Former Granite Stater leads musical group of ‘Villains’

By Eric Emmerling

New Boston native Andy Comeau, a well-known actor and musician returns to the Granite State on Friday, April 21 at The Music Hall in Portsmouth to perform a concert at 8 p.m. with his band. But, many old friends and acquaintances may not recognize him when taking centerstage.

When performing, Comeau plays Vaud of Vaud and the Villains, an 18-piece orchestra comprised of colorful musicians, in costume and character of the 1930s, fusing together elements of New Orleans jazz, gospel, folk and R&B in a dynamic performance that openly aspires to convert both sinners and saints.

To classmates of the 1988 Bishop Guertin of Nashua graduate, Comeau may seem out of character as the bandleader of an all-out hard-driving, foot-stomping and uplifting show that is simultaneously seedy, exalted, gritty and inspirational. The group brings the audience back to a joyous and raucous time while exploring the roots of American music.

Comeau grew up on a New Boston farm playing hide-and-seek in the barn and sneaking crabapple treats to the livestock. Though there was plenty of music played at home, his childhood bore little resemblance to vaudeville and burlesque.

“Yeah, we didn’t get into a lot of mischief on the farm,” said Comeau with a chuckle. “We try to make it a fun night for everyone, those on stage as well as in the crowd, so I guess that is all part of my upbringing.”

The band was inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s, “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.” Comeau and his wife Dawn Lewis, an actress that appeared in “The Bucket List” and “Hardball wanted a band like that to perform at their 2007 wedding reception in New Boston. They couldn’t find one, and when they returned home to Los Angeles, they put one together.

The California based group has performed throughout the country. They have recorded three CDs. This is their fourth stop at The Music Hall.

During the group’s show – a 1930 nightclub floorshow complete with music and dancing – Comeau is Vaud Overstreet, a charlatan and seducer, born back in 1892, that once led a traveling medicine show from 1928-1934 before hooking up with Peaches Mahoney, performed by Lewis, a pickpocket, canary and leggy dancin’ dame.

“We have a deep love for the music, that is true,” said Comeau, who plays saxophone and other instruments during the show. “We love the charge of transporting the audience to another place and time. We love the escapism of all that. The pageantry. And above all, we love doing it with this big, bawdy group of villains.”

Comeau grew up wanting to be an actor. He landed his first professional acting job in the Palace Theatre production of “Vaclav Havel’s Temptation.”

He headed West in 1990. “I wanted to work,” said Comeau, who worked odd jobs while picking up occasional acting work. His first big break came when playing Forrest Gump in the music video for the “Weird Al” Yankovic song, “Gump” in 1996.

A year later he earned a lead role in a movie, “8 Heads in A Duffel Bag, role alongside Joe Pesci, David Spade and Kristy Swanson. He played a pivotal role in Robin William’s 2002 thriller, “One Hour Photo.” Recently, Comeau starred in “Fixed,” released earlier this year, playing Allan, a man struggling with a midlife identity crisis.

On television, Comeau played Theodore “Teddy” Huffstodt on the Showtime series “Huff” from 2004-2006. He also played Dr. Travis Brennan during the 2007 season of “House.” He’s also made appearances on “Will and Grace,” “Criminal Minds,” “Nip/Tuck” and has made several commercials.

He and Lewis met while acting in a commercial for JCPenney.

Presently Vaud and the Villains are touring the East Coast. Thereafter, they hope to make a video of their recently released. “Take My Hand.”

Regarding other plans, Comeau said, “It’d be cool to open for the Boss (Bruce Springsteen). Does he even ever have an opener? His concerts are like a half day long so we probably wouldn’t get that nod. Peaches wants to sing and dance in Paris with the band, but I guess our long-term goal is to still be going strong in another 10-15 years.”