BWW Interview: Cheech Manohar of MEAN GIRLS on His Parody Rap Audition
At 21-years-old and fresh out of college, Cheech Manohar's got it pretty grool. With few professional credits to his name, he's about to make his Broadway debut as suave virgin North Shore mathlete, Kevin Gnapoor, in the new musical Mean Girls, an adaption of the 2004 film of the same name.
"It feels completely surreal, very unexpected but also very right," Manohar explains to BroadwayWorld's Leigh Scheps during a taping of her Youtube show, Up With The Curtain. The Syracuse University musical theater graduate from Pittsburgh believes he sealed the deal with a parody rap he wrote for his open call audition based off of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song. It wasn't until towards the end of the casting process when he met creator and writer, Tina Fey. "Almost pooped my pants, but she was very professional," Manohar recalls.
Mean Girls, with music by Fey's husband Jeff Richmond (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, 30 Rock) and lyrics by Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde) is directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw (Something Rotten!, Aladdin). Out-of-town tryouts begin at the National Theatre in Washington D.C. October 31st and run until December 3rd before moving to Broadway.
The musical also stars Ericka Henningsen (Cady Heron), Taylor Louderman (Regina George) Ashley Park (Gretchen Wieners), Kate Rockwell (Karen Smith) and Kerry Butler (Ms. Norbury).
BroadwayWorld's Leigh Scheps chats with Cheech about how he found out about getting the role and what audiences can expect to see in the show.
What was the casting process like?
I went to the open call. I wanted to do something funny for it, so I went in with a rap that I wrote. It was a re-written version of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song. They asked me to go to the [Equity Chorus Call]. They saw me dance -- I did a little hip hop for them. After that, I just went through about eight different callbacks in three and a half weeks. I found out about a month after graduation on June 16th. The audition process took a whole month and there were a lot of moving pieces because it's such a big show.
So you had to keep this exciting news a secret for more than a month?
I wasn't able to tell a bunch of people until the press release came out, which was a week ago. The only people I told beforehand were my roommates and my best friends. I live with some awesome people, and they were also there throughout the entire audition process so they knew I was going in a bunch.
How did you find out you got the part?
I was actually at another audition. I was waiting to get cut and my agent called me. They're like, "Cheech we got some bad news. You're going to have to spend a couple months in D.C." So, I'm at this audition [when] I realized I got it and I'm trying not to freak out about it because I'm in front of a bunch of other actors. I went home and called my parents. I didn't even wait to see if I had actually gotten cut from the other audition or not.
Was Tina Fey there at all during auditions?
Almost pooped my pants, but she was very professional. It was an audition setting, so I basically walked in and I was like, Hey everyone. And she said, "Hi Cheech." I almost started crying but had to get through the audition.
Have you met any once else in the cast yet?
How does it feel to graduate from Syracuse and make your Broadway debut right away?
It feels completely surreal, very unexpected but also very right. I really love this role. I really love this show. I'm super excited about it. It's really exciting to think that I can potentially be the person that freshmen I worked with look up to. I hope I'm a good role model both on and off stage for those people.
What can you tell us about your part and the show?
All I know so far are the songs and the sides that I've done for the audition. There are going to be a couple of really awesome big dance numbers and that's about all I can say. I'm really excited to get started. It's such an exciting thing to take on such an iconic character.
For tickets, visit http://meangirlsonbroadway.com/.