Downingtown Native Tours With Broadway Musical

Downingtown Native Tours With Broadway Musical

Many aspiring actors spend years waiting for that big break, working odd jobs and spending time auditioning for parts of all kinds.

For Matthew Schmidt, a 2003 graduate of Downingtown High School, his big break in show business came early when he was cast to be part of the national tour of the Broadway musical,"Grease." Schmidt, a member of the Actors' Equity Association, performs in the ensemble and is understudy for the characters Doody, Roger and Eugene.

Schmidt earned his bachelor's of fine arts degree in musical theater from the Pennsylvania State University in State College in May 2008. In college he starred as Huck Finn in "Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and as Frankie Epps in "Parade"

"I graduated last May and went to New York for the summer," Schmidt said during a phone interview from Seattle, Wash. "I started auditioning around and, after my Penn State showcase, a casting director saw me and I auditioned for her. I had three auditions (before I got the part), which is quick in the Broadway world.

"I found out in mid-July that I got the part," he continued. "The entire show wasn't cast until two weeks before rehearsal and rehearsals started at the end of October."

The play opened in Providence, R.I., and then traveled down the East Coast when Schmidt's family, including his parents, Frieda and Marty Schmidt, got to see him on stage in Baltimore. The traveling theater group then moved to the West Coast, performing in Tucson, San Diego, Los Angeles, Costa Mesa and Portland.

Schmidt said that most of the actors travel together from city to city by bus or airplane and they maintain a hectic schedule of performances.

"Typically, Tuesday through Friday we have evening shows at 7:30 or 8 o'clock. Then on Saturday and Sunday we usually have two shows - a matinee and an evening performance," Schmidt said. "The weekends are the really hard days. It does get to be a grind sometimes doing the same thing every single night, but we have a great cast, which keeps it fun. With 'Grease,' it's all about who is on stage with you."

Incidentally, Schmidt shares the stage with "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks, who plays the role of Teen Angel.

Since he was cast in the play, Schmidt was called on to perform as the character Doody on several occasions. "(As an understudy) you have to be prepared (to go on). It's scary and exciting," he said. "The first time I went on (as a main character) I found out one hour before I had to go to the theater."

Schmidt began his acting career with the Troupe of Acts at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Exton. He played leading roles in musicals at the Downingtown High School and Barley Sheaf Players in Lionville, and was a member of the Downingtown High School Chorus. He was also on the high school varsity wresting team and played in the Downingtown High School Marching Band when it traveled to Pasadena, Calif., in 2001 for the Rose Bowl Parade.

"I started singing in the church plays when I was a freshman in high school, but I didn't get serious (about singing) until junior year when I started taking private (voice) lessons," he said. "I always loved performing and enjoyed singing and I was always involved in theater one way or another."
Schmidt said he plans to pursue an acting career when his Broadway run comes to a close.
"I will end up back in New York and audition all over again. I would love to try to break into commercials or TV," he said. "When I was a senior, I wasn't thinking of going into music theater as a profession. It all fell into place for me. I was pretty lucky."

"Grease" will come to the Philadelphia area on Tuesday, July 7, through Sunday, July 12, at the Academy of Music. For more information, interested readers may visit