By Sue Botos
According to Tony Award winning actor and St. Ignatius High School graduate Daniel Reichard, the best way for aspiring actors to hone their craft is to start small and grow into their work, no matter where it may lead.
“It’s surreal to get in front of an audience. The more you get up there, the more committed you are, no matter what your career,” Reichard, 29, told an audience of students from St. Edward, St. Ignatius, St. Joseph Academy and Magnificat High School, where he recently gave a presentation about what it takes to make it as a professional performer. Reichard appeared with Patrick McCollum, dance captain for the Chicago production of the musical “Wicked.”
Recalling what led him to become an actor, the Cleveland native told the students, “I had a hunger to be an entertainer. I guess I was attention starved. I just got up and started singing, and getting in front of people.”
A combination of nerve as well as persistence is also necessary, as he recalled one of his first auditions as a young teen.
“I auditioned for ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and was not cast. I’m still bitter,” he said with a laugh.
After graduation from St. Ignatius, where he said he gradually ended up with lead roles during his senior year, Reichard enrolled in the musical theatre program at the University of Michigan, where he once again was cast as a chorus member in a number of musicals. “You’ve got to grow into it,” he said of starring roles, “You can get the butterflies out without the pressure of driving the ship,” he stated.
Reichard headed to New York after receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater and, after a year, landed the role of Charlie in the Goodspeed Opera House production of ‘Brigadoon’ in East Haddam, Connecticut.
The attacks of Sept. 11 brought his career to a temporary halt.
“I was selling furniture and I was horrible. I don’ think I sold any furniture, maybe some towels and candles,” he quipped. Reichard made his New York debut later in 2001 as a member of the original cast of “Forbidden Broadway,” which the actor explained as being a type of “Saturday Night Live” parody review of classic Broadway shows. In 2003, at the age of 24, Reichard was cast as Keith Haring in the show “Radiant Baby.”
“That was a big growing-up experience,” Reichard said of working with well-known director George C. Wolf. “He said, ‘Don’t study (a character), don’t learn it here,’” Reichard said pointing to his head. “‘Learn it with your whole body.’”
Although the actor learned from what he called this “intense, dramatic experience,” the New York Times panned his performance. “I did get some good reviews,” he said with a laugh.
These kudos were good enough for Reichard to land his most well-known part, his portrayal of Bob Gaudio, a member of the Four Seasons, in the original cast of “Jersey Boys” at the La Jolla Playhouse in California.
“I thought it sounded stupid, but I went to the audition, and the guy there said that he liked me in ‘Radiant Baby,’” said Reichard, who read for two parts in ‘Jersey Boys,’ and was called back a month later.
“I didn’t prepare. I just sat down at the piano and sang and played ‘Oh What a Night’ and I got the part (of Bob),” he recalled, noting it may have been his ability to play that iced the role for him.
“It was fun to build a show from the start. We added all these little silly moments that are now part of the show,” he added, stating that while 60 percent of the seats were given away initially, by the end of two weeks, the show was pulling in $1 million a week. Reichard said he had the chance to meet a number of celebrities, including Tom Hanks, who saw the show about 11 times.
Reichard was living his dream, but told the students that eight shows a week is grueling. “It’s a lot of work with one day off, even when you’re sick, you’ve gotta go out there,” he said.
Currently touring with the band “Midtown Men”, Reichard told the students that a career in performing is always evolving. “I did a play called ‘Goodtime Charlie’ and there were five people in the audience, one was my agent and one was my dad,” he said. Above all, love of the profession is most important, he told the students, stating, “You have to like it because you’re always pursuing it, there is no finish line.”