BWW Interviews: MN Native GHOST Star Haunted By Longing for NYC
Steven Grant Douglas grew up in the "smallest town in Northwestern Minnesota," but had big dreams when he moved across the state and went to college in Duluth to study musical theatre and dance. Steven from Stephen, Minn., a town of approximately 600 people, just knew he belonged in New York City and set his sights firmly on a move to the Big Apple once he completed school.
Life does not always work out the way you think it will, however. Having visited NYC once a year to audition and get known by casting directors in the city while still attending classes at University of Minnesota Duluth, Douglas detoured to Minneapolis where he won a role in Theatre Latte Da/Hennepin Theatre Trust's co-production of AIDA as a member of the ensemble and understudied Radames, the lead. That lead to a role in Latte Da's THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, then a lead in another theatre's production of AVENUE Q where Douglas played Princeton. But he had kept a foot in the door in New York by auditioning for 50 companies, now just a year ago.
One of those auditions, for SOUL DOCTOR, attracted the eye of a casting director who later contacted Douglas to audition for GHOST. One problem, that lead in AVENUE Q was in Grand Forks, N.D. and he was committed to the role. Twenty-first century technology meant that would not be an issue -- he videotaped a 14-minute audition, posted it to YouTube and was called back a short time later to fly to NYC. Two weeks later, Douglas was starring in the national tour of GHOST and living his dream, just not in the big city. Touring since last September, GHOST will be seen in 32 cities in 36 weeks on the road. New York would have to wait.
"To be offered the role, and to be the guy who is the face of the show across the country is just unreal, it's phenomenal," said Douglas. "I feel very fortunate."
A year ago Douglas was going to the stage door to greet the actors in the touring shows that came to Minneapolis and now he's on the receiving end. "It's so exciting to be on the other side of the table," he said. "And it happened so quickly that I still have an appreciation for fans and people who are theatre-goers. It's been a terrific journey and something I intend to carry with me no matter where I go from here. I'll always remember where I came from."
And Steven from Stephen will have plenty of people from where he came from to greet at the Orpheum stage door when GHOST opens June 18. A busload of his hometown fans will head down I94 on a six-hour journey to witness their favorite son's big debut on the national stage in Minneapolis along with friends from his alma mater in Duluth.
Playing the role of Sam Wheat, made famous by Patrick Swayze in the original hit film, is a bit intimidating, but the creative team did not expect Douglas to recreate the film or Swayze's performance. "I've had to learn to become a part of a different world than the other actors in the piece," he said. "To sort of be there but not be seen by the other people on stage, or not be heard (as a ghost). It's a very challenging role."
Working with the production's illusionist, who created the special effects that will "blow people's minds and makes audiences gasp," Douglas said the cast was instilled with pride in performing the illusions that bring the other world Sam lives in to the stage. The scene where Sam passes through a door is a show-stopping moment, Douglas said. "You have to see it to believe it." Audiences will marvel at objects flying through the air, even people flying through the air, and most will have theories about how the magic happens, but the cast are not allowed to reveal the secrets. Instead, Douglas likes to hear their theories.
This vocally demanding show keeps Douglas on stage most of the time and staying engaged is the challenge but the rewards involve the huge state-of-the-art Broadway musical's intimate moments that he loves particularly, like the final scene when Sam is able finally to say his goodbyes to Molly. "You can hear a pin drop in a 2,000 person theatre," he said. "That's an incredible experience."
While Douglas said there's potential for an extension of the tour, he's already set his mind on his upcoming move to New York City, fulfilling his life-long yearning. "It's the epicenter of the entertainment industry, and especially the American musical," Douglas said. "Moving to New York City is definitely where I want to go. That's where I long to be."
GHOST came out of nowhere, he said, and has become the best thing that ever happened to him, so he's not sure where he'll go next but he trusts things will work out.
"I just found a quote... I don't have the person who said it but it sums up what I'm saying," Douglas said. "It says, 'You don't always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens.' So that's basically what I'm going to do after GHOST. I'm going to breathe, enjoy all the experiences I have, hope for the best and audition, just like everybody else."
GHOST plays the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis June 18 - 23. TIckets are available through Hennepin Theatre Trust at www.hennepintheatretrust.org, 800-982-2787, all Ticketmaster outlets or the State Theatre Box Office.