by Lorie Lewis Ham
This Valley is filled with some amazing talent and we enjoy giving our readers a chance to know more about the people that they see on stage. This week we are profiling local actor, director, and choreographer Greg Grannis, who is currently performing in Crazy For You at Roger Rocka’s in Fresno.
Greg was born in Texas and moved to Fresno at the age of two when his father got a job at Fresno State. Shy as a child, his parents thought it would help him come out of his shell if he got involved in local theatre. “My mother was a singer, and I could sing practically before I could talk,” said Greg. “With my ability to sing and carry parts, my parents believed getting me involved in theatre would help me overcome my being afraid of my own shadow. To my friends dismay today, it worked…as I no longer have a fear of speaking what’s on my mind.”
His first time on stage was as a shepherd in their church Christmas play at the age of five. His first actual theatre role was as Tom of Warwick in Camelot around the age of 10. He also spent several years as a member of Good Company Players Jr. Co., beginning when he was in sixth grade. “I was cast alongside Audra McDonald in one of the original companies.”
After high school, Greg attended UC Davis, where he graduated with a BA in Communications and a BS in Economics. He went into marketing and is now a Creative Director for several of the Valley’s largest marketing and advertising agencies, charged with creating broadcast, print, and online marketing materials that run both regionally and nationally.
Through the years, he has continued acting, and has performed in many shows. Some of his favorite roles include Bud Frump in “How to Succeed,” Don Lockwood in “Singin’ In The Rain,” and Percy in “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” He considers himself lucky to have already played many of his dream roles, but would still love to play Emcee in Cabaret, Elder Price in Book of Mormon, or any of the men in Full Monty.
Greg’s favorite type of shows are musicals. “I love musicals, especially funny ones, both to be in and direct. People busting out into song and dance seamlessly in the middle of a scene to the delight of a live audience…what’s better than that?”
He started doing choreography as a natural evolution of having been a performer for so long, then graduated to directing from there. The first show he directed was Annie for GCP. “Being the person ultimately in charge of the overall show vision was something that seemed like a natural progression in my theatre growth, and is hugely rewarding when it all comes together to make theatre magic.'”
“I’ve worked with Greg as a director and fellow performer and first-of-all, he’s a delightful human being, fun and witty as well as thoughtful and warm-hearted,” shared local actor Laurie Pessano. “I always look forward to working with him as a friend. As a performer, director and choreographer, he cares a great deal about getting things right, so I also look forward to working with him professionally!”
What Greg enjoys most about theatre is making people smile and laugh, “Which is why musical comedy makes up most of my repertoire.” He loves putting everything he has into a performance, leaving it all out there on the boards, good or bad.
“The hope is to make the audience forget anything that might be wrong in their lives and just have fun, if even for just a song or scene,” shared Greg. “It’s amazing how you can actually feel an audience with you, enjoying the journey, especially when everything on stage is firing on all cylinders — the music, the choreography, the timing, the costumes, the lights, all working together to transport the house. Selfishly, if I’m being honest, there’s nothing better than the roar of applause at the end of the night or number when you’ve done a kick-ass job.”
The hardest part for him is the time commitment. His demanding job makes spare time a luxury and the hours it takes to pull a show together can often conflict. “It’s incredibly hard to balance family, work, friends, theatre, and whatever else comes along that life throws at you. That said, I love performing, and I wouldn’t have my career in marketing if it hadn’t been for the many lessons learned from my early theatre training.”
His advice for anyone wanting to get into acting is that a strong work ethic beats raw talent every time, and what he feels has helped him grow the most as a performer are the many talented and patient people he has been lucky enough to have trained or coached him all these years. “Dan Pessano (who I owe more than I can say), Judith Dickison, Kaye Migaki, just to name a few.”
“I have known Greg since we were teenagers, and as young performers together we quickly became fast life long-friends,” shared local performer, and owner of Marketing Plus, Julie Lucido. “As a performer he has always been a triple threat, having skills in singing, acting, and multiple dance skills. He works hard- late- and continues to be a perfectionist, which is all the traits I appreciate in a cast member.”
In Greg’s very rare spare time, he enjoys home remodeling and collecting antiques. But what he loves best is spending time with his family. He also considers his family to be his heroes, including his father who passed away 10 years ago right after the run of The Scarlet Pimpernel. “It was the last time he saw me on stage, and I’ll never forget how he fought his way through the night, refusing to leave even though he was very ill. He always supported me in whatever I did from an early age, and encouraged me to love what I do, knowing the rewards will eventually come. He also taught me to stand up for what’s right and do as I say I’m going to do, which I still strive to uphold today.”
His heroes also include his mother. “My Mom continues to guide and be there for me…even when I get out over my skis. I feel like I get my strength of conviction from her, which has served me well. ”
And lastly, but definitely not least, his wife Amy. “She’s the best thing that ever happened to me; just ask any of my friends or family. Without her, none of my performing today would be possible, and I need to publicly apologize for all the times I’ve made her a theatre widow, left alone to manage the kids, dogs and house on her own until the show closes. ”
When asked if his latest role as Bobby in Crazy For You is a role he had always wanted to play, he said in a way, yes. “I saw the show on Broadway years ago and loved it. The great songs, the terrific dancing, the vaudeville humor — it’s just plain fun. I’m having a blast, though albeit pretty tired at the end of each night.”
One thing Greg gets to do a lot of in this show is dance. “Kaye Migaki’s choreography is truly brilliant. Brilliant, and hard. And with 20 song and dance numbers in the show, there were a ton of extra hours needed to do them justice. Luckily, the cast is incredibly talented, dedicated, and supportive of each other, and we all are committed to pull together with the singular goal of putting on a first-rate show.”
As to future goals, one big one includes another creative area of his life. “Several years ago, I had a lifelong dream come true of becoming a published author of a children’s fantasy novel based on my childhood theatre experiences. Titled Lottie Bright & the Starmaker’s Universe. I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in production talks to turn the book into a live-action movie or animated film. It’s my hope that someday, the dream of seeing my book come to life on the big or small screen will come true.”
Hollywood actress Sharon Leal, who has a show premiering on ABC Family in April, has known Greg since 1990 when they began doing shows together with Good Company Players, and she remembers when he decided to write the book. “He called me one day and nonchalantly mentioned he wanted to write a book. Next thing I knew, it was written, published and en route to the nearest bookstore. He’s not big on hoopla but huge on producing exactly what he sets out to create – efficiently and with flare.”
Sharon stated he’s also an amazing friend. “We all have special people on speed dial. If I were bleeding in the street I could call him and he’d come to the rescue. There are not too many people I could say that about but he’s that kind of a friend. He’s quick witted and hilarious but is also seriously devoted as a human being.”
If you would like to see Greg dance, sing and make you laugh, be sure to head out to see Crazy For You–you won’t be sorry! You can check out KRL’s review of the show here.
Check out more local arts and entertainment articles in KRL’s A & E section.