What was your first professional acting job, and how did you get it? What did you learn from the experience?
My very first acting experience was when I was 11 years old. I was the “Little Boy” in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. One day my Mom just told me that we were driving to Detroit for a dance class. At that time in my life I had no idea what an “Audition” was so she just told me to go into the room and treat it like a class and just to do exactly what they tell me to the best of my abilities. I remember not thinking anything of the Audition, all I knew was that I had a great time and it was fun. A couple months later I was just swinging on my swing-set in my backyard and my Mom came home and told me I got the job, and my response to her was “What Job?”
How did you come to audition for “Wicked”? How long was the audition process, and what did you have to do? What was your original audition song?
My first audition for Wicked was in Los Angeles and I was teaching for a Cruise Line company and one of the boys in the cast who I became friends with got called by his agent for the Wicked call. At the time I didn’t have an agent, but i knew people crash “agent calls” so, I just went. Filled out a bogus agent name and I am pretty sure I wrote down my friends phone number as a contact. The audition went great and I had a blast dancing for the call. I made it all the way through and I couldn’t make it back to the callback because I had to work the next day. The casting director, Craig Burns, told me not to worry and that whenever another audition would pop up that he would give me a call. While I was at work the next day during a break my phone had 4 missed called and 3 voicemails all from the casting team from Wicked. The messages were very similar in which they just wanted me to come back in and dance and sing whatever song I wanted to. I never really sang before nor had a song prepared, but what did I have to lose? I told the crew at the production company that Wicked was blowing up my phone and that I really needed to go, and they let me leave. Took a 40 minute cab ride from Inglewood into Hollywood and luckily made it in time to sing before they left. I sang “I Could Do That” from A Chorus Line and didn’t have any sheet music. I felt really embarrassed but I figured better to be embarrassing and have my name in the mix instead of just being a “No Show”. I was a mess singing, but a couple of days later, Craig, called me and gave me some feedback (which has never happened to me after an audition) and he just told me to be prepared with Sheet Music next time I came in. About a year later I was called back into audition in LA and at that time I did have an agent. I went back in and nailed the audition and I sang “The Longest Time” by Billy Joel and had sheet music and vocal lessons in my back pocket, because I desperately wanted this job. My agent called me and told me I was on “the List” and within a month Wicked flew me from LA to NYC to meet up with the creative crew and dance a little more for them. I went to NYC and nailed the audition again and was hoping for the best. When my flight landed back in LAX my phone started ringing and it was my agent with the news….I got the job!!
What was your reaction when you found out you had been cast in the show?
Who was the first person you told that you had been cast? What was his/her reaction?
When i got the call about getting the part I was crouched down in my airplane seat trying to hear my agent over the landing gears and I didn’t want to scream because I figured I couldn’t afford to get on the “No Fly List”. My friendly neighbor on the flight heard me trying to control my voice and tearing up and he said, “You got it?” and I said “YEP!!” and his response was simply “Awesome”. Ha, so the first person to know I even got the job was some random frequent flier. My adrenaline was pumping as I ran off the plane and I called my Mom, and she didn’t answer, called my girlfriend, and she didn’t answer, called my sister, she didn’t answer, called my brother, and he didn’t answer. What the hell?! I just found out the greatest news ever and no one seemed to have charged their phone. My girlfriend was waiting for me outside of LAX and I could tell by her face that she was just irritated and annoyed by the “LA” traffic and started rambling about her hectic morning and all I could say was…..”I got it” Finally I could let out my emotions with someone and I started crying in the parking lot. My Life changed so dramatically over 15 minutes!
What was your rehearsal process like to learn Chistrey?
I met up with the Show in San Antonio and I was in rehearsals for about 2.5 weeks. Was in the studio everyday for about 5 hours with our dance captain, Philip, and he went through the entire show with me and taught me all of my blockings and choreography. I am not the most technically sound person, but I have been able to pick up choreography pretty fast, so we got the show done in a matter of 3 days. There was about a period of 7 days straight though where my rehearsals were cancelled because Philip was called into the show so all I could do was watch the show from the house or sides of the stage and make sure I could mentally get used to everything that happens onstage and off.
What was your first performance like? How did you feel throughout the show?
My First performance was kind of a blur now that I think back to it. My Girlfriend Nicole, who is now my Fiancé, was in the audience and all I could think of was not messing up for her. There are so many layers to the show that to this day I still notice new things happening in the show. I was nervous before the show, but once I am out on stage that all goes away and all I concentrate on is making the audience happy.
What is your favorite part of the show to perform?
My favorite part of the show to perform is “Loathing” . It’s really simple choreography, but idea of the number is so intense that you can get as angry as you can get at “Elphie” and it’s never enough.
What, for you, is the most challenging part of the show to perform?
The most challenging for me to perform in the show is the wizard scene, in which Chistery grows his wings. It is physically tough on the body and my knees. Throughout the entire number I am in a constant Squat and swinging from tower to tower. Doing that 8 times a week, full out, gets really tough on my body.
How to you protect your muscles and body while playing a role like Chistrey that requires much flexible movement?
I just have to force myself to warmup and stretch everyday. I try to get to the gym but it’s hard, because I can’t afford to be sore for a performance. I don’t ever want to go onstage feeling like I can’t give my 100%. One quote I always think about before a show is “This is going to be someone’s first Broadway show, and someone’s last”
Have you witnessed – or perhaps been involved in – any onstage bloopers or mishaps that you’d like to share?
There have been a couple bloopers since I started in Wicked, but one of my favorites was during the curtain call. At the time our Fiyero, Richard H Blake, who is now Fiyero on Broadway usually likes to come sprinting out before his bow. Usually what happens is he runs out from stage left to center of the stage turns left to get to the front of the stage and bows, but not this particular night. Richard and I are really good friends and golfing buddies and every night I always picture him falling on his ass, because he doesn’t just jog, he sprints for his bow. He comes running out and while attempting to make the left turn his upper body turns left, but his lower body keeps running straight. He slid about 15 feet on the ground while his legs were still kicking, managed to get back up bow and try to get his face back to a normal, un-red color. To this day I still give him a hard time about it, because the entire cast out crying with laughter for a company bow.
Are there any dream roles that you’d like to one day perform?
I would really love one day to be Riff from WEST SIDE STORY, or even just be in West Side Story. I am also really hoping that Newsies gets to Broadway!!!
What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
If there is one thing I could tell aspiring artists about the business is that 75% of getting that “gig” has nothing to do with your talent. It’s all about the look. I never left an audition upset because I knew either I blew it and it was my own damn fault or I am not a 6’5″ Krumper that can spin on his head. A lot of the time it’s just being in the right place at the right time.