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.”