For most people, childhood aspirations are far-fetched. Few end up as rock stars, actors, models, super heroes or astronauts.
But, for Wes Hart, his childhood dream of becoming an actor actually came true. After finishing a six-week understudy role as Gaston, in “Beauty and the Beast” at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Hart is currently on an eighty-five-city tour throughout the United States and Canada, playing the lead role in the musical, “Urban Cowboy.” The tour began in January and will close in May.
Hart is no stranger to performing. Growing up in Edmond where his family still resides, his interest in theatrical arts blossomed while attending Santa Fe High School. He learned dance at his mother’s dance studio, developing talents in ballet, jazz and tap.
Hart also sang in the school choir, acted in school plays and performed in “West Side Story” and “A Chorus Line” during the summer of his sophomore and junior years while interning at the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma. He even learned to play the drums. “I had a rock band in high school.” he said.
After graduating in 2002, Hart looked at performing art departments at several colleges, choosing Oklahoma City University where he graduated cum laude with a bachelor of music and music theatre in 2006. During the summers, Hart performed in fifteen shows at the Music Theatre of Wichita. Highlights include “Wizard of Oz,” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”
At OCU, Hart performed in a wide variety of shows under the keen eye of guest director, Bob Durkin who directed school musicals, “Seussical” and “Guys and Dolls.” It was Durkin who urged him to audition for “Urban Cowboy,” the musical version of the movie made famous by John Travolta and Debra Winger in 1980.
“I auditioned back in May on the recommendation of Bob Durkin,” explained Hart. He got the final word that he had landed the role in September. “I was really excited because I’d never done a national tour. It was affirmation that I did the right thing with my college career.”
Hart plays a Texas country boy, Bud Davis, who moves to Houston to work on his uncle’s oil rig. He gets swept up into the nightlife and showing off at Gilley’s, an enormous country-western bar. There he meets feisty Sissy and they fall in love and marry. But, the honeymoon is soon over when Sissy becomes involved with an ex-con bull rider. Bud enters a mechanical bull-riding contest, hoping to out-ride the ex-con and win back Sissy’s heart.
Many would think being from Oklahoma would prepare Hart for his role in “Urban Cowboy” but that’s not necessarily the case for Hart. “I think that being from Oklahoma definitely helped, but I don’t know how to ride a horse,” he said. He does well at riding the mechanical bull, though. “It took a little getting used to for all of us, but we are safe now.”
According to Hart, the biggest difference between the musical and the movie, “Urban Cowboy” besides the obvious, is that there is more emphasis on the supporting characters in the play.
“In the movie, they focus on John Travolta and Debra Winger because there’s a smaller frame,” said Hart. “On stage, there are a lot of other characters to get to know and identify with. There’s a bigger ensemble feel.”
The surprising change in Bud is what Hart likes most about the character. “The range of emotion that he goes through in a course of two hours — from the naivety to being jealous during the marriage. Sissy is a bit of a tomboy and that surprises him but that is what he likes about her. They don’t have the social norm of the time as southern people,” explained Hart.
Living out of his suitcase is the most difficult thing about touring for Hart. Relying on constant things such as his bus seat and the close-knit cast keeps him motivated. He’s trying to take in as much of the country as he can. “It’s such a unique opportunity to see the nation this way so I try to savor that,” he said.
Hart says the show has received many standing ovations so far and he finds his role rewarding. “I hope the show brings a bit of nostalgia to the audience and brings them out of their life. If someone is having a bad day, hopefully we change how they feel at least for the moment.”
With all his developing talents including his current hobby of taking up guitar, Hart recently added a film clip to his resume. He landed a small part playing St. Gregory in a vampire/horror movie, “Souls Midnight,” filmed in Oklahoma City last year, starring Armand Assante.
“I had a small dance feature in it. It was a one-day thing. That alone was enough exposure to see the difference between stage and film,” he said.
For now, Hart plans to stick with theatre. “Film is something I’d be interested in for the future. But, right now theatre is my life. I hope to be on Broadway someday,” said Hart.
For more information on “Urban Cowboy” tour dates contact www.windwoodtheatricals.com.