Gahanna thespian gets big break in Big Apple
Performing on Broadway has long been Mike Faist's goal and dream, but even a dream come true couldn't have imagined being part of a runaway hit show like Newsies.
Yet that's where the Gahanna native landed for his Broadway debut, playing the part of Morris Delancey and being part of the ensemble of newsies.
"It's so much fun," Faist told ThisWeek. "That first number, when the screens go up, the newsies turn around and there's this huge energy coming from the audience.
"The house is like a rock show. The audience is insane," he said.
The 2009 Gahanna Lincoln High School graduate knew for a long time that moving to New York and giving himself a chance to work on Broadway was his plan. He started dancing when he was 5 and appeared locally in productions by Columbus Children's Theatre, BalletMet Columbus, Pleasure Guild of Columbus and the Davis Center, in addition to being a member of the chorale at GLHS.
During his sophomore year in high school, his family began exploring performing-arts programs in New York City. After graduation, he spent a year studying in the American Musical and Drama Academy and then stepped up his auditioning schedule. He has worked in a number of regional productions, including La Comedia dinner theatre and at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, N.H., where he was working as he was going through the callback process for Newsies.
"I was just hoping to get lucky," he said.
Faist said his parents backed his dream and that someone from his family is making the trip to New York City about every other week.
"Without them I wouldn't be here," he said.
Faist was part of the original cast at the Paper Mill Theatre before the show moved to Broadway. Currently, Newsies, adapted from a 1992 film of the same name and based on the real-life 1899 newsboys strike in New York City, plays eight shows a week at the Nederlander Theatre. Additionally, Faist has joined the cast on the Tony Awards telecast, as well as other TV appearances in Good Morning America and The View.
Morris Delancey, he said, is "a stereotypical henchman-type bad guy," adding that everyone deep down wants to play a villain. Faist gets to play both sides of the coin in the show, though, performing also as a member of the ensemble of newsies, in which he gets to show off his dance moves in particular during the song, King of New York.
Faist said that despite the experience of being a dream come true, "it's not glamorous, and it's a lot of hard work."
He said he has a show-day ritual of showing up early to warm up physically and vocally and to visualize the technical details of the performance. But after the music starts, he said, "you let that stuff go and just stay in the moment, focus on the story."
"Every show is slightly different. It keeps it alive," he said. "Every night is so much fun."