Age& Hometown: 27; Highland Park, Illinois
Current Role: Doing a “Whole Lotta Shakin’” in his off-Broadway debut as Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet.
Early Bloomer: Like many kids who start piano lessons very young (in his case, age five), Stang wasn't always a willing participant. “I’d hide under the piano during lessons,” he says with a laugh, but before long he was hooked. At 10, he was introduced by a music teacher to blues, jazz, pop and rock, and at 13, he booked his first solo gigs. “I played things like anniversary parties, then at 14 I started playing jazz in a restaurant/piano bar near my hometown,” a job that earned him a write-up in the Chicago Tribune. That same teacher taught Stang the bass guitar (he also plays drums), and the young musician ended up joining his mentor's band, the Associates (“one of those groups where everyone can play everything,”). His professional career had officially begun.
Back to School: Though already making a living as a musician, Stang enrolled in the jazz program at DePaul University. “I knew I needed more education and I wanted the college experience,” he says, which he got in spades, eventually moving in with friends in a recording studio they'd built in downtown Chicago. Of this highbrow, post-college frat house, Stang says, “It was that kind of bohemian lifestyle—playing gigs, hanging out, talking about music all the time.” Though acting is his focus at present, Stang wants to find time while in New York to perform with his current Chicago-based band, Polarcode. Polarcode? “Our drummer likes Tom Hanks movies,” Stang explains, “He picked two at random, Polar Express and The Da Vinci Code, and combined them. As long as he'll endorse our band, we’re happy! We're asking."
Killing It As The Killer: Before being tapped to understudy the role of Jerry Lee Lewis in Chicago’s Million Dollar Quartet, Stang’s acting experience consisted of two junior high school shows, but he felt confident. “Performing at piano bars, you have to be improvisational and interact with people," he says, "so I was used to being in front of a crowd.” The first time he went onstage was “pretty frightening,” Stang admits, but he’s had a ball ever since. “It’s like you get to act out every impulse you could possibly have,” he exclaims, and it doesn’t hurt that he can draw on personal experience to play his over-the-top character. “Jerry Lee’s personality in the show is kind of like me when I was 21,” he admits. “I’ve had to go back to how I acted when I was that age—when you’re young and really want to be noticed. That’s the way Jerry Lee was.”