BWW Interviews: Luke Smith Talks Disney's PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, His Career, and Awning
After winning prestigious awards both on Broadway and Off-Broadway, Disney's Peter and the Starcatcher, a magical prequel to Peter Pan, is headed for Houston. The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is the First National Tour production's third stop on their expansive route. The tour cast kicked off the show on August 15, 2013 in Denver and are currently playing to audiences in Dallas. Recently, Luke Smith, who plays Smee, took time out of his busy schedule to chat with me about Peter and the Starcatcher, his career on stage, and his band Awning (click link to discover more).
BWW: How did you get started in theatre?
Luke Smith: Well, I actually started because of my younger brother. When I was growing up I was always a musician. I would play my mom's guitar when I was three years old. I wouldn't play it very well, obviously, but I always wanted to play it. My brother on the other hand was a song and dance man. My parents found this performing arts camp called French Woods [Festival], it's just on the border of Pennsylvania and New York. They were interested in sending Sam, my bother, there. It was a musical theatre camp, but when I saw the paper [I noticed] they also had a rock band section of the camp. That provoked my interest in it. I went there to play rock music with kids, but all the cool kids at the camp were in music theatre. I thought, "Well, I'll give it shot." I kind of bit the bug that way.
I remember seeing a production of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, and it absolutely killed me; I loved it. So, I think it started there. Then, I did musicals going through middle school and high school. I ended up going to University of North Carolina School for the Arts for acting, graduated a couple of years ago, was in the city for two years, and here I am doing this. So, that's kind of it in a nutshell. (Laughs)
BWW: I saw in your bio that you haven't given up the rock band bug either. You're still writing music for an electronic folk band called Awning.
Luke Smith: Yes, Awning is a partnership between my closest friend, Jon Sheldrick, and me. Before I went to North Carolina, I went to NYU for two years, pursuing a Bachelor's of music in singing for music theatre. Jon and I met in Jazz Choir, and we started writing music while we were in college. I even continued to write when I was going to school in North Carolina, and he stayed in New York. When I came back, we formed this band. It's pretty much him and me. Some friends play with us from time to time.
For me, music and theatre have kind of always been equal passions, and I think they both kind of serve me equally. Sometimes one takes the focus, and then it goes to the other. I think they both serve me in a very important way, especially with Awning. Songwriting is a creative outlet when theater-the career-cannot always be the way I want it to be because a lot of things are out of my control. It's been nice to have that a creative outlet that is in my control. Well, Jon's and my control collectively.
BWW: How did you come to be involved in the National Tour of Peter and the Starcatcher?
Luke Smith: I had an audition for Jillian Cimini. It was a pre-screen. I was actually auditioning for the role of Prentiss, and did up until my final callback. That was, I guess, about four auditions in. I went in for Alex [Timbers] and Roger [Rees], the directors, and Greg [Schaffert], Nancy [Nagel Gibbs], and Eva [Price], some of the producers, and Wayne [Barker], the composer. I went in there, did my thing, and sang my song. They were like, "Alright, great! Hang out for a second." I went out the door, and then Jillian comes out and says, "We'd like you to try out Smee." I had the side [short audition piece from the play] for about half an hour. I went in, did whatever my intuition told me to do (Laughs), and I got the job. Now, I'm playing Smee in the national tour, and I couldn't be more excited about it.