Q&A: Wilam Tarris of ‘Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale’

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Wilam Tarris (Ralph), Adam Michaels (D.D.), Dan Peters (Johnny) and Tommy Hahn (Tank) in “Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale.” (Photo courtesy of JUSTIN BARBIN PHOTOGRAPHY)

This winter, Broadway in Chicago is bringing a new take on holiday theater to the city. Written by Dee Snider of Twister Sister and directed by Adam John Hunter, “Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale” provides a delightfully unconventional holiday production that resides between the realms of music and theater. Cast member and DePaul alumni Wilam Tarris took time to speak with The DePaulia about the exciting production, musical camaraderie, and the good time this winter’s show offers.

The DePaulia: Can you tell me a little bit about the show in general? In what ways does it depart form the “typical” holiday tale?

Wilam Tarris: There are a ton of ways in which it departs from a typical holiday show. This one rocks. It’s about these four guys in this band called Däisy Cütter and they decide to sell their souls in order to find fame and fortune but they find the Christmas spirit instead. It’s really funny and it’s really heartfelt but it’s still rockin’ so it’s a different take on classic Christmas tunes and kind of turns it upside down. It’s funny and it’s family friendly and it’s really inviting. It’s been a blast; it’s been really awesome to be a part of it.

Can you tell me a little bit about your character, Ralph?

WT: Ralph is the newest member of the band even though he’s been with the band for seven years. Everybody calls him the new guy, which is a kind of hilarious take on, I want to say, Twisted Sister’s actual history because they went through so many drummers. Ralph is this really sweet, really genuine man-child, essentially. His journey is such that he is in love with the club owner from the club that they play at and he is not at all metal but he loves heavy metal. He is this big old dork who loves heavy metal.

 If you had to pick one favorite aspect of this production, what would it be?

WT: Oh man, just one huh? As far as the show goes, as an actor it’s always funny when you are a part of a production because every production becomes its own family and you get really close to all of these people in a very short amount of time. This production has that for sure but on a heightened level. When I got cast in May, I think it was, me and the other three guys in the band decided we wanted to get together before rehearsals started in October and just start playing together and playing the tunes and getting to know the Twisted Sister songs. It’s a really tough thing to find four guys who gel not just as actors but especially as musicians. When the four of us met up we clicked instantaneously. It felt like we had been a band for years already. The four of us just got really, really close really fast. I love these guys and playing with them has been a real pleasure. These guys are all real, established, talented musicians. And for me to be in the group, being the green one in the band, in real life and in the story line, I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been able to play with such talented musicians. They have lifted me up toward their level, which has been really, really great. The really great aspect about being in the show is the camaraderie between the actors, especially the other three guys in the band. It transcends your typical theater family because there is so much music involved so it kind of bleeds the line between theater and music which is really great.

Has your time at the DePaul Theatre School affected your experience in the world of professional theater in any specific ways?

WT: Of course. The program at DePaul, when I was there, and I’m sure it still is, it was so specific and so tailored to really building an actor and giving the actor stamina in order to build a career. My experience there was phenomenal. I learned a lot; I was really lucky to have the professors that I did, to be with the class that I was with and it definitely affected how I look at theater in general.

If you could tell your audience one thing before they see this show, what would it be?

WT: Just come prepared to rock. It’s really good time. It’s really funny and it’s really fun and it’s family friendly. It’s just got a really great arc of storyline. It’s not a typical Christmas show and that’s what makes it really rad. It’s just  different take on all these really wonderful Christmas tales and Christmas songs that we’ve heard a million times. It kind of turns everything up on its head. It’s just really fun.

“Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale” runs through Jan. 4 at  Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place.