BWW Interview: Drew Seigla- Don't Mute This Tenor
Those who frequent theater message boards note that on occasion a thread is posted inquiring about what actors do when they're not performing. Of course, responses vary. Some do voice-overs or record talking books, others do commercials or guest shots on TV shows. There's even one who admits to selling real estate. Actor Drew Seigla, is in the current cast of Off Broadway's long-running The Fantasticks and is a church soloist at the First Congregational Church of Greenwich in Old Greenwich, CT. He's also an opera director when he's not on the stage of the Jerry Orbach Theater.
Cast as the enigmatic figure of The Mute, Seigla gives an intense performance in the Jones and Schmidt musical which recently played its 21,000th performance in New York City. Seigla's piercing brown eyes dart from character to character as the show's action unfold on the tiny stage. He also tosses about plums with aplomb, creates rainfalls and snowfalls and flings confetti about with great abandon. He's so effective in the role that one wishes he was doing more.
In fact, Seigla does more on occasion because he understudies the role of Matt ("The Boy"), the show's male ingenue and has been called to go on in that role numerous times. When that happens, audiences get to hear his stunning tenor voice as he sings some of the most melodic music ever written for the theater.
"I figure I've gone on as Matt about 70 times since I joined the cast," Seigla says in a phone interview after a recent matinee. "I had just taken over as The Mute when I was told that Daniel Berryman was taking a leave of absence to do another project, so I went on as Matt for seven full weeks. I was even listed as Matt on the show's website and Playbill instead of a slip of paper in the program," he says. More recently, he went on as The Boy with only 28 minutes notice. Such is the life of an understudy.
The Virginia native became interested in performing while he was still a toddler. "My parents always sang in choirs and I was introduced to it through the church. We also had the cast album of THE SECRET GARDEN and played it often. Mom would sing along with Lily, Dad would sing Archibald, and I'd chime in as Colin. I loved it!"
There came a Father's Day when the Seigla family was living in Madison, VA and a special Father's Day celebration was being held at their church. "I sang a solo," Seigla recalls, "and everyone was proud and happy because they suddenly realized I had something special. I was only five at the time. From that point on I knew I just had to sing."
When the family moved to Richmond, Drew joined the Greater Richmond Children's Choir when he was about nine years old. "That was a very good experience because we were introduced to serious classical music and I found myself singing alto in that group. It was a great experience to be introduced to that kind of music at such a young age."
Before starting college, Seigla had a marvelous experience in Rome where he was introduced to opera for the first time. "It was there that I had my first voice lesson and learned about the Italian language."
Seigla's first college experience was at Elon University in North Carolina. He attended that school for two years, majoring in musical theater. "In my second year at Elon, I found myself missing Rome and the idea of classical opera. I got a new voice teacher at Elon, Dr. Kenneth Lee, and he warmed me up at a very high range and told me I had a great classical sound. He urged me to pursue it more, telling me, 'You're so good I can imagine you going to Juilliard.' I thought he was joking."
It turned out Dr. Lee was serious. Very serious. He truly believed in Seigla's potential. "He had this crazy idea that I could get into Juilliard and together we prepared a preliminary CD of lieder, art song, and oratorio. I sent it to Juilliard and got a callback, which led me to New York City."
Seigla came to New York in March and auditioned live. He got another callback that same day."At that point I had to take a theory test and an ear-training exam where they test pitches and I got a perfect score on my pitch analysis. Two weeks later I got a call informing me I'd been accepted in the 2007 class."
"I really did enjoy my time at Elon. I grew as a performer there and can't say enough good things about that school," Seigla quickly notes.
While at Juilliard, the singer began auditioning for various shows in New York--including the revival of WEST SIDE STORY. "I got a callback for Tony but didn't get the part," he recalls. After graduation he auditioned for the Lyric Opera of Virginia and was accepted. It was there that he got to do LA TRAVIATA, CARMEN and THE KING AND I. "This was all a great experience," he says. "I was 23 and fresh out of college. That was my first professional job with an opera company"
Heading back to New York in 2014, Seigla redirected his focus on auditioning for musical theater. He paid bills by doing various jobs and "temping". Ultimately he found himself auditioning for The Fantasticks. "In January 2015 I auditioned for the show, which was actually my second time going out for it," Seigla remembers. "I had auditioned for them a year earlier and was told I had a great voice, but I never heard anything further from them. On the second time around I sang "There But For You Go I" from BRIGADOON and once again they told me I had a great voice. Lo and behold I got a call from Kim Moore who's the assistant director for the show and got a chance to go to the callbacks in March. They needed a replacement because Max Crumm had left and their current Mute was being bumped up to The Boy. They needed a replacement for The Mute in a week. The following week they needed someone to go on as Matt for two shows. I was in Boston visiting my girlfriend when I got the call telling me I had the job. Of course, I accepted!"
Seigla had one week of rehearsals for The Mute. Then while performing that part at night, he was rehearsing for Matt during the day. The next Tuesday and Wednesday he went on as The Boy. "During that whole rehearsal period," he says, " I kept The Fantasticks score with me as though it was my Bible. I never let it out of my sight."
Drew Seigla will be taking a short leave from the Jerry Orbach Theater to direct a production for Opera Saratoga. He explains: "They do a Young Artists-type of outreach opera every year. This year they're doing something called OPERATION SUPERPOWER. Now this is a new piece which is really picking up heat. Actually my classmates from Juilliard were part of the creative process. They were the original singers and it was all created by Juilliard classmates--mostly my best friends. It's an incredible project, and I had a chance to sing in four performances of it when I filled in for a friend.
"Now they needed someone to direct it and because I had stage experience with it, I was offered the position. I'm excited, but admit to being outside my comfort zone with this one. I've directed before, but have more experience as a singer and and actor. However, I'm fully prepared for this now and know that OPERATION SUPERPOWER will be a great production. People feel this is a great vehicle for teaching younger audiences about opera, but more importantly it strives to inspire all students to discover their individual superpowers, and follow their dreams!"
At 4 PM on Sunday, February 21st, Seigla will perform in a concert of classic Broadway solos and duets, joined by his girlfriend, Gianna Barone. "It's funny," the singer remarks because it came about rather suddenly. I've really wanted to do a concert like this and I'll be singing 'Maria,' 'She Loves Me,' 'The Music of the Night,' and together we'll sing 'All I Ask of You,' 'Tonight,' and 'Soon It's Gonna Rain.' It'll be an exciting event. I have a lot of juggling to do right now from directing the opera and learning the material for the concert," he remarks. The concert will be at the First Congregational Church of Greenwich in Old Greenwich, CT--where Seigla is the regular soloist.
All of this keeps Drew Seigla busy when he's not onstage at The Fantasticks. He has a wish list of roles he'd like to play, though: In the opera world, he's like to sing Nemorino in L'ELISIR D'AMOR, Gounod's Romeo, the title role in CANDIDE and Rodolfo in Puccini's beloved LA BOHEME. In the musical theater milieu, Seigla would love to try his hand at THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, Archibald in THE SECRET GARDEN and (in a few years) Bobby in COMPANY. He's also adamant about playing Jamie in THE LAST FIVE YEARS at some point in the future.
Right now, Seigla is honored to be performing in The Fantasticks. "It's an incredible experience," he says "and I can't begin to tell you how much my ability to focus on other characters has improved. You know, that's an important trait for any performer: to concentrate on others. My on-stage experience as THE MUTE has really strengthened that skill in me. The cast and staff of the show are wonderful to work with, too!"
That old adage: "A rolling stone gathers no moss" certainly applies to Drew Seigla. This gifted young actor/singer/director doesn't stand still long enough for moss (or anything else) to stick to him. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy his creativity in The Fantasticks.