Bright lights, big city - that would always be home. Even if the rest of the world thought the spotlight was brightest in Hollywood, Vince and Eric knew the opposite to be true. The world began and ended in New York as far as they were concerned, and the final frontier of Vince's career rested on a stage in a small theatre in the middle of Broadway.
He had dealt with people his entire career, his entire life, who thought that he was nothing more than a pretty face. Even with the Emmy, Globe and Oscar to his name, they discredited his acting abilities. It was always chocked up to good costars, good directing, good writing, good editing. The awards didn't seem to mean anything. They were just because of good PR, studio money, diehard fans. All the true critics contested that taking the stage was the ultimate test of acting ability, one that Vince was determined to pass.
They were careful when they started shopping around for the right play. Vince didn't mind a musical but felt like a play was a better route. It wouldn't rely on anything more than the words and his reaction to showcase his talent. He was also adamant that he would audition for any part he took. Nothing was going to be written with him in mind. Nothing would be handed to him.
He and Eric spend two months holed up in the tiny Queens house, reading manuscripts and theatre dockets. It's only when Vince spots a revival of Barefoot in the Park that he feels sure that this was the right move. He asks his husband to set up the audition and never lets Ari know that his star client had deigned it necessary to try out for a role. It wasn't that he was ashamed; quite the opposite, actually. He just wanted to get this on his own merits not because his hotshot agent from LA called in a favor or threw around his name too much.
Vince works with an acting coach for the month leading up to the audition. He takes a few classes and runs lines with Eric by their pool in the warm June sun and practices in front of the mirror. He tries different dialects and nuances and fine tunes his delivery until even the old woman who comes to clean the house on Tuesdays and Thursdays can recite the monologue from memory. And then, on the Wednesday after the Fourth, Vince goes into the city alone and auditions with a slew of actors struggling to make a name for themselves. He feels guilty when the casting agent tries to expedite his audition to the front of the line and refuses preferential treatment.
Clinging to his audition number (42) and his script (well worn and marked up), Vince is finally let into the auditorium after a very tall and very gay actor sashays back to the waiting room. His predecessor must have been pretty decent because the director, writer and producers are still buzzing when he comes in. It's been awhile since he auditioned, and Vince has missed the hum of butterflies in his stomach.
"Hello, my name is Vincent Chase," he introduces himself as he stepped into the middle of the stage. He leans over and drops the script before smiling that signature grin at the pretty brunette producer sitting to the left of the director. "I will be auditioning for the role of Paul Bratter."
Vince gives one of the best auditions of his life and calls Eric immediately after. He had wanted to come with Vince to the theater, but Vince had insisted on doing it alone. This award was going to be something he did on his own. He needed to prove it to himself that he could do this. He wanted the Tony to be his gift to Eric. He wanted to show him that all his faith, all his love, had paid off.
A few hours later, a production assistant comes out and posts the callback list on a small bulletin board in the lobby. Vince has been chatting to a few of his competitors as well as some of the others trying out for other roles in the play. He is pleased to find his name listed among four others for a second and final audition that same afternoon. He gives a repeat performance and then meets the guys for dinner. Turtle and Johnny are in for a visit, an extended vacation after the holiday. They eat pizza and drink beer and even get a little high on Turtle's mom's stoop like old times.
It's far too early the next morning when the director calls Vince, asking him to come down to the theatre for a meeting in two hours. He wakes Eric with an excited kiss, bouncing on the bed like a child on Christmas morning. E comes into the city with him this time but waits at the coffee shop on the corner so that he can return emails and calls. Vince leaves him with a kiss and a "good luck," hoping that he can return to his husband with good luck.
The small room where the meeting is being held is small and completely inundated with a circle of chairs. There are a handful of people there already, a couple faces that Vince instantly recognizes. He waves to a pretty brunette who tried out for Corie and nodded to an older woman who had auditioned for Mrs. Banks. He also spots one of the other guys who had read for Paul. He is nervous but hopeful as he takes a seat along the far right wall.
"Thank you for coming," the director announces as he rushed into the room. "Our cast is in this room."
Everyone immediately falls silent and gives him their total attention. Vince knows that a Neil Simon play and a brilliant director have the makings of a hit play. He also knows that it can't be just about the award or even putting butts in seats or impressing the critics or making the fans happy. It has to be about doing a good job, being authentic, acting believably so that the audience can lose themselves in the play. He wants to give them that experience. After all, it was a school play (and a mouthy redheaded best friend) that made him want to be an actor.
"Now, before we start, I need everyone to understand that I have no favorites. I have worked with some of you before. A few of you are box office recognized. That doesn't mean anything to me if you can't deliver for me in this role and on this stage," he reminds everyone. "All auditions were treated equally for what they were - trials."
"With that said, ladies and gentleman, may I introduce our cast..."
"Playing the part of the Telephone Man, please give a round of applause to Lucas DeSimone," one of the producers calls out. The short, round man is grinning as he stands up and takes a small bow.
"The part of the Delivery Man will be played by Terrence Howe," another producer tells them. The tall African-American man is probably in his 40s and had read flawlessly for the role. Vince had enjoyed his rendition and had told him as much afterward.
"Now, for our principal cast, in the role of Victor Velasco, we have cast Barry Thomas," the writer says as the actor stands up and waves modestly. He was a Broadway veteran that Vince had caught in a musical last year.
"Annie Turner-Rizzo will take on the part of Mrs. Banks," the first producer tells everyone. It is the same woman Vince had acknowledged earlier and his favorite for the part.
"And now, for our starring roles," the director said. "OIivia Miller will star as Corie Bradford. Gracie James will be her understudy." The pretty brunette teared up immediately as the blonde scowled at her from the corner. "Liv, I have no doubt that you will do this part justice."
"Finally," the director announces once the clapping has died down. "Ladies and gentleman, your Paul Bratter is Vincent Chase. His understudy will be Isaac Klinkenburg."
Vince feels the brunette's arms around him as he buries his face in his hands. He suddenly misses E and that warm hug that always comes when he gets a big part. He finally remembers to hug Olivia back and smile modestly at the others and goes over to shake Isaac's hand. After a few more words, the stage manager hands out the rehearsal schedule and dismisses everyone.
Seven weeks later, the play opens for previews. The show is sold out for the entire week, the theatre packed to the rafters every night. The guys come out for opening night and Eric is there for every performance. He always has flowers put in Vince's dressing room and meets him afterward with a bottle of sparkling water and a warm kiss. The reviews come out and are mostly favorable. Everyone seems to love Vince. When the play starts its four-month stint a month later, the director tells him that it is shaping up to the be THE play of the season. Ari and Shauna come out for the second premiere night and rave over him afterward backstage.
It's hard work, more tiring than being on the set. There is no edit. If he messes up, he has to learn to deal with it. He skips one Saturday afternoon performance so that Isaac's parents can see him perform and then another Tuesday night show when he comes down with a bout of the 24-hour flu. Otherwise, he's there every night for his play, even doing two shows on Saturday and Sunday. It is completely sold out the entire time and he adores the fans with their playbills waiting outside the stage door whenever he and E leave or the night. He poses for pictures and signs things and then goes home with his husband. It's the closest thing he has ever had to a regular job with set hours and decides that it's kinda nice having a schedule.
The cast and crew gather when the Tony nominations come out. While Olivia and Barry go unrecognized, everyone is thrilled when Vince and Annie are nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. It means even more that the show is up for Best Adaptation and Vince is even asked to present. Vince gets to take three guests to the show and after talking to the guys and his mother, decides to ask Isaac and his wife if he would like to come with him and Eric. The two of them are thrilled to come, and Vince spends the whole red carpet talking up his amazing understudy. He wears a nicely tailored suit designed by the play's costumer, a young woman in her 30s who was still trying to make a name for herself in fashion. He gives back in small ways but ones that he knows will have an impact.
Vince's award comes just after a big musical number starring the host and the cast of the latest version of Fiddler. He sits between Isaac and E, waiting to hear his name but not fully believing just yet that it was going to come. But sure enough, his name is read and the camera pans to him and he has done it. Reaching the ranks of the elite few, he now has all the major awards to his name. He shakes Isaac's hand before pulling him into a hug and kisses his wife chastely on the cheek. Everyone is congratulating him when he feels a hand find his in the chaos. E tethers him immediately, reminds him why he is here and how he got there. With a simple hushed, "Go," in his ear, Vince makes his way to the stage to finally get his Tony.