On April 23, 1993, Frank Rich’s rave review for The Who’s Tommy appeared on the cover of the Weekend section of The New York Times, and I was mesmerized: Joan Marcus’ iconic photo, the brilliant scenery by John Arnone and the actors. Oh, the faces on those actors. I knew, somehow, some way, I had to be a part of that. One month later, I graduated from NYU and off I went to every open call that I could find in Backstage for the show.
I remember the first audition. Pete Townshend was there. Oh. My. God. So was the director Des McAnuff, musical director Joseph Church and choreographer Wayne Cilento. I knew who these people were because I had absorbed everything I could about the show. I ‘second-acted’ it countless times and, when I had a little extra money, I would grab a standing room ticket (Cheryl Freeman’s “Acid Queen” was in Act 1, so I needed that fix about once a month). I would even find myself sliding by the St. James Theatre on 44th street and listening through the door. That’s how loud it was. You could hear it through the door. I was on a mission.
I was cut pretty soon after my first dance audition began and I left 890 Broadway thinking, “Well, when is the next audition?” I auditioned eight times – always cut. Finally, on the ninth audition, Wayne had cast member and dance captain Joyce Chittick take me into the hallway and teach me how to do a double pirouette. Well, it wasn’t actually a ‘double pirouette.’ More like hurling myself in the air twice and praying that I landed on my feet. Joyce worked her magic. It was good enough. Afterwards, casting director Barry Moss said, ‘Don’t come back. We know who you are and what you can do. When the right role opens up, we will call you.’ He smiled, thanked me, and off I went thinking, “Well, what does that mean?!”
I waited and waited and finally, three months later, I was offered a role as one of the Local Lads in the Broadway production. I was finally a part of Tommy, but more importantly, part of the Broadway community and with that, I had received the official stamp of approval by receiving my Equity card.
I realize how lucky I was to receive my Equity card for a Broadway show and I will be forever grateful. Grateful to Barry Moss and Julie Hughes, to Des, Wayne, Joe and Pete Townshend. Grateful to Joyce. To Joan Marcus and her camera. They allowed me to be a cardholding Equity member for the past 25 years. They opened the door and Equity has guided the way, allowing me a career and a life in the theatre – the kind I dreamed about with my ear glued to the door on 44th street.