There are people you just instantly jive with and Michael is one of those for me! We got to meet backstage at Chicago the Musical and then had an absolute blast hanging in the sunshine (after the week of rain!) during his FFB photoshoot. I loved hearing about how his journey of hard work, focus and even hardships paved his way to Broadway. He was quick to explain how he valued rest as much as exercise which I’d consider the golden rule of staying balanced & Fit for Broadway!
NOTE FROM MICHAEL: Hi, my name is Mikey. I love performing on Broadway! For me, theres no better job. Staying in shape is not only a physical concept, but its also mental. Read about my journey below with staying focused, positive, and physically Fit for Broadway.
“Audition, Audition” from Fit for Broadway Apparel
(click HERE or click the picture)
Q: Can we just play in the sunshine every day!? Haha I had such a blast during our photoshoot! Let’s start at the beginning…What was your journey to Broadway?
A: Well, lets start by saying that everyone has their own journey through life, but especially through this business. That being said, I have found that there are two types of successful Broadway performers. The first is the type that moves to the city and is handed work from the start. Everything just comes easily to them. They most certainly are talented, but they are also lucky. They may also posses a certain “likability.” They step into the room, and you just want to hire them.
The second type of success are the performers that have had to work a little harder to get where they are. They have maybe taken class with every choreographer; performed for free with all of the BCEFA charities to get to know one another; worked a TON of regional productions; possibly toured non-equity and then moved to a tiered Equity tour, all before landing their first Broadway show. This was me. I am that kind of success. My journey was long and hard. I am certainly not everyones “cup of tea.” I spent most of my twenties trying to prove to others and myself that I was worthy enough for Broadway. That I was talented enough. I had an inner battle that was begging for validation. The competition was fierce; I had a lot to prove.
All the while I was building this resume that I didn’t know I was building. I lived in Tokyo for a year, I danced my way across the country, twice over! I also worked at all of the big regional houses. I even performed at Lincoln Center and did a PBS special with an all star cast. None of it was good enough because it wasn’t Broadway. I kept giving myself a deadline, praying that it had to happen by the time I hit Thirty. I watched everyone else around me move up. The pressure to achieve was immeasurable. Through all of my freelance work in my twenties, I built relationships that I didn’t know would be valuable to me at the time.
After the decision to not tour anymore I moved back to the city and planted my feet firmly in Manhattan. I was NOT going to take myself out of NYC for work. I wanted my Broadway show. I was doing pre pro for Broadway Bares when I ran into Josh Bergasse, who I had previously worked with, in the hallway of Pearl Studios. We said our hellos and I asked him what he was doing. He told me he was holding auditions for a production of On The Town he was choreographing regionally. Long story short, I ended up auditioning and booked it. At the time I had no idea it was going to be what it turned out to be. I was just excited to be working with Josh again. As the weeks rolled along it became apparent that we had created something special at Barrington Stage. I really thought On The Town was going to be my Broadway show. That dream was ended abruptly when I tore my meniscus the last week of performances. With no swings or understudies, I was forced to finish my contract. I soon was on a plane to Florida to be with my family while I recovered from knee surgery.
I learned a lot about myself during that recovery time. I was heartbroken, sure. But I was also determined to not be knocked down. Staying fit was such a hard thing to do. I would go to the gym three times a week and focus on core and upper body. I would go to physical therapy three times a week for my knee and quad strength. I would also get in the pool everyday and do my exercises underwater and finally, I would end the day with an evening walk on the beach for added exercise. During those walks, I had come to several realizations, one of them being that I came to find that the competition with the business and others that I felt all of those years in my twenties, was really with myself. I was the one person who was holding myself back. Which meant that I was the only person that could free myself. And so I did. I broke the chains. I decided that all I could do was be the best person I could be, and through that, maybe I would attract some good. So then I found that the best person I could be was someone who ate healthy, exercised daily, meditated, learned how to be happy for others achievements, and most importantly found a sense of humor. Through this, I was able to look back at the decade of hard work behind me and appreciate my journey. I became familiar with this sense of being that said “Take it or leave it. I know my self worth. I know my journey.”
On The Town did not happen for me because of my injury, and I found myself working two part time jobs after I had moved back to NYC from my recovery. However, I did soon find myself back in the game working at Paper Mill Playhouse and then the beginnings of the 2015 revival of Gigi. During that creative run for Gigi, Chicago The Musical called, and I went. For me, it was the right decision. All I wanted was one Broadway show, and then all of a sudden I had two to choose from. I was not 30, but I was 31. That was the universe trying to let me know that it still was in control. Whatever the age, I am grateful that it finally happened.
Q: How has your journey with fitness evolved during your career on Broadway? Whats your regime now?
A: As a young man in the business it is important to be at the gym 3 to 4 times a week, heavy lifting of course. There aren’t many soft bodies on stage for a chorus boy. When I first got into the business, I did nothing. Dance class was it. It was part of the struggle to realize that I needed to get stronger; look stronger. I used to be a smoker and I smoked a pack a day. When I finally came to the conclusion I needed to be healthier, I quick smoking and replaced it with the gym. We don’t really need to go into why smoking is bad for you, its self explanatory. But I will say that it is the best thing I ever accomplished. I am now five years smoke free. I cant tell you enough how much better my overall health has become. I found a buddy on tour who knew his way around the gym, and I humbly asked for help. We started off small, and eventually I grew to not need his help. Its interesting, as a dancer my mentality was that I didn’t need to go to the gym because dancing was enough exercise. I was wrong. You want to be on Broadway? You have to be fit in more ways than one.
My exercise regime now is changing. Recently I have hired a personal trainer to gain some more knowledge of exercises. In addition, after a workout I quietly sneak into the yoga studio at my gym and give myself a ballet barre. If I am working out by myself I usually start my routine with a 2 to 3 mile bike ride for a warmup. I then give myself a good stretch, warmup my upper body joints, and then start lifting. I pretty much do core every workout. Abs and calves are muscles that you can work everyday and I feel that it is important to constantly stay connected to your core. Especially when you are dancing eight shows a week. When Im feeling super on point, I like to pull out the wooden disc and balance on releve. This helps me engage all of my leg muscles, great for ankle strength, and also helps to work the core.
Q: You’re settled into Chicago at the moment? What are your tips for keeping your performances fresh when it becomes repetitive?
A: Yes, happily settled. 🙂 Well, its just what you do. For me, its not a question. I maintain full commitment and energy every show. Its how I was trained. Every night I put on fresh eyes and ears, and I see and hear everything on stage as if it were the first time. When I feel like my performance has strayed or gotten loose, I pull myself back in and try to simplify. Actually, that is what I am going through now. I am trying to get back to basics and just come from a place of honesty. You have to understand, the work never ends. Regardless of how long you’ve been in or how well you think you know the show. Our performance can evolve sometimes to a safe place and we don’t realize that we sound and look stale. You gotta keep it fresh. You gotta stay on your toes. Work hard and be humble.
Q: I loved learning that you’re an advocate of down time! How does that help you recharge and what are your tips for restful recharge?
A: So important! Everyone always wants to talk about how active they are. Well how about we talk about what you do to rest and recover. It’s just as important. I know that after a five show weekend, I don’t even want to say the word “exercise.” Maybe its my age. Its quite simple, you cannot be at your full potential unless you are well rested. My tips: 7 to 8 hours of sleep, hydrate constantly, sleep with a cool mist humidifier on, take your vitamin C every morning and a glass of orange juice every evening. Its OK to not do anything on your day off. That’s what it’s for. Go hard every other day, but on your day off, be a sloth Sleep in, lay in bed, sit with your computer, snuggle your animal, lay out and get some sun. DO NOTHING. Give yourself permission to let go. Its all a balance. I have a couple of friends who really don’t know how to do this. Literally they are heading to Brooklyn on a lunch break to go rock climbing. I’m like, calm down, your body isn’t going anywhere.
Q: Food is fuel! Amiright? 🙂 Can you explain how food has influenced your Fit For Broadway journey?
A: Its all about breakfast. A well balanced and hefty breakfast makes for lighter eating and healthy snacking for the rest of the day. It also speeds up your metabolism. Every morning I make myself eggs, toast, fresh fruit and greek yogurt. After I eat and clean up the kitchen I am ready for a workout. A big breakfast gives me the energy I need to work hard. I would not be able to get up and exercise without first fueling my body.
Q: Finish these phrases.
- The best part about being on Broadway is… Feeling like you are a part of a community; a sense of belonging.
- The most challenging part about being on Broadway is… Maintaining consistency and keeping your energy levels up.
Q: Who or what inspires you?
A: The legends and mentors that came before me and also the pure joy of being on Broadway.
Q: Whats your advice for aspiring performers?
A: Focus on your own journey. Be happy for others. Work hard, stay humble. Know your strengths, capitalize on them. Know your weaknesses, try to make them stronger. Never stop training. Relax, its not a matter of if but a matter of when.