For the Love of Man, or the Love of God?
If God were a woman, and She were Gale Edwards (which is not an unsubstantiated claim, according to some), Daniel C. Levine may have called for Her help in choosing between his love for theater and his love for medicine as he sat in Tufts Medical School five years ago. Descending upon Boston like a nor'easter, She could have led him through the parted Charles River in a whorl-winded, time-warped rendition of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. "Here you have stability, prestige and honor. But there...there you have Broadway, Glenn Carter, a masterpiece revival... and a much groovier haircut."
One hour with Daniel, and it's apparent he's found something to worship in Edwards, or at least in her work as a director. And, while Jesus Christ Superstar can't guarantee this 27-year old total stability, it can offer him a step up the Broadway-star ladder--or perhaps more importantly, the Andrew-Lloyd-Webber-and-Tim-Rice ladder--exposing him to all the perks that come along with a major revival. For a Broadway first-timer, Daniel couldn't have picked a better show. This two-act rock opera just recently completed an extremely successful sell-out tour and a run in the UK (directed by Edwards), and stills holds its spot as the fifth longest-running musical in West End history. For the first time since its first opening in New York in 1971, JCS is returning to Broadway, giving the cast a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build something from scratch.
"The great thing about being in the original cast of this show is that there is a lot of room to experiment," Levine says. "And Gale Edwards is all about letting the cast help create the show. What's resulted is a brand-new Superstar--one that has never been done before because there has been no structure to follow, no roles to replicate. It's all new and we're creating it."
You might think this elevated excitement is purely the voice of a rising artist eager about his first Broadway show. But he's certainly not alone. Kevin Wallace of the Really Useful Theater Group described the production as "a new voice for a new time and for new generations." And Gale Edwards herself states that this was the "best rehearsal period [she's] ever had." Anthony van Laast, choreographer, says he is working with a "very well-picked cast...archetypical and strong individuals." It's hard not to be engulfed by the collective exhilaration.
Levine's road from amateur theater to Broadway has been an interesting blend of art and business. He never left theater, even during his graduate studies, doing regional shows like Fiddler on the Roof, Oliver!, Rags, and Assassins. He has never been the starving-New-York-artist who waits tables or bartends to support his acting addiction. He runs his own business and owns his own house. His major roles have been dissimilar (unless there's a thread between Marius, Mary Sunshine, Naked Boy, and Apostle that I'm missing). If you didn't know him, you might confuse him with a youthful, headstrong, savvy businessman who wants to make a million by 30. Except he's much more interesting:
"I would describe myself as a perfectionist. I take performing as seriously as I did medicine, in that I study hard, take the classes, and learn from people that have more experience than I do."
His dedication has paid off. He landed his first major show with Les Misérables, two years after beginning graduate studies, during an open call in Boston. Of joining that show, he says, "It took me two seconds to make my decision. You know how you love something so much, you can't quite let go of it? That's how theater was for me. I wasn't sure about the type of lifestyle and security that theater would bring me, but I just couldn't get it out of my system. I was on tour for two years and pretty much decided to stick with performing, although it wasn't until I succeeded in New York that I finally let it [medicine] go for good."
And succeed he did. Daniel went on to perform in the first national tour of Chicago, and tried a brief stint in L.A., picking up roles on General Hospital, Beverly Hills 90210, and the L.A. run of Naked Boys Singing. He then returned to New York to do the City Center Encores! production of Babes in Arms, after which he was solicited by the New York company of Naked Boys Singing, where he could be found before landing JCS. The rest is history.
Auditions: "I Knew I Didn't Get It...I Didn't Get It...I Got It!"
"One of the most interesting discussions I have had with the cast members in Superstar is about the unique experiences all of us had with auditions. Some people had only one audition where they sang one song, and that was it. Others were called back several times, and were worked hard by the artistic team. Then, some made it through open call."
Daniel isn't new to auditioning. His four years finally paid off when he was cast in Jesus Christ Superstar this year. But it wasn't an easy process. Pre-screened last August at Chelsea Studios by Tara Rubin (casting director from Johnson-Liff), Daniel was then called back a few weeks later to sing for the JCS artistic team. He had a new wave of confidence that was shut down when he woke up that morning feeling extremely sick. At the audition, he couldn't even hit notes that are normally in his range. All ego aside, he dismissed telling them he wasn't feeling well.
"It was awful. I felt horrible. I knew I didn't get it. I was so depressed that I went out on a shopping spree to make myself feel better. I ended up with a $500 mirror that I didn't need."
Two months later, Tara Rubin called him in again. It was an early Saturday morning. The response to his audition was another bad indication. "Usually, when you audition, the casting team works with you and either asks you to read or do something a little bit different. This was totally unique. They said nothing. They only smiled and then gave me a very nice 'Thanks for coming in again.' I absolutely knew it wasn't going to happen. Then I got a call on Monday from my agent [Penny Luedtke] who told me I got it."