You may not know but my undergraduate degree is in Theatre from Illinois State University. I have performed in all forms of theater. I’ve starred in a few professional shows but in musicals I was always an ensemble player. I think that is why I pay more attention to them when I review a show. I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with one of the standout ensemble cast member of touring company of Hello Dolly, which will be here in Chicago through November 17th.
Hi Brandon, I would like to officially introduce you to my readers. Where are you from?
I am from a small town in South Carolina called St. Matthews!
Was musical theatre always something you always wanted to do?
No actually. All through-out high school and partially through college I was trained to pursue a career in contemporary ballet. It wasnʼt until I saw Newsies, when I realized this was something I could see myself doing. So my senior year of college I decided to listen to that internal voice, and went on my own path. Countless auditions, vocal lessons, and of course my usual ballet classes in college. It was challenging at times not majoring in musical theater, but I knew that it was my calling. That sounds so cheesy, but it was the first time in my life where I felt complete. My mommy, Loretta Whitmore was by my side the entire time and still to this day is my biggest support system. This lifestyle in the arts is sometimes is considered “unstable” but one thing she taught me was “if you believe, you can achieve anything you put your mind to.”
Tell us about your audition for Hello Dolly. Were you nervous? Did you think you really had a chance?
Hahaha I love this question! This audition was a shock for me. The first time I auditioned for this show was to be a replacement on Broadway over a year ago. I was so surprised how physical and athletic Hello, Dolly! could be! I ended up not getting the job but I was DETERMINED to book this show. The choreography just fit my body so well, and I loved how energetic and passionate Sara Edwards (Associate Choreographer) was in the room. Her energy inspired me to audition for this show a total of 8 times. This includes callbacks and workshops as well. A week after my final audition my agent called me into her office to “discuss, and catch up”. And within minutes, she pulled out a sheet of paper that read: Please see the details below for your offer for "Ensemble, As Cast (dancer)" in the upcoming national tour of HELLO, DOLLY! I was so surprised I couldnʼt even cry. All I could do was smile and thank God for the opportunity.
This is your national tour debut- is it different from being in any other production? Is it what you thought it would be?
Oh yes! Well kind of. When I’m on stage it truly feels like home, but there are a couple of things to get use to, like the traveling from state to state or city to city; weather changes, and of course the packing which I still haven’t mastered yet.
What was that feeling like the first time you went on stage in the national tour?
Words aren’t enough to describe the feeling of performing this show. The choreography, the lyrics to every song just has a strong message. This cast is INSANE and its crazy how things become full circle. Some of my cast mates where in Newsies on Broadway and that was the musical that inspired me to pursue this career. When I was a young boy, I listened to Betty Buckley sing “Memory” from Cats and now I get to perform with her every day! It’s all so surreal. I will never forget the first time I heard that Overture in the theater with the orchestra. I was tearing up because that was the moment I knew my hard work and persistence paid off. I’m just speechless to be honest.
Can you describe your role in the show/ company?
As an ensemble member in the show I wear many hats. I start off as a townsman, and then finish the show as a waiter. As #n ensemble member, we are described as the Greek chorus if you will. Dancing, and singing as unit. And being the support to emphasize and reiterate an emotion or circumstance being presented on stage.
Brandon there are young performers who are praying to be in your shoes, any advice for them?
Stay open to opportunities. Keep training and stay humble. Be also be confident in your abilities. Trust yourself and don’t be afraid of vulnerability. Find different outlets to escape and find inspiration from anywhere, and NEVER, I repeat, NEVER give up on your goals.
Thank you Brandon for spending a little time with me and good luck on the tour.
Until next time keep your EYE to the sky!