Giuseppe Bausilio Does Double Duty in NEWSIES and IRVING BERLIN'S AMERICA in NYC
What's that like? Audiences can ask him themselves when he'll be featured in special talkbacks after performances of "Irving Berlin's America" at the 13th Street Repertory Theater, 50 W,. 13th Street (www.13thStreetRep.org) on Sunday, July 6th and Thursday, July 10th.
Chip Deffaa, playwright/director of "Irving Berlin's America," notes: "One actor I know-who very much wanted to play the role that Bausilio is now playing so well-complained to me that he thinks it's unfair that Bausilio gets to be in two shows, while most actors aren't even in one show. The last time I remember an actor successfully handling two shows at once was when Cynthia Nixon was in two shows simultaneously in New York, and there were also out-of-work actors then who complained that no actor should be allowed to be in two shows at once on the grounds that they're supposedly depriving others of work. Such complainers are simply jealous. Cynthia Nixon had something special-which is why producers wanted her for two shows at once-and so does Bausilio. He's got an extremely demanding role in 'Irving Berlin's America'-which includes singing one Berlin rarity that Berlin himself said was 'impossible to sing'-and he's carrying it off beautifully. He's the strongest young triple-threat singer/dancer/actor I've seen. I waited to open this production, for him to be available. I'd be glad to work with him in any show at any time. He's a unique talent."
And Bausilio has to be a unique talent, in the judgment of producers, writers, and directors, in order for him to be doing these Equity-approved shows. Because he is not a U.S. citizen, employers have to affirm that he is better than any available US. Citizen, in order to hire him. But evidence that Bausilio is a standout is not hard to find.
He has won gold, silver, or bronze medals in international dance competitions every year since 2006. Bausilio, who grew up in a small town in Switzerland named Boll ("It isn't on the map," he says), came top the US when he was 11, to compete in the annual, worldwide dance competition, the Youth America Grand Prix. He took second place-meaning, essentially, he was ranked as the second best dancer in his age-group, in the whole world. His family had planned to fly back to Switzerland immediately after the dance competition. But his dancing caught the eye of Nora Brennan, a casting director for the Broadway musical Billy Elliot. She asked if he'd be willing to audition the next day for Billy Elliot. Neither Giuseppe Bausilio nor his parents, at that point, had even heard of Billy Elliot. But they rearranged plans so the boy could audition the next day. He got the part. And he and his parents agreed, at once, to move to the US so he could do the show. Bausilio notes: "At that point, I could barely even speak English-I could only say a few simple things: 'Hello,' 'Goodbye, 'My name is Giuseppe....'" But he quickly learned the language. And when he joined the show, his commitment was total. In his two years with Billy Elliot-on the road and in New York-he never missed a performance, earning him the nicknames "The Rock" and "The Bull." Deffaa adds that Bausilio has not missed any commitments with Irving Berlin's America, either. "And I appreciate that. This show has a future life, beyond this current tryout at the 13th Street Repertory Theater, and in choosing a performer,. I value reliability as much as talent. Giuseppe has got both. And as busy as he is, he seems to welcome every additional challenge."
Bausilio plays several instruments, writes songs, and speaks seven languages. He has performed in benefit shows from "Gypsy of the Year" to the "Disney Theatricals 20th Anniversary" show. He has sung the national anthem at seven different major-league baseball and soccer games. Bausilio notes: "Some people were like, 'Oh, no! Why is he singing the National Anthem? He's not even America!.'" But he loves this country, and is glad he's gotten such requests.
He's currently carrying several different scripts in his head. For Newsies, he plays the role of "Race" and also understudies the role of "Davey." (His next scheduled appearance as "Davey will be July 21st.) For Irving Berlin's America, he plays the role of Berlin's mysterious visitor; and he's also been workshopping a third show for the New York Theatre Barn. And Deffaa says he'd welcome using Bausilio in several shows set for forthcoming productions: "It's just very rare to see this kind of talent. And he's perfect for this Berlin show."
Bausilio returns the compliments: "It's great to work with Michael; he has perfect comedic timing. And when he shows up to work-no matter what may be going on outside of the theater-he always seems happy. That's the spirit he brings to work. And he's a joy to work with."
Irving Berlin's America is the first show to tell the life of Berlin. He was the most successful songwriter in history, but he was fanatical about his privacy, and turned down all requests in his lifetime to dramatize his life. It is one of five shows about Berlin that Deffaa has written. Deffaa notes: "Bausilio has a real feel for Berlin's music. Whether he's singing a ballad like 'A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody' or a jazzier uptempo number like 'I Love a Piano,' he gets perfectly into the spirit of the song."
Bausilio admits that growing up in Switzerland, he'd never even heard of Berlin. But he's come to admire Berlin's dedication to his craft and extraordinary work effort. "Irving Berlin came here from another country, not knowing the language, and worked hard to make the best of himself. I can certainly relate!"