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Quadruple threat Rob Clove finds way to swing 'Bandstand' into Sioux City show
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Quadruple threat Rob Clove finds way to swing 'Bandstand' into Sioux City show

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Rob Clove learned a valuable lesson from his mother: Learn to play an instrument.

She encouraged him to play the saxophone when he was in sixth grade and now, as one of the leads in the touring musical “Bandstand,” he’s playing a character who just happens to play the saxophone.

Because the onstage band also serves as the show’s orchestra, he’s expected to sing, dance, act and play on all the songs.

“The process of learning this show was quite difficult,” Clove says. “Not only did we have a script to memorize, we also had the vocal music and the music written for the instruments.”

Dancing? That was the real hand-wringer. “I was so nervous for the dance callback – that’s when I’m really out of my element. Thankfully, they left the real dancing to the professional dancers.”

That saxophone encouragement? “My mother started music as a child ... she’s a singer ... and she said playing an instrument helped her focus.”

While attending the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Clove concentrated on music, but also snuck into acting classes. “Music has always been there for me, but I learned it’s good to have multiple streams of income. If I didn’t have a music gig, I could have an acting gig.”

8. Bandstand First National Tour - Photo by Jeremy Daniel.JPG

Rob Clove, far right, plays a saxophonist who served in the Navy in "Bandstand," the Tony-winning musical.

Roles in independent films and short subjects followed. But “Bandstand,” the story of life for World War II veterans after the war, is his first stage work.

“I was worried about overacting,” Clove says. “In films, the camera picks up everything. On stage, you have to make sure you’re reaching the back row in the third balcony.”

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Orpheum Vaudeville
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RKO New Orpheum Theatre
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1942 playbill
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Movie theater 1968
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Orpheum Theatre

Stopping in 75 cities over seven months, the “Bandstand” tour has taught Clove how to maintain his body and withstand touring. “When you travel 500 miles on a tour bus and do a show that night, it takes a toll on you,” he says. “You grow up quickly, but these are the experiences that shape your career.”

While his character – Jimmy Campbell – wasn’t written as a black man, producers were convinced Clove was the best person for the role. “He’s written in such a way that it makes sense. He could be a person of color,” Clove says.

A veteran of the Navy, Campbell deals with his post-traumatic stress by studying and pushing himself toward a career in law. “I did research and discovered it was only in the last year of World War II that people of color were accepted in the Navy. He was fighting for a country that wasn’t fighting for him. Coming back from the war, it was the same thing – he dealt with adversity by working extremely hard.”

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That research, Clove says, gave him motivation and inspiration as the show’s first black lead. “Those are the pieces of fruit you try to nibble on.”

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Members of an Ohio-based veterans band struggle to get to a national band competition in "Bandstand." 

Because it tells of the story of life after war, “Bandstand” has attracted a number of veterans who enjoy the music and the message. “We had an Air Force troop last night and they were yelling and screaming and clapping,” Clove says. “It makes the show so fun to do.”

Because he’s on the bandstand throughout the musical, Clove says he gets to marvel at the moves the show’s dancers execute. The show’s choreography won the Tony Award and, routinely, wows the audience.

“Every night I try to get tips from the dancers, so I can be better,” he says. “There’s no easy role in this show. You have to bring your best every night.”

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