It’s been a long time since I’ve posted new content, but I’ve been swamped the past two years. You can now add “Musical Theater Performer” to my long resumé! Today I want to tell you the epic story of how I not only got into musical theater but how I landed a coveted role in the German version of the hit Broadway musical ‘Hamilton,’ playing none other than George Washington.
Those who know me know that I’ve done a lot in my career as a singer in Europe: I’ve had record deals with major labels, songs on the German and Scandinavian pop charts, I’ve been on tour with major artists, and I’ve been a teacher and vocal coach to many national and international stars. However, the only thing I’ve never done professionally was musical theater. But that was about to change.
2018: The Beginning
My journey into musical theater began in 2018 when I received an email from a British casting director asking me if I would be interested in auditioning for a musical in London. Honestly, I thought the email was a scam since I rarely get cold casting emails. But instead of deleting the email, which was my first impulse, I answered it. I asked for more details regarding the audition’s production and logistics. The casting director then told me that the role I would audition for was George Washington, and the piece was called ‘Hamilton.’ At the time, I had never heard of ‘Hamilton’ before, other than it was the world’s first successful rap musical.
After agreeing to come to London for the audition, I started doing my research, learning everything I could about the show. The more I learned, the more intrigued I became. I recorded two audition videos and sent them to the casting team in London, and a week later, I booked my flight to London.
At this point, I have to clarify something; I’m not too fond of auditions. Although I’m a professional entertainer, attending auditions has always made me nervous and uncomfortable. However, this was a major production: the first version of ‘Hamilton’ to be performed outside the US. So I went through three rounds of auditions, putting on one of my best performances ever [or so I thought. More on that later.]. Sadly, I didn’t get the role, but I did get bitten by the musical theater bug.
Turning Tragedy Into Action
During my audition preparation, I was in close contact with my family in the USA. My mother was incredibly enthusiastic about the notion of me possibly being in a musical. When I didn’t get the role, she was as sad as I was but also encouraging, telling me that it wouldn’t be the last time an opportunity like this would present itself.
Sadly, my mother would pass away five months later. When my mother died, I was devastated. I thought my world was coming to an end, mainly because I wasn’t able to say my final goodbye to her.
In retrospect, I viewed my mother’s death as the worst day of my life and the best day of my life. Her passing forced me to take a hard look at my life and reflect on what was important.
At the time of my mother’s death, I was dating a beautiful woman, the person who would, one year after the worst day in my life, would become my wife. We married in 2019, and I changed my work life dramatically, focusing more on my coaching and fitness businesses.
Then came COVID.
When the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic hit, the entire entertainment industry ground to a screeching halt. The pandemic hit the live music industry; concerts, sporting events, and other large gatherings were postponed or canceled, putting many musicians (like me), technicians, and promoters out of work. During this downtime, I had to figure out not only how I was going to make a living but how I could channel my creative energy in a different direction. As fate would have it, in August of 2020, I received an email from Stage Entertainment (Germany’s most prominent musical theater production company) asking if I would be interested in auditioning for the German version of ‘Hamilton.’
The Hamburg Auditions
When Stage Entertainment contacted me about auditioning for the German version of ‘Hamilton’ I was both excited and terrified. Remember: I’ve never done musical theater before, so I wondered if I was qualified to be in this high-level production. On the other hand: what did I have to lose? So I agreed to come to the audition. I hired an agent to handle the details and negotiate any contracts if I made it into the show.
I packed a suitcase and took a train to Hamburg. When I walked into the audition room, four people were waiting for me, and a large video monitor was in the corner. Because the world was still in lockdown, I had to conduct my audition via video chat with the creative team from New York [Ironically, the same team that rejected me in London.]. Considering that I’m not too fond of the audition process, I have to admit that it was the best audition I’ve ever done. I was invited back for my final audition on December 9th, two days after my 50th birthday. Then, on January 15th, 2021, I was cast as George Washington in the German version of ‘Hamilton,’ the first non-English production of the show ever.
Prep Time: Tina the Musical
Even though I was thrilled to be cast in such a prestigious role, I was also worried: how would I gain the acting skills needed to play this role, given that I’ve never done musical theater before? The solution would fall into my lap.
Fast forward to August of 2021. While preparing for a show in northern Germany, I received yet another email from the casting boss of Stage Entertainment, asking me if I’d be interested in joining the cast of the musical ‘Tina’ as a stand-in for two actors who were injured. I would be playing the roles of Richard Bullock (Tina Turner’s father) and Ike Turner.
I immediately said ‘yes,’ because this would be my chance to work on my acting skills AND perform in the same theater that ‘Hamilton’ would be running. So I signed the contract, and in September of 2021, I moved to Hamburg. The rest, as they say, is history.
Musical Theater vs. Live Band?
I hope you enjoyed the story of how I got into musical theater and landed a role in the hottest musical in the world. In the next article, I’ll talk about the similarities and differences between performing musical theater and playing in a band.
Talk to you soon.