Playing a great singing villain in a big musical is my boyhood dream come true. When I was twelve years old my dad directed a musical called Hey, George! cast entirely with children. We toured around Oregon and made quite a splash. I desperately wanted to play the juicy role of the villain who had a song called “I’m Bad”. Instead I played the non-singing role of King Zud, because I was afraid of singing on stage. Years later, after I was cast in Beauty and the Beast, I decided I should get serious about voice lessons. I have now been in training for nine years.
I created the role of Scar in the first national tour of The Lion King, which meant I was given a full eight week rehearsal process, as well as several weeks of previews. I was also given wonderful direction by Jeff Lee, Anthony Lyn, and Julie Taymor. They all encouraged me to make the role my own. I toured for a year and a half and then went in to the Broadway company, where I have been on contract for the last three years. People always ask me if I get bored of playing the same role over and over in a long run. The answer is no, but there is a trick to it.
First, you must keep yourself creatively engaged at all times. The eight performance week is hard on the body, but it affords lots of time to pursue artistic endeavors. While enjoying the nightly glory of a fabulous role and the security of a weekly paycheck, I have been able to write a couple of plays, develop a couple of one-man shows, teach, direct, and do some workshops. Disney Theatrical has also been very kind in allowing me to take time off to play other roles. When I come back to The Lion King I am always fresh and raring to go.
The other trick is that you must be really present on stage. Listen. Respond. It may not seem like it, but new information is always coming at you. The slightest new gleam in your acting partner’s eye may ignite a fresh response in you, but you have to be awake to see it. A theatrical performance is like a game of tennis. You cannot plan your next stroke, because you don’t know where the ball will be coming. Tennis players practice every day. They don’t tire of it, because the game is always different. No two games of tennis are ever exactly alike. The same is true of stage performances. In order to bring myself fully into the present moment I meditate for at least thirty minutes before each show. This practice has been the most helpful and transforming aspect of my craft. It has also immeasurably increased my happiness