn’t have worried. In a regional review of the production for Talkin’ Broadway, critic Gil Benbrook not only offered overall praise (“Her singing, dancing and especially her acting are top notch,”) but also wrote: “While Socci slimmer than any of the actresses I’ve seen play this role before, she still manages to make Tracy the outsider, one that any of us who has ever felt like an outsider can easily identify with.”
The role, Socci well knows, goes far beyond the surface, and the “inspiring character” has already had an effect.
“She always challenges me to be a better person,” Socci says. Tracy, she notes, sees something wrong in the world and “doesn’t think twice, (saying) ‘We have to do something about it.’”
A fast-paced rehearsal period with a cast who mostly hadn’t worked together before made for a challenge, but within days, all was well.
“As soon as we ran it, we said, ‘OK, we can pull it off,’” Socci says.
It was a hoped-for scenario for something that started when ABT, a professional theater, held a local casting.
“They come to New York once or twice a year to look for actors,” Socci says, noting the show held great appeal.
“I think I’m mainly attracted to musicals, because I’m so musical. My family is so musical.”
Her mother and father, Sheri and Carmine, met in a wedding band. Her brother, Philip, plays guitar and an uncle is a professional musician who also teaches.
With this run in “Hairspray,” it’s all coming together for the John Jay High School graduate whose early years included theater camp and school and community productions.
“During high school, I was dancing a lot,” Socci says. She also trained with the Music Theatre of Connecticut in Westport and The Pulse Performing Arts Studio in Bedford.
Socci would go on to earn a 2012 bachelor of arts degree in music and theater from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa.
“I was able to take dance classes and voice lessons from day one,” she says.
She also got to study abroad, training in theater and voice at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Her summer of 2012 included working with music at a local day camp in Lewisboro (other part-time jobs have included being a nanny and restaurant gigs) and a four-day workshop with Broadway Artists Alliance in Manhattan.
Then things heated up. Later that summer she played Paulette Bonafonte in “Legally Blonde: The Musical” at the White Plains Performing Arts Center, where she previously appeared in “Rent.” Next up, she would secure the role of Wendy Jo in a production of “Footloose” at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, N.H.
In her quest for an Actors’ Equity card – which signifies membership in the union – Socci has devoted most of this year plotting her next moves, always on the lookout for opportunities.
She has said she “decided to stop waiting to be hired and finally just started taking action and control of my career.”
That has meant a steady dose of classes and workshops, auditions and YouTube videos (check out “Fifteen Pounds”) that she submits to land auditions.
She’s always on the lookout for chances to perform and this summer took part in Seth Bisen-Hersh’s “Talent Showcase” at Don’t Tell Mama in Manhattan.
“There’s tons of opportunities like that in the city,” she says. “You just gotta go and start trying.”
As Socci has summed it up, she’s grateful for the role in “Hairspray,” but isn’t considering it a peak.
It’s the way she sums up her approach: “You can never really sit back and say, ‘Phew. I can relax now.’”
Instead, she continues to look ever forward.
“I think this first year has been about me trying to get my footing, find out as much about the business as I can. I’m really glad that I’ve had the opportunity to kind of figure things out for myself.”
She’s had her share of connections coming through to score roles or auditions at just the right time, but she knows it’s really about the hard work.
“If I really want to do this long-term, it’s not all these lucky things.”
And while luck may indeed be a part of it, when that big break does come it seems that Socci will have the right attitude – and talent – to take full advantage.