As a small town, Midwest kid, live theatre was sparse, and I didn't realize my passion for it early on. But the countless nights I hammed about the Gutierrez casa in costumes scrapped from my family's wardrobes, paired with the evenings I spent glued to the TV watching "Grease," while all the dirty innuendos went right over my 6-year-old head, proved otherwise. I was entranced by every Disney animated musical and spent a good part of my childhood pretending I was in a magical world of Disney.
Despite all the parading around in the home, I grew inherently shy (and chubby) in grade school. My parents encouraged summer theatre camp through our local arts council. I hated it. It wasn't in me to perform in front of large groups of people I didn't know, let alone dressed up as Baby Bear while Goldilocks at all my porridge. No.
But music has always been in my blood. One of my first memories as a toddler is giggling on the floor as my dad played guitar and sang "La Bamba," shakin' his booty and nodding his head at me to sing along. I was completely enthralled. Soon after, I picked up my own instrument: piano. Hundreds of hours, lessons, and classical competitions later, proved I had a gift. I preferred to escape to my piano, without talking.
Through junior high, my focus turned to sports. Year-round basketball tournaments & sports camps consumed me; it was never the 'off-season.' Wholly invested, as most teenagers in the midwest are. I have a vivid memory of one of my teachers asking me in middle school if I was going to do choir in high school, and I laughed it off, and replied with a lofty, "Me? No way. I do sports."
As fate would have it, fast-forward a year, six seasons of basketball, and countless bottles of Gatorade later... my thirst wasn't quite quenched. ;) Thankfully, I kept up with my music. Even picked up the saxophone (dedicated band man, here. Thanks Mr. M!) I auditioned for the "Hays High Chamber Singers," the elite, audition-only choral group in our school. I made the cut, thus propelling me into my first musical, Oliver!
My parents will attest, this time around, I came alive. The curtain went up on opening night, and Fagin valiantly rounded up his thieving minions and blazed his way, air piccolo in-hand. I fell in love with this way of expressing myself. It propelled me to attend Oklahoma City University, majoring in musical theatre, and I was fortunate enough to spend my summers doing stock musicals at Music Theatre of Wichita under the guidance of Wayne Bryan. These two places helped groom this green, garden-of-a-man to make the move to the Big Apple.
Upon arrival to New York, my first audition out of the gate was for Disney Cruise Line. A couple callbacks later, I was shipped out to sea, performing the titular role in Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular aboard the Disney Fantasy. After a few seasons of working for the mouse, it was time to get back to New York.
But only for the Mouse to call again, this time on Broadway, joining the Broadway company of Aladdin, covering the titular role. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
New York is now home. I live each day 'in the arena' pursuing the dream. Grateful for the moment, as it can go by so fast.