Performing eight shows a week on Broadway is grueling, but there’s a distinct advantage: You have a consistent schedule — an unusual luxury in show business.
Drew Seeley pointed this out to my colleague Colleen Knopeck and me in a recent phone interview from New York, where Drew is playing Prince Eric in Disney’s The Little Mermaid on Broadway.
“Doing films, doing television, auditioning constantly, you don’t know what tomorrow is going to be. You don’t know where your job is going to come from,” Drew said. “It’s nice to have a steady job but still be performing. That’s rare.”
Working on Broadway has some unique aspects, as Drew pointed out to us:
Though he’s performed several years’ worth of live concerts, this kind of “live performance” forces him to work within the boundaries of a character and script.
“I’m playing a character in this, so it’s a different kind of performance,” Drew said. “You don’t have as much freedom in certain aspects of it. In concerts I can be myself and do whatever I want to do. With this I have a certain framework that I have to work within. It’s more challenging, I think, because of that. But it’s fun to find myself in the character and deliver that to the audience.”
In concerts, Drew is able to play with the crowd, get people standing and dancing and – I’ve seen this myself – serenade the audience in a way that makes girls swoon.
On Broadway he can get people just as excited – in fact, maybe even more so. At the end of the show, when Drew’s Prince Eric kisses Ariel (Chelsea Morgan Stock), people sometimes hoot and holler. But just as often, the audience members keep their reactions to themselves. They tame their reactions because they are in a theater — and a Broadway one, at that.
“It’s always fun when people scream and make a big deal, but sometimes it’s not appropriate,” Drew said.
Still, that can occasionally leave Drew and the other performers wondering whether the crowd is enjoying the show — even though they most likely are.
“It’s a mind game you play with yourself,” Drew said. “The first couple weeks you start to think to yourself, ‘Is it something I’m doing? Did I sing that song well enough? Are they enjoying it?’ But I’m falling into the different styles of performance and reaction that we get and I’m able to roll with the punches either way.”
Drew actually gets more nervous doing television and film than for live theater. This surprised me. I figured that the stage – where mishaps can happen in front of the audience’s eyes – would be a tenser place than the front of a camera, which gives you the opportunity to do multiple takes.
Drew sees it differently.
On camera, he said, “you’re immortalized forever.” On stage, though, “there’s always another show.”
That’s a smart attitude, and one that’s paid off for Drew. In the show he wears a wig with a ponytail. At times, when Drew is spinning Chelsea (Ariel), that wig can cause problems.
“Sometimes her arm gets caught in my ponytail and rips my neck backward,” he said. “I have to spin around while I can’t spot and look forward because my head is (facing) the ceiling.”
How does he handle it?
Like the pro that he is. Over the course of his career, Drew has “fallen on my butt in front of 60,000 people” and occasionally forgotten lines in the middle of shows … so what’s a little ponytail problem?
“The show must go on, you know?” Drew said. “You just keep going. Most people haven’t seen the show before, so they don’t know what it’s supposed to look like. As long as you don’t make it obvious, it’s water under the bridge.”
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.