Tony Vierling and Michael Gruber met at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater, continue acting together


Two Armatage residents are wrapping up a run in “The Prom” at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater, and looking ahead to “Jersey Boys.”
Spouses Tony Vierling and Michael Gruber actually met at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater.
It was 2007 and they were both in the world premiere of Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade.”
“I was brought in from New York City to play Don Hewes and Tony was in the company. We became great friends during the run of the show, and our relationship progressed from there,” recalled Gruber. “It was one of those decisions that really did change the course of my life.”
Vierling added, “We’ve been together 16 years and married for nine years. We moved back to Minneapolis, to the Armatage neighborhood, in 2010 after having been working in New York and being on tour.”

What drew you to acting?
Gruber: I remember putting on plays for my second grade class. My teacher must have been very open minded. I can’t remember what they were about, but I do remember being fairly extroverted – which is funny because I’m quite an introvert in my adult life. But nevertheless, I do love being a part of stories that can affect an audience in a positive way.
Vierling: I started acting at the age of eight. I have always been a bit dramatic! Putting on plays in my basement, with my best friend in his garage, at the church, anywhere I could! I started actually acting in a local theatre in Des Moines, Iowa, as well as doing school plays. Did commercials and voice over work as a kid and teenager. I have always loved the group dynamic of theatre, and the rapport that is shared with the audience.

What is exciting about this production?
Gruber: I am in the ensemble so I get to play several different characters. That is always delightful because I have much broader leeway to create something personal and fun. I also understudy one of the principals, Trent Oliver, and due to COVID-19 in the company, I had to learn the role of the high school principal, Tom Hawkins, in two days and perform it for three performances until the actor playing the role could return to the production. That was a wonderful challenge.
Vierling: I play several smaller characters in this show. All of them are very silly, which is great fun. What excites me about this show is the young people in our cast. They are all so talented; it’s a very energetic show for them! I really love watching their work every night!
As far as my roles and growth in this show, every job is a learning experience. Since my parts are smaller, I am more of a support this time. Creating characters and filling scenes with ideas that other actors can play against adds texture to the show, making it a richer experience for us all.

What is it like to perform with your significant other?
Vierling: It is a real joy to work with my spouse every night. We have been so lucky to be able to consistently work together. Being on a performance schedule is challenging and can be pretty difficult if one of the couple is not home every night. It takes another actor to understand the demands of the job.
Gruber: It is great to be able to share the stage with Tony. We have had the opportunity to play opposite each other in “Singin’ in the Rain” as Don and Cosmo at the Ordway, in “Holiday Inn” as Jim and Ted, and “The Music Man” as Harold and Marcellus.

What’s next?
Gruber: We both will be in the company of Jersey Boys. I’m cast as Gyp Decarlo and Tony will play Joe Pesci.
Vierling: We start rehearsals in a couple of weeks and open in mid June. Should be a very fun show. Minneapolis has such a rich a diverse theatre community. The talent here is amazing, and we are so lucky to have so many amazing theatres to showcase all of that talent. Get out and support local theatre!


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