Sean MacLaughlin is traveling the country for the next year with his wife, baby and two dogs. When the “Von Trapp Family Singers” (as he called themselves) eventually stop at a city near you, that’s probably because he’s about to get on stage to play ‘Peron’ in the touring production of Evita.
Sean was last seen on Broadway as ‘Raoul’ in The Phantom of the Opera and he’s from my neck of the woods – the Baltimore/DC/Virginia area. I love talking to people from my area and finding out how they got to where they are. Sean played it smart in his early career: before he packed everything up and moved to New York, he went to College at Virginia Tech and got a degree in communications. Then he moved to DC and did a bunch of theatre there because as he told me that he “was a firm believer in not moving to New York without getting experience.”
But, before he tried his luck in New York something great happened before that. I’ll let him tell the story in the interview below but basically, the success he’s having now all comes down to a combination of planning, preparation and luck. We also talk about his audition for Evita and auditioning in general, touring and more!
Evita is currently playing in San Diego. For tickets, click here. Upcoming tour dates include San Jose, Las Vegas and Tempe, AZ. For more tour dates and ticket information, click here.
For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes
How’s the tour going?
Sean MacLaughlin: Tour’s going really well. We’ve been selling really well, we’ve got really great responsive houses and everyone’s loving the production. It feels great to be a part of it.
You guys started, what, early this summer?
Sean MacLaughlin: Yeah, a little after, in the September area in Rhode Island and we moved our way out there. Yeah. So we had a… we teched the show in Rhode Island, did the show a couple of weeks there, and then went to Chicago, St. Louis and here [Los Angeles].
How long are you scheduled to be in it?
Sean MacLaughlin: So far we’ve got a full year schedule and word on the street is it’s already showing after that. I’ve got the dogs, the baby, and the wife on tour all together. We’re the family package on the road seeing the sights and doing the show, yeah. So we’re out here for a bit.
Wow, so you brought everybody with you?
Sean MacLaughlin: Yeah, yeah. My wife and I actually met on The Phantom of the Opera tour, so we love touring. Yeah. It’s like the Von Trapp family singers here.
And how do the dogs like touring?
Sean MacLaughlin: They love it. We got one of the dogs on the road when, actually, when we were in LA the first time. We got her in Beverly Hills for too much money and my other dog, Albert, I had him a little before. So he’s kind of okay with the driving, but he likes to be in one place. He’s part pug so he’s lazy and doesn’t like change.
You mentioned the audiences. People just love this show. Can you tell that when you’re up on stage?
Sean MacLaughlin: Yeah, yeah, definitely. The little nuances these audiences are picking up on it, they’re getting every last detail of it and they’re not getting enough of it. They want more. It’s really fascinating. I mean, I was always in love with Evita and to be a part of it is a wonderful thing and to see these audiences eating it up, it’s amazing that there’s new life that’s been given to not just the wonderful story but this new production.
Do you still get nervous right before you walk out for your first entrance?
Sean MacLaughlin: Sometimes. We’re at probably like 58 shows and that doesn’t include the previews and stuff. But, yeah, there’s some things you can’t necessarily control. It’s a good nervous but it’s also a keep you on your toes kind of nervous where every city is a little different.
I mean, we have a lot of stage haze where you’ve got the different levels of that and you’ve got different houses and how the sound’s going to bounce in each house with the different amount of people in the audience and whatnot. There are little factors that, at least for me, that no one can control that sometimes keep me a little nervous, but it’s a good thing. It keeps me on edge and keeps me focused.
But when it comes to stage fright or anything else like that, I don’t experience that much anymore. Not since I was in college.
When you guys go to a new city, do you have a run-through just to get a feel of the house?
Sean MacLaughlin: We do have a few of… a few run-throughs of the music. So we get on stage, we get the feel of the stage. We don’t have a full run-through of the show, like some tours do, this one. We just get out there, we get the feel of the stage, sometimes there are different layouts of the floor or, like I said, the house sounds a little different so the quality of the orchestra because we have a new orchestra in every city. We rehearse with them and get the levels for the first hour and half of the show when we’re in the space. And then we open that night.
How do you keep your voice in shape? You guys do, what, 8 shows a week and the traveling and then plus, you know, the dogs, the baby, all that stuff combined.
Sean MacLaughlin: Keeping it in shape is of course not going out, partying, of course. It’s a very… not that I do that, being a dad…
Hey family, I’ll see you guys later, I’m getting drunk.
Sean MacLaughlin: Exactly. Yeah, yeah. But, yeah, no. I take care of, you know, go to the gym, warm up every morning, make sure the voice is in a great place. Basically go to the doctor in some cities because it is allergy season. You have be very, very careful when you’re on tour to make sure that your instrument is still at the top of its game. Just being very careful. And water? Not so much. I mean, you can always go past the point of no return with water as well. But… so yeah. Just being careful.
Tell me about the audition for the show.
Sean MacLaughlin: It was over the period of a few months. It was a very interesting process. They were trying to mix and match and see who would all work with who. They had dance calls, they had a few singers calls here and there where you were in front of the producers.
My final callback was with all of the producers and musical director and the director and I was also taped and they sent my tape to, from what they were telling me, Andrew Lloyd Webber for final approval. So I ended up getting approved by them but, yeah, it was probably between 3 to 5 months period of auditions. And basically I sang through the whole oeuvre a couple of times.
My audition process was not as thoroughly involved as Caroline [Bowman, who plays Eva) and Desi’s [Oakley, who is the Eva alternate] was. They went through a full gamut, I mean, being Evita you have to sing all of that stuff and dance and everything else like that. So they had a huge ordeal to go through to get their roles. And they’re stunning and amazing. They’re one of the top, the number one reason to come to the show besides the whole package. They are everything and more as Evita.
When you first audition for a show, not even this one, but any show, do you try to sing a song from that show or do you bring something else along?
Sean MacLaughlin: Depends on the audition process. With this it was… I sang songs from the show. But usually if it’s a first sometimes second, depends on what they want. If they give you a piece from the show to sing, I would prepare something that is similar to what is there in the score. If it’s a new piece, they’ll usually tell you something like the contemporary blah, blah, blah trying to sound like this, and I’ll make my own judgment. Or, like I said, they’ll just give you a piece from the show and you prepare it with a vocal coach and go in there and sing it the first time, which is actually really fun.
Do you like auditioning?
Sean MacLaughlin: I actually do, I love auditioning. I know a lot of people find it to be many different things. Actors are actors and we all think different things in different lights, but, for me, it’s like presenting a little show of what you can do and if you’re not working and you’re auditioning, there you go. There’s your little theatre for the day.
Did you always know you wanted to be an actor? Did you just pack up one day and head to New York after working in Virginia?
Sean MacLaughlin: I did. I grew up in Petersburg, Virginia and I always wanted to be a performer. And my parents got me into it. We went through different things and all the local productions and what not. And I didn’t care if I was performing out of a cardboard box, I just wanted to perform. I knew I just wanted to do that. So my parents were, you know, they were like, “Ok, you’re gonna go to a state college or local college in state,” and they were very supportive, but they gave me warnings of just in case you want to find something where you can actually make money and have a trade just in case the performing doesn’t work out. I had been doing it all my life and so I went to Virginia Tech for Communications and just studies photo journalism, radio aspect, editing film and then after I got out of college I tried that route just to try and see if I can get a job in the Richmond area, which it was an old boys game. I needed a lot of experience, I was a kid, and there were no jobs for me at the time back in ’99.
So I decided to try and do theatre so I got my first show in Richmond at this $25 show gig at this place that’s now called the Virginia Rep in Richmond and then moved on and got my Equity at Fords Theatre doing A Christmas Carol, which is like the Law and Order of the DC area.
Sheer Madness too, from what I remember. That was a good one to get your Equity card at.
Sean MacLaughlin: Definitely the Law and Order scene. So, yeah, I moved up to DC to get my Equity card and found some wonderful work. I immediately worked at the Signature and then did the Sondheim celebration shortly after that. Finally got in with a really great group of family out there, so that’s what started me. I was a firm believer of not moving to New York without getting experience. I’d seen so many people, well, I saw so many people then and I still see a lot of people now that just have the determination and the goals to move to New York, but kind of lack the discipline of, I guess, keeping your ego in check? I’m one of those people who’s like, I don’t care where, like I said before, if I’m working out of a cardboard box. It’s about the ensemble, it’s about the family. It’s not about you. And you can always kind of come across like that, it depends on what kind of show, but it’s just how people imagine you being, but I’ve always seen theatre as a family oriented kind of event and that’s what DC gave me. So, yeah, I went to DC and then moved to New York accidentally after that because I landed my first Broadway gig before I actually lived there.
No way, that’s awesome.
Sean MacLaughlin: Yeah, it was a great pleasure. Erik Schaffer directed Snow White out in Disneyland and he was like, “Hey, do you wanna come out to Disneyland?” And I was like, “Yes. Disneyland, that’s fantastic.” And while I was in Disneyland for about a year I got an audition for an immediate replacement in Bombay Dreams and I landed that and immediately moved to New York. So, yeah, that was a full gamut from then on out. It was work begat work. I was very lucky and so blessed.
What’s your worst audition experience?
Sean MacLaughlin: Worst audition experience. I was commuting back and forth from DC for a national tour, which I will not say, but I was called in a couple of times and I did not know that there was a dance track to it. And if they did I said that I was a mover and I don’t dance really. I move well and you can teach me whatever it is.
So I got through 3 callbacks, so I got to my final one and it was just me. There’s a studio called Ripley Grier in New York and it was probably in the tiniest of the studios in the upstairs back back, which, if you’re familiar with Ripley Grier, it’s like a shoebox. So it was a panel of 4 people, the choreographer, and just me. It was a dance call with just me and I’m like, “What? I can’t do this.” I was like, “I will take a deep breath in and I will do this as much as I can.”
And so they commence the dance call that is very balletic. It’s ballet. Let’s just say, it’s just ballet. And I’m like, “What the heck?” So I’m going through it and I’m giving it my all. So I’m giving it my all, I’m dancing, dancing, dancing and there is a full trash can of every kind of trash in New York in this small audition room and I go smash into this trash can and it’s just like banana peels, milk cartons, and just everything is all over the floor and have like a Family Guy pause and I’m like, “Thank you. Thank you for your time,” and I leave. I drove up to New York and I was all excited, my first national tour, and that happened. I kicked over a trash can.