Syracuse to “Shucked”: Newhouse Alumnus Makes People Laugh in Tony-Nominated Musical

For actor Quinn VanAntwerp G’22, the best part of working on the Broadway musical “Shucked” is making people smile every night.  

Quinn VanAntwerp (right) laughs with "Shucked" cast member James Brewer. (Photo by John Behlmann)
Quinn VanAntwerp (right) laughs with “Shucked” cast member James Brewer. (Photo by John Behlmann)

A member of the show’s ensemble and understudy to two of the leads, VanAntwerp and the rest of the cast hope they’re a hit, too, when they perform at the Tony Awards on June 11. “Shucked” is nominated in nine categories including Best Musical. 

“The best part is listening to 1,000 people laugh together,” VanAntwerp said. “I’ve done big comedies before and something about it now hits differently. In such a divided world, ‘Shucked’ gets people who come from all over the country.” 

Quinn VanAntwerp rehearses with the men’s ensemble of "Shucked." (Photo by John Behlmann)
Quinn VanAntwerp with the men’s ensemble of “Shucked.” (Photo by John Behlmann)

He began working on the show in 2022 while attending Newhouse to earn a master’s degree in television, radio and film. VanAntwerp had already been acting for about 15 years, including the longest-running portrayal of the character Bob Gaudio in Tony Award-winning musical “Jersey Boys,” and recurring roles on TV shows including “The Affair” and the critically acclaimed “Better Call Saul.” 

But in evaluating his career during the pandemic, VanAntwerp decided he was ready for something new. The TRF program at Newhouse offered an opportunity to sharpen his storytelling skills.  

The cast of "Shucked" performs on stage. (Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)
The cast of “Shucked.” (Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

Then, the part on “Shucked” came up while he was at Syracuse. A year later, he’s working a grueling eight shows a week in the Broadway hit, but having fun getting ready for the Tonys. 

“All the lead up to the Tony Awards, such as doing promotion with other shows and rehearsing for our performance at the awards, is almost just as much fun as the event,” he said, “which are kind of the perks that nobody tells you about.”

Can you describe what it’s been like working on “Shucked”? 

I started working on “Shucked” about 18 months ago while I was at Syracuse in grad school. I would go away for about a month or six weeks at a time to work with the cast and create the show. It’s the first time I’ve ever had an opportunity to create a show from the beginning, and although it may not be as glamorous as or as well known as other shows I’ve worked on before, it’s been my favorite creative experience I’ve had thus far.

What is the best part of your job? 

The best part is listening to 1,000 people laugh together. I know that sounds like a basic answer, but I’ve done big comedies before and something about it now hits differently. In such a divided world, “Shucked” gets people who come from all over the country. Many come in hesitant, but by the end of the show, people leave with their chemistry changed and that’s something that I’m most proud of from what we do in the show. 

Do you have a preference for being on a film or television set versus being on a Broadway stage? 

I have a lot more experience being on stage and it’s such a pleasure to perform on stage every day, but there’s something wonderfully unique about a film set. There’s a ton more pressure on set, a ton more payoff if it goes well and a lot more stakes if it doesn’t, too, because it’s forever. You can’t blow an entrance, or if you do bad work that day, you don’t get to do it again tomorrow. And I think that’s one thing that’s beautiful about theater is that if you were at an incredible performance, that’s yours; the next day it won’t be the same. But there is something beautiful about making a film and having it be forever, feeling like you always have it, whereas with theater, it’s gone. It’s fleeting in the wind. 

How do you use your Newhouse education in your career?

Newhouse really helped me develop the skills to match this new ambition to be my own writer and storyteller, and in a supported and safe way. Everything I wrote and the short films I worked on really changed my mindset and confidence in myself. My time at Newhouse broadened my horizons in a way that I was yearning for when the pandemic hit, and it’s something that I am incredibly grateful for.  

What would you say was the most valuable thing you learned from Newhouse?  

I learned that the most important part of storytelling is to tell it. Newhouse gave me a license to be ambitious and to know my own value that I could do something like that. I learned how beneficial it is to be surrounded by a community of storytellers that are empowering each other to go after their individual stories and interests. 

What current independent projects are you working on?

I’ve been producing this short that was written by a friend of mine from “Jersey Boys.” We had a bunch of recent TRF graduates on the project, so I’m excited to see the final edit. 

I also have a bunch of scripts that I wrote and was advised on by professors at Newhouse that I’m taking meetings for. Newhouse has such an amazing network! If you have a good idea that you think is good for HBO, there’s somebody at HBO who went to Newhouse that you could talk to and has the exact thing you’re looking for. The Newhouse family is everywhere. 

Alexandra Lobel is a senior in the television, radio and film program at the Newhouse School.