Featured Local Artist - September 2011
Over the past several years, singer and actress Nanci Zoppi has been taking the Sacramento scene by storm. But, she’s been tantalizing audiences with her beautiful voice and talented acting skills since a very young age. Learn about her upbringing as an artist, all she has achieved thus far, and what's to come!
Singing from the start
Before she could even speak, Nanci was singing (nonsense words, she’s told, but still—quite the start!). Not long after she began incorporating words into her daily life (and her songs), she embarked on formal training with her father, esteemed vocal coach Bobby Zoppi. Growing up, Nanci chose to train in anything she could, rather than focusing on one particular type of singing style. Over the years, she has studied: opera, classical musical theatre, contemporary musical theatre, blues, jazz, pop, and—her personal favorite—bluegrass. She infuses her favorite elements of these different genres in whatever she does, keeping her songs interesting for her, and her audience as well.
Like any artist, Nanci has her influences. When she was younger, it was mostly Bette Midler, which would invariably prompt her dad to yell "sing like yourself, not like Bette," from outside her room. As she grew, however, new greats were added, including: Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Barbara Harris, Dwight Yoakam, Frank Black, Iris Dement, and many others. For her philosophy on music now, she states: “I think it's important to look at what you love, find out how to do it, but, to not forget to make it your own. All of the singers I've loved were arguably flawed and not particularly trained sounding. In a way, I think it’s the imperfections in the voice that make it unique. But, I always wanted to know the rules before I broke them.”
Blossoming into an actress
Though she’s been singing for as long as she can remember, Nanci's foray into acting came a little later in her life, when she was cast, based on her singing prowess, in the school winter musical The Littlest Christmas Tree. At six-years-old, her role of “the littlest elf” turned out to be one of the biggest "a-ha" moments Nanci’s ever had. She loved performing and has since spent the better part of the last two decades acting in shows, both musicals and non-musical.
At 19, Nanci was accepted into the one school she wanted to attend, Circle in the Square Theatre School in New York City. One of the main draws to the school was that many of their alumni were favorites of hers, and strong influences for her acting. Those influences include: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Benicio del Toro, Molly Shannon, and Felicity Huffman.
In addition to her formal training, a lot of her education came from her deep love of film.
She says: “My first celebrity crush was Gary Oldman when I was eight, and he continues to be my favorite. And, to this day, I still feel I'm learning when I watch those great, precise, grounded, and heartbreaking actors like Lori Metcalf, Judy Davis, Maggie Smith, Steve Carell, Dudley Moore, and Steve Martin. It's no surprise to me that most of the aforementioned would be considered comedic actors, but each one is able to really tell a story, and at times make you cry. I think that's exactly what I strive for and what I find interesting: funny people going through real life.”
Plays & performances
Having completed her training at Circle in the Square Theatre School, Nanci continued living and working in New York City, performing in many plays, including: Godspell, Uncommon Women & Others (Rita), Pericles (The Bawd), and Ludlow Ladd with Donna-Lynne Champlain. She joined several national and professional tours, including the first national tour of The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley, Frankley Ben, as well as a tour with B Street Theatre's Fantasy Theatre.
Since her return to California, Nanci has been seen in Suds at Cosmopolitan Cabaret (Marge), Italian American Reconciliation (Theresa) at B Street Theatre, and a professional reading of The Lantern Room opposite Faith Prince. Other favorite Californian credits include Rent (Maureen), Once Upon a Mattress (Winnifred), Rocky Horror Show (Janet), The Who's Tommy in Concert (Mrs. Walker), Fiddler on the Roof (Hodel), Into the Woods (The Witch), and Othello (Desdemona).
In addition to those productions, Nanci likes to donate her free time to New Helvetia Theatre, an amazing and young company that deserves to be around for years to come. She has starred in several of their productions, including They’re Playing Our Song (Sonia), Hedwig And The Angry Inch (Yitzhak), both productions of Tick, Tick…BOOM, and It’s Only Life with John Bucchino.
Nanci can also be seen frequently performing at Sacramento's own Graham-A-Rama cabaret series (where the videos embedded here were recorded).
Projects - ongoing & upcoming
In addition to her roles as a performer, Nanci is a vocal coach. She is very passionate about helping young, promising artists. This year, she began donating lessons to young performers who have shown their raw talent and dedication in singing or acting. So far, she absolutely loves it. She says: “As a young performer, I often wished for someone to help guide me through the industry. There's so much I have learned from trial and error that I feel could have come in a gentler way; I can only hope I'll be able to get them to a better place before they're off in the world.”
Currently, Nancy is taking her first break in three years of shows in Sacramento. While enjoying her break, she is still continuing to work on her folk-music and cabaret shows, as well as contributing to Roustabout Clothing, her boyfriend’s clothing company, in a much more hands-on way this year. She is looking forward to the rest of this year and early 2012, as several activities are in the works!