Fantasticks Actor Is "Amazing Race" Winner

News   Fantasticks Actor Is "Amazing Race" Winner
 
Off-Broadway actor Nick Spangler and his ex-cheerleader sister, Starr Spangler, were the winners of the 13th season of the hit CBS series, "The Amazing Race," the finale of which aired Dec. 7.

The siblings won $1 million for being the first at the finish line in Portland, OR, the final destination in the 23-day race that took 11 teams (trimmed to three teams at the end) around the globe.

Spangler is currently starring in Off-Broadway's The Fantasticks, playing Matt, who goes on a journey into the wide, cruel world nightly at the Snapple Theatre Center in midtown Manhattan. The clean-cut actor played the Mute in the production for nine months before graduating to juvenile lead Matt. Among the songs he sings as his character goes from innocence to experience are "Soon It's Gonna Rain," "They Were You" and "I Can See It" — that famous song about roads that take you away.

Taped earlier this year, "The Amazing Race" featured 22 people in a sprint around the globe, performing tasks — and facing weekly elimination — along the way. On the Nov. 30 episode, the Spanglers won first place in the Russian leg of the race, making them one of three teams who will reach for a million bucks.

The twentysomethings were, on the Dec. 7 episode, competing with a middle-aged couple with relationship issues (Ken and Tina, who came in second) and bumbling college buddies (Dan and Andrew, who finished third).

Nick and his sister Starr Spangler
photo by © CBS

In the past ten weeks, the Spangler siblings traveled through Cambodia, Bolivia, India and Kazakhstan. The Spanglers were in first place for six of nine weekly legs of the current edition of the series, tying the series record. In the Nov. 30 episode, Spangler used his New York City subway skills to navigate Moscow's subway system.

Among the more unusual culturally-specific tasks along the way? The Spanglers ate a dish of sheep's buttocks in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

For their first-place finishes, the Spanglers have already won prizes including his-and-her electric cars, a WaveRunner, and trips to Belize, St. John, Hawaii and Anguilla.

In an interview prior to the airing of the first episode, Spangler told Playbill.com that that his appearance on the new season of "The Amazing Race" wasn't about fame or even money. Spangler said he was seduced by "the adventure of it, the experience of it…"

"It's because this show is so bad-ass!" the 23-year-old Spangler said in the days leading up to the Sept. 28 series premiere. "It's so cool. There's nothing like it. It's just so much fun, it's so crazy — you get to fly around the world on somebody else's bill."

Spangler — whose 22-year-old sister is a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader — did confess that once he was cast in the race he realized there might be a positive side effect: Any national TV exposure can be a good thing for a young, videogenic actor.

But exposure can also burn; he said he knew he had to check his behavior to a certain extent. Past seasons of the show have revealed jerks and bullies among competitors, and they are criticized on internet message boards and vilified by die-hard fans and media watchers. (The Spangler siblings boasted a quality rarely seen on the series: they were consistently positive.)

Yet, the race "was certainly not a career thing," Spangler said in September. "Starr and I had dreamed about it before I even made acting my profession."

The Spanglers have watched the show since its first season, when they were still teens. "When I was in high school, [watching "The Amazing Race"] was a big family event," Spangler said. "I got my whole family hooked on it during the very first season…"

Back then, Nick and Starr harbored a hope to compete in the series, but their youth was an obstacle. Once they hit the race's eligibility age of 21, they created a video application and were selected on first try.

"Starr and I, we already had a really close relationship," Spangler said. "We saw the opportunity to create memories."

The show was taped in April and May and the outcome was kept secret until the series finale Dec. 7.

Starr and Nick grew up in a competitive family in Northern California, the actor said. Dad was a state champion wrestler in high school, their brother was a state champion cross country runner in high school.

"All our family game nights were competitive," Spangler said.

In the weeks leading up to their adventure, the siblings (in their separate cities) worked out at the gym and ran to get themselves in racing shape.

Spangler explained, "I'd run on a treadmill and if I was getting tired or wanting to quit, I would imagine Starr and I running to the finish line, and it would kind of give me chills and I'd be able to run for another five minutes."

Spangler's theatre career started at the age of five when he appeared as a Munchkin in a local production of The Wizard of Oz. He continued to pursue musical theatre and attended college at New York University where he performed the leads in Bat Boy: the Musical and The Last Five Years. His other theatre credits include Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie (Gateway Playhouse), Jean Michael in La Cage aux Folles (Arvada Center) and Matt in The Fantasticks (Casa Manana). His Off-Broadway performance as Matt was recognized with The Theater Hall of Fame's 2008 Elaine and Jerry Orbach Musical Theater Fellowship.

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The Fantasticks is now playing in the heart of Times Square at The Snapple Theater Center, located at 210 West 50th Street at Broadway.

The Fantasticks company also includes Lewis Cleale (Broadway's Monty Python's Spamalot, Amour, Once Upon A Mattress), "No Country for Old Men" actor Gene Jones, John Thomas Waite (Broadway's Dracula, Amadeus), Tom Flagg (Broadway's Will Rogers Follies, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Oklahoma!), Richard Roland (Broadway's Scarlet Pimpernel, Follies, Thoroughly Modern Millie), Margaret Anne Florence ("My Super Ex-Girlfriend"), Steve Routman (The Keen Company's The Conscientious Objector, Awake and Sing! at Arena Stage), Michael Nostrand, (A&E's Emmy Award-winning "Peter Pan," national tours of Jelly's Last Jam, The Mystery of Edwin Drood), Jordan Nichols (Tulsa in Gypsy at Westchester Broadway) and Evy Ortiz.

The Fantasticks performance schedule is Mondays at 8 PM, Wednesdays at 2 PM, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM & 8 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM & 7:15 PM.

Tickets are available by calling the box office at (212) 921-7862 or Ticketmaster.com at (212) 307-4100.

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