“My sister had an 8-track and one night she played ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’ I walked in the room and had to know what it was. I was six years old and memorized it. We lived in the middle of an orange grove and there wasn’t much to do after school so I performed for myself. I grew up in a small town in Florida with a good theater program. When I was 19, I wrote a rock opera based on Romeo on Juliet on a dare. That year I also met Gram Nash. He was my first rock & roll hero to meet. I got to hang out with them in the hotel. My life had to be theater and music.
I moved to California and made a living as an actor and musician for 30 years. I started going to Hilton Head in the summer of ’88 to make extra money playing on the dock of a seafood restaurant. I made enough to survive California during the winters. I moved to Hilton Head in ’90 because I met Scott Morlock and we started the Lawn Jockeys and became one of the favorite bands in the area. We packed the house everywhere we went. Our influences were Styx and Kiss and it was a production. I was a songwriter and we recorded an album but it was hard to make a leap from covers to originals. That is why I am so appreciative of Mobile’s local music scene that encourages original music. I did radio a little in high school but never considered it as a career. I moved to Hilton Head and did it as something to fall back on when the gigs were slow.
I did a Police Academy project that was never released. It was filmed for a game with different endings. I got to interact with all of the characters. The stock market crashed and Hasbro shelved the project and all that we filmed. I did a Tropicana orange juice commercial where I stuck a straw in an orange. It paid my bills for two years.
I worked in radio a little bit in high school, but never considered it as a career. It was something to fall back on when the gigs were slow in Hilton Head, and I helped launch a AAA station there. The Zew was looking for a program director and I came to Mobile for the interview with Tim Camp that went from 1 p.m. until midnight. Mobile is where I am supposed to be and where theater came back to me.
I was having breakfast with Mike Dumas one morning and saw a story about auditions for ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ with Mobile Theater Guild. Auditions were that afternoon across the street from my house. I had been Pseudolus in the show before and I got the role of Pseudolus again. Standing in the light during the song, ‘Free,’ was pure joy and felt like I was home. There is an amazing theater family in Mobile and they took me in. I have had so many bucket list moments. I conducted a song with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra and sang a song with Mobile Opera. I was Tevye in ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ one of the greatest experiences of my life. I was Judas in ‘Godspell’ and then Judas in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’ That was a big deal for me because that is where my love for theater started, but playing Judas twice messes with your head.
I do a lot of research for my characters. I need to understand them from the inside so I can become them. I went to Clarksdale, Mississippi to get to know the role of Big Daddy on ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.’ In ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ we intentionally spent so much time together that we felt like family. The girls became as close as daughters in real life. Sweeney in ‘Sweeney Todd’ is one of my last dream roles.
‘Assassins’ was the first show I directed. I always helped people with their characters and thought I was ready. I am tough when I need to be but try not to freak out. Putting the cast together is a big puzzle. We are lucky in Mobile because the right people come out and audition. They give new life to iconic characters. I know what I want in a scene, but it is exciting when surprises and better ideas appear in front of you.
The four scariest words that can come out of my mouth are “I have an idea.” Ideas spark other ideas and I love that process. You see it in your head and then it starts coming to life with cast, props and sets. Then magic happens. That is what has we have right now in ‘Young Frankenstein.’ The rehearsals have been hard with intense dance rehearsals. It is like old Broadway where everything leads into a big production number. It is so much more than I thought it would be. We have a 7-piece orchestra. The show is above excellence. As the director, my job is done and now I get to enjoy it and watch the audience. They call these plays because once the work is done we get to play. People are giving up their time, money and leaving their house to see us do what we would do for free. We owe the audience everything. They are why we do this. Thank you for letting me do what I love to do.
I love acting and being on stage, but I really love directing. I have run lights, played in the orchestra and been music director. I want to know all sides. I am believe in learning and teaching and is what I would be doing if I wasn’t doing this. A professor once told our class that his job was to make us better than him by the time we leave. My job as a director is to make the cast a little better than they are already. I am directing ‘Tick,Tick…Boom’ at MTG next. ‘Evita,’ ‘Waitress’ and ‘Next to Normal’ are on my wish list.
I am a wanderer and have an adventurous soul. I get that from my dad and I was his shadow until he had a heart attack and died when I was five. I am constantly in awe of the world and my surroundings. There is a saying on the back of one of my albums that my mother used to tell me, ‘Go noisily into the world with wide eyes, open mind, and eager touch.’ That is who I am. When I die, I want God to look at me and say I made a difference and made people happy.”