Scott Stangland, (MFA, ’05) (pictured above) is appearing in Once at Broadway’s Bernard Jacobs Theatre. Damon Gillespie (pictured below), who has completed his second year in Roosevelt’s musical theatre program, is performing in the Disney show, Newsies at New York City’s Nederlander Theatre.
Earlier this year, musical theatre alumna Courtney Reed made news by landing the role of leading lady in Broadway’s Aladdin
, a show that she currently stars in as Jasmine.
“This has been the best year ever for our alumni on Broadway,” said Sean Kelley, associate dean of Roosevelt’s Chicago College of Performing Arts and director of The Theatre Conservatory.
Stangland, who began his professional career in Chicago theatre as an actor/musician, acts and plays guitar, piano, melodica, harmonica and percussion as Eamon, a musical producer who helps the lead characters in Once record an album. Gillespie is one of 14 ‘newsies,’ who sing, dance and do acrobatics in Newsies, which closes on Broadway in late August.
“I can’t say enough about how proud we are of these alumni. We are celebrating their success as well as our own success as a program that helped develop this kind of talent,” Kelley said.
A graduate of Roosevelt’s Master of Fine Arts in Acting program, Stangland reached Broadway after spending a number of years in Chicago waiting tables and working to break onto the city’s vibrant theatre scene.
The break that would help pave the way for his Broadway debut came about two years ago when he got the roles of the father and fireman in Lookingglass Theatre’s Eastland: A New Musical, a production in which he also played piano. He went on to perform in Steppenwolf Theatre’s The Wheel, where he played guitar and accordion. He also had roles in Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol.
“A friend told me that I would be perfect for Once since I play instruments as an actor,” said Stangland, who auditioned in Chicago for the national tour of Once. Called to New York to replace a departing cast member, Stangland has been performing on Broadway since June.
“I never targeted Broadway as something I had to do, and it’s just sinking in for me that I’m here,” said Stangland, who credits Roosevelt Theatre Professor June Compton for encouraging him to bring his music into his acting.
Gillespie not only dreamed of being on Broadway. He targeted Newsies as his kind of show, auditioning for its national tour as a high school senior in Chattanooga, Tenn.
“I had seen the movie and really was impressed by the dancing. I felt like I could be in it and really set my sights on it,” he said. Selected for the show’s national tour that began this fall, Gillespie joined the Broadway production instead last summer. He also replaced a departing cast member.
“This is a dream come true for me,” said Gillespie, who hopes to one day return to the Theatre Conservatory to complete his bachelor’s degree.