Meet The Cast! An Officer and a Gentleman Cast Member, Shelly Verden

February 17, 2022

Cast and Conversation with An Officer and a Gentleman Cast Member, Shelly Verden


On Monday, February 21st the cast of An Officer and a Gentleman will arrive at the Stanley Theatre ready to lift us up. Broadway Utica caught up with Shelly Verden, who plays Zack Mayo’s dad, Mr. Ruddiger, Captain Wagner, and Troy, to find out just what it takes to bring this beloved musical to life. 

A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Daniel “Shelly” Verschelden is an actor, singer, and songwriter, who can be found talking about his hometown, barbeque, and his love of music when he isn’t in character. 

“Kansas City is the greatest city in the country. They have amazing barbeque and an incredibly underrated art scene. When I was 19 I dropped out of college to explore the theater. Within a month I was able to move into my own apartment and support myself through active, paying roles as a stage actor. I’m thrilled that Kansas City is a stop on our tour. I can’t wait to be back in my hometown, introducing my fellow cast members to its wonders, and to have my family experience this show.”

Currently wrapping up the show in Providence, RI, Verden highlighted the places they’d recently traveled, like Las Vegas, Detroit, and Elmira. 

“Part of the allure of trying out for this show was traveling and seeing the world. Beyond Kansas City and New York, there’s so much I’ve yet to see. So far my favorite spot has been Sacramento, where we stayed for a full week, Detroit, where we got to eat at Eminem’s restaurant Mom’s Spaghetti, and St. Paul where we went to the Prince experience.”  

While seeing the world has become a bonus, performing on tour has come with hours of rehearsal and hard work. 

“Performing in a tour takes a lot of rearranging, time on and off the bus, and often limited time to yourself. I make sure to keep myself inspired by listening to new music, playing with the band at night, singing with members of the cast, and writing music for an upcoming album I’m working on.”

A noted guitar, mandolin, and bass player, Verden is currently working on the debut of an acoustic album. 

“It’s basically music I wrote over quarantine. It’s a creative outlet with minimal lyrics.”

Before you begin to make a connection between Verden’s love for music and the groundbreaking soundtrack for An Officer and a Gentleman, it’s imperative to note that  Verden never really heard 80s music until he arrived at the casting call.

“For most of my life, I only listened to Christian rock and musicals. About four or five years ago I began branching out and exploring new music. Over quarantine, I fell in love with the 70s. It wasn’t until the show that I’d heard or learned about 80s music, but I think it’s amazing. Dan Lipton is a genius when it comes to utilizing the show’s lyrics and reframing some of the composition of the songs so they fit into an exact moment.”

Succumbing to the 80s opened a few lyrical doors for Verden, as well.

“On the first callback for the show they handed us a piece of music that we had to learn and sing called “Higher Love.” Mind you, this callback took place a year after having no theater in our lives. Amaya, who plays Casey Seeger, took that stage and belted out the lyrics. Being inside the theatre, singing beside 15-18 other people, and taking in her voice, brought all of us to tears. We felt those words. There was, and still is, a power that generated from that song.”

While “Higher Love” has been twisted into different versions, it’s a song that holds second place in Verden’s heart. The first going to “Fly By Night” by Rush. 

“Having Rush in this musical is awesome. Rush is all about the drums, and our drummer is so incredible. “Fly By Night” happens when I’m up on a platform offstage. The audience cannot see me, or my castmates, but we’re up there air drumming to the whole song. It’s one of my favorite parts of the night.”

Being offstage is something Verden doesn’t get a lot of time to explore as he takes on four characters in the show.  

“Learning to balance the characters was difficult in the beginning. I had to look for physical and vocal ways to distinguish each character. Dick Scanlan is a wonderful writer who wrote four very different characters, so I made sure to take the time to make each character human – a hard feat since some of the characters engage in unsettling behavior.”

Verden credits using his love for certain stage performances, like stage combat, to overcome some of the sticky issues his characters evoke.  

“These are tough characters to dive into because they’re arguably heinous people that raise issues of abuse and racism. As an actor, it’s important to find something you love that distinguishes you from the character so you don’t lose yourself. I make sure to meditate and seek solace in my music and talk with my tour roommate, Wes, who plays Zack Mayo.”

While Verden has been known to take many forms, including shaving his head to play a 73-year-old man, gaining thirty pounds for a show, and perfecting Jesus in “Referee Madness,” there’s still one role he’s hoping to play.

“Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar is my dream role.”

A self-professed admire of rock, Verden has taken the backstage talk under his wings as he leads the crew in the “God of Rock” prayer moments before the curtain goes up.

“I began this preshow tradition five years ago when I played in “Who’s Tommy” in Kansas City and had to wrangle in the children before we hit the stage. It’s the prayer Jack Black creates for the children in School of Rock and it couldn’t be more fitting.” 

Asking God to blow people’s minds with their high voltage rock, Verden lives for the power of music, the strike of the cords, and the cast and crew that he gets to perform beside every night. However, there’s one person he credits for his amazing time on tour. 

“In my audition tape, I closed by expressing how excited I was to audition, and possibly land, a role in one of my mom’s favorite movies. Acting aside, I think the mention of my mom is what got me the job.”  

While we must note that Verden’s mom is quoted on his site as “… my FAVORITE person to watch on stage …” we must also close with Verden’s words of inspiration.

“Keep going. No matter what your dream is there is always going to be something that will get in your way. But you must keep going. Ignore the blocks, push through the tough times and the people who may not believe in what you want to do, and invest in the things you want to happen. Afterall, what would our world be life if we didn’t have artists? If they didn’t keep going.”


An Officer and a Gentleman

Feb. 21/22 at The Stanley Theatre

For Tickets click here or call 315-624-9444.

Article and Interview provided by: T.K. Millo & Co.



View All News Listings