Brandon Stonestreet, Broadway Dancer.
[Interview Date: October 23, 2020]
Wicked Tour, Matilda Tour and more.
Where were you on March 12, 2020? And what was the week leading up to it like for you?
I had just gotten off of tour on March 5, and I was so excited to be back in the city, because it was my fifth tour. I’ve been out of the city more than I’ve been in the city. And so, I was so excited to get back and finally work towards my dream of staying here. I had been gone for a year and a half on tour. I saw Diana on Broadway, a preview with a good friend of mine. And the next day was the announcement. I was just getting back into the city, getting myself situated as one does, coming off of tour and just going to start trying to audition!
Did you anticipate Broadway and other theatre productions to be closed for this long?
In my gut, I definitely knew it wasn’t going to be the two weeks or month that they said it was going to be. I am shocked it has gone on this long. Although with our current administration, I’m not surprised at all.
What have you been doing over the past year or so to stay sane? What has helped you the most?
Early on, I started doing a lot of little projects. Early on, in quarantine-my boyfriend and I-we sent out a combo to a bunch of our friends to piece together a music video of everyone doing the set moves. We did a video with the original company of Legally Blonde. We made a video for a health group and got the original cast of Legally Blonde to sing “Oh My God You Guys,” as “Oh My God Sanitize.” Did that to kill the time. So fun!
Also, very much cultivating on my relationships with other people that had fallen to the wayside, just because… life. The thing that has very much kept me sane is that in April, I got an offer to join the Moulin Rouge Broadway Company! In the middle of Quarantine! It was literally crazy. Quarantine had started, it was a month and a half in. I was in Miami with my boyfriend, and we had been talking about the state of the industry, and I was definitely going down that spiral of, “I’m never gonna work again!” Because whenever Broadway returns there is going to be more people auditioning than ever for fewer jobs and I was like, “I’m never gonna work again after this.”
Backtrack—While I was still on tour in March, I got an offer to do the Moulin Rouge tour as a Swing, of which I turned down because I didn’t want to go on tour again. But I was so paranoid that they would not contact me again. It’s a show I really want to be in and a team I really want to work with.
Fast-forward—to quarantine, “state of industry”: That morning, I texted my agent and was like, “Do you think it’s too late for me to get that tour offer again?” And then after that day, he called me and I just assumed it was to talk about the tour. And he was like, “So, you actually have an offer to join the Broadway Company when the pandemic is over as the swing.” And, I freaked out. I was shaking. Crazy and out of the blue! In the middle of a pandemic! He said he had known a couple days before that, an offer was coming my way, and he got the official call that day. So, that truly has been the life-saver for me—knowing that whenever this is all done, I have a job to go back to. And it’s my Broadway Debut! I’m so happy. I’m so excited. It was so reaffirming in the power of no and saying what you want. Just having that piece of mind that when all this is done, I have something I am so grateful for. If I was fully unemployed right now with no prospects. I don’t know what I would be doing. That has brought so much promise and peace, and I’ve been able to focus on other things because I have something to return to.
And it’s also been so great because it has been my motivator to stay in shape, because in that show, everyone is so famously naked the whole time, and if I have to swing on for the track in the leather thong and the fishnets and cage dance, I gotta look good! So, I’ve had motivation in staying fit, at least! So, that was my saving grace!
Also, for the first time ever, I have a boyfriend! He was the Associate Choreographer on Diana. I saw the show the night before, and then Broadway shut down, and that was our first date. I had already met him doing the sound effects for the Mary Poppins movie. I’ve always had the biggest crush on him. I’ve seen him in so many shows, I’ve taken his class so many times. Funny enough, our second date was two months of quarantine together. He said, “Since Broadway’s gonna be shut down, I’m gonna fly down to my parent’s house in Miami”, and I was like, ‘Really?” and he was like, “No you should!” I flew down to Miami with a week of clothes, and then we were there for two months! That’s been the other saving grace. I’m cultivating this relationship. It’s something I’ve always wanted but never had the time to work towards.
What do you miss the most about non-Covid NYC?
I’m a very social person, and I miss that social life of going to a bar and hanging out with friends, or going dancing, going to restaurants, not having to worry about your health in normal things like being in public with a group of people. Other than Broadway and all that stuff, I miss the social aspect of everything. That’s always been my favorite thing about living in New York. The social life!
As a dancer, have you been taking online dance classes since quarantine? If so, how have those been different for you than in-person class? What is the most challenging part of it?
I’m a bad dancer, in terms that I have not taken once class since quarantine, but it’s because I know myself and I know that if I were to take a class in my living room, I would get so discouraged because I can’t do anything full out, and I live for everything very full out. And I would get so annoyed. But luckily, recently, it’s been really nice because my boyfriend’s been teaching at BDC and Steps, and my best friend has been teaching at BDC and Steps, so I’ve been assisting them. And so just recently, I have been able to get back into a studio and dance, and I forgot how much I love dancing! Dancing in a studio and being able to move my full body. I think that break from March to whatever was so nice. Especially coming off tour, your body is a little broken. I just needed that break, and now it’s been such a strong reminder that this is what I love to do, and I know it’s because I’m in a studio.
What has been the hardest thing about the past months since the shutdown?
Hardest thing…I think the hardest thing for me is if I don’t have something to do one day, I’m just left alone with my thoughts, and that’s never good. It’s really hard to find things to distract you right now, and that been the hardest part for me is finding ways to keep busy and keep sane and keep your head above water. It’s hard to stay out of a state of depression when you have almost no purpose in life right now. But that is messed up too, because why is my purpose in life working? My job? That’s been really hard, but in turn, it’s also been a good thing, because I have found purpose in other areas. I’ve picked up drawing which has been really fun! More of my creative outlet.
What positives, if any, do you think have come out of this time of quarantine?
Mine is very personal in the sense that I got my Broadway debut offer, which is insane. I have a boyfriend for the first time ever, which has been amazing. All of this literally started right at the beginning of the shutdown. I think universally, the best thing to come out of this is it has put everyone on the same playing field. The social hierarchy and status of our industry; everyone is on the same page. Whether you are a creative, a producer, a Tony award winner…Everyone is on the same playing field and with that, I think you just become more human and more empathetic. And you see the struggle that so many people have to go through. Especially if you’re someone who’s been working constantly, to then not have work, and then be brought back to yourself. I think that has been so important, and I think it has probably brought a lot of clarity to a lot of people, just because everyone has a moment to reflect, and take pause, and breathe, and check in with themselves. I feel like the best thing about this break is probably making everyone sit with themselves. What do I need? What do I want? Am I happy? Is this the path I want to go down? All that self-reflection is very helpful. I almost feel more grounded right now than I ever have because I don’t have anything distract me.
Has the pandemic affected the decisions you’ve made in 2020? How have your priorities changed since Broadway shuttered, if at all?
Tying into the last question, I think I’m more in touch with myself and what I need and what I deserve. And I know that moving forward, I will feel like I don’t have to do anything to just stay alive. I can pick and choose what is right for me. Being able to check in with myself and decide if it’s something I really want to do.
What do you miss the most about live theatre?
Everything! Everything about it! I miss dancing and sweating and singing and being in front of an audience and wearing cool costumes—I miss everything about it. For me, it’s always been such a cathartic release doing a show, and not having that has been so weird. Especially, if you think about it, this is probably the longest anyone has ever gone—this is the longest I’ve ever gone without dancing, since I started dance as a teenager or whatever. I think I miss everything about it.
What is the first thing you’re going to do when theatre is back?
Cry? Start learning all my tracks! The thing that’s so exciting is I’m going to get to have a full rehearsal process! When Broadway comes back, the whole show is going to be in rehearsal! It’s the best-case scenario for me, because I’ve heard I’ll probably start rehearsal before the entire company because I’ll have to start learning my tracks. And then, the month leading up to a show reopening, the entire show is going to be in rehearsal which means I’ll have an actual rehearsal process with the actual creative team, most likely, so I’ll be able to learn all my tracks and then see them and practice in a room with the actual bodies! That’s going to be really nice!
What advice do you have for young Broadway hopefuls during this time?
Keep your head up. I know everything seems almost impossible especially if you are a Musical Theatre hopeful just leaving college. So, just keep your head up and know that your time is coming. It just might take longer than you had initially thought.
Favorite Broadway Musical: There are so many, but I would honestly say West Side Story.
Favorite Broadway Play: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
Favorite Broadway Choreographer: I feel like it’s tied with three-Christopher Wheeldon, Jerome Robbins, and Peter Darling!
Favorite Broadway Composer: Sondheim. Easy.
Movie that you think should be a musical: Ooh! Holes. How is it not a musical? That or the Little Rascals, except with adults as kids.
Favorite Theatre Ritual: I love Happy Trails. It’s such a nice sendoff after doing a show.
Favorite City on Tour: San Diego or Seattle.
Self-tapes, yay or nay?: I am in the minority. I will say yay. Because for me, I know it’s a shot in the dark. I know nothing is going to come of this self-tape. I don’t want to say I don’t take it seriously. But I almost make bolder choices. It’s not as vulnerable. You have multiple takes. Sometimes, it’s tedious and annoying, but I feel like I get to be more of myself than I am in a room. Mainly because I’m trying to make whoever is helping me laugh. So, for me, it’s so fun!
Dressing Room Item, you can’t live without: Again, this is very personalized. Her name is Deb the head. I have a mannequin head that I generally keep in dressing rooms. It’s super weird, and I love weird things. She becomes a mascot! Everyone loves her! And, also, just a bag of candy.