First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with BroadwayWorld in Omaha today.
I guess we can start at the beginning. How did you first become interested in theatre?
When I was a kid, my whole family used to sing in the house together. My church had these variety shows that my older siblings were in and I always wanted to be a part of that because it looked like they were having a lot of fun. I got into those variety shows and at one point my whole family was in it. I liked what I was doing. I enjoyed creating on stage. I enjoyed the applause and the camaraderie with the other actors. Even as I got older and was involved in sports in high school, I still stayed in the theatre and performed in a couple shows.
Did you continue to pursue theatre after high school?
I did. I went on to study at Boston University, with a double major in journalism and acting. The acting portion kind of caught on when we did a show my second year. We were so well received by the Boston Globe and the Herald that we moved the show to a theatre off-off Broadway. We did well there also. So that kind of got me started and was the point where I decided not to double major anymore and focus solely on the performing. I graduated with a degree in theatre alongside a class full of people who went on to be successful in various professions, such as Oscar winner Geena Davis. It was a great experience.
Of the roles you have played so far in your career, is there any one in particular that really stands out for you?
You know, I’d have to say Valjean in Les Miserables. That role really is a workout for an actor. A lot of actors who played Valjean on Broadway and various tours only did 6 or 7 of the 8 shows a week due to the demands of the role. I tried as much as I could to do all 8 every week. I worked my way into that role after understudying other parts and swinging for the Broadway production. It was great performing in the Los Angeles company and opening the San Francisco company because they really helped me to build up the vocal stamina I needed for the role of Valjean. It was both physically and emotionally demanding, but extremely rewarding.
How has your experience playing Jackie Elliot compared to previous roles?
I think my experiences with Jackie Elliot, my character in Billy Elliot, are similar in ways to my experiences with Valjean. While it’s not as physically demanding a role, I get to go on an emotional journey every night with this character. I start in one place, and end in a completely different place. Honestly, that can be tough. Sometimes you don’t want to take that journey and go there every night, but it’s incredibly rewarding. Both of those roles are very special to me.
Having played the role of Jackie for the past couple years on the road, have there been any changes to the production that you’ve seen since the Broadway production closed and the tour took off?
There have been 2 real physical changes to the production since I’ve been with the show. Initially we started the 2nd national tour with 16 trucks, and now we are down to 6 trucks, so it has to be a different physical show. There are certain sets and things that were done on Broadway that simply can’t be done out on the road when you go into different houses every week or so. But even with the changes that were made over the past few years, the show maintains the integrity of the original production, which is great. The changes make the show work just as well, if not better.
Speaking of changes… What is it like being on a tour with so many talented kids, and to work with so many different Billys?
You know, it’s great. They give you energy when you might not have it. They give you youthful eyes, instead of jaded eyes. The kids we have in this show are so wonderful. It’s great getting to watch them discover things on stage every night. You know, a lot of the Billys come in with a focus on dancing first, singing second and acting last. It’s easy to take them for granted sometimes. They come in as dancers and start to learn the mechanics of their singing and acting as they’re doing it. Watching them grow from just saying the lines to really understanding them and bringing honesty to them is incredible. It’s really fun and it’s inspiring to watch them throughout the process.