Croswell Opera House hits it big with ‘Hairspray’Written by Jason Mack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
After playing every male character in “Spring Awakening” on Broadway, Lucas Wells is taking it easy playing only the lead role in the Croswell Opera House’s production of “Hairspray.”
“I jumped at the opportunity,” Wells said. “I love this show, and I wanted to come home and see my family. I wanted to do a musical again, too. I hadn’t done one for a couple of months.”
Wells, a Lambertville native, was not involved in theater while growing up. After playing in “The King and I” in the first grade, he didn’t perform until his sophomore year at Bedford High School. He dropped basketball to be in “Les Miserables.” He played the leads in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Footloose.”
“In my senior year, I realized this is what I want to do for a living,” Wells said. “I didn’t do a whole lot of it growing up. I was in choirs. I learned how to sing that way and by listening to ‘N Sync.”
He saw “Spring Awakening” during Christmas break of his freshmen year at Sienna Heights University.
“It was the first Broadway show I ever saw,” Wells said. “I was sitting there thinking, ‘I can do this, too. I could be in this show’.”
Wells and his roommate recorded an audition video in the girls’ bathroom in the performing arts center because of its good acoustics. After receiving dialogue and music from the show and sending in another video, he was flown to New York City for a series of seven auditions in four days.
“It was pretty crazy,” Wells said. “[Composer] Duncan Sheik was there. He is one of my idols. It was very intimidating, but it was also one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
Sheik must have liked what he saw, because Wells was cast as the understudy for every male role, a first in the history of Broadway.
“It was crazy when they told me that’s what I’d be doing,” he said. “I was like, ‘Are you sure?’ I knew I could do it though. There was a bit of me in every one of those characters, so it wasn’t a stretch for me. Sometimes I felt a little schizophrenic. There was a time when I played all six roles in a matter of a week and a half. It was pretty crazy.”
The “Spring Awakening” tour ran from August 2008 until May 2010. Since then, Wells starred in “The Who’s Tommy” and performed in four Tennessee Williams plays. He also did a workshop for “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.” He is going to England this summer to continue working on the musical and hopes to be cast when it hits Broadway this fall.
The transition from Michigan to New York has been smooth for Wells.
“I feel like I was born for it,” he said. “It’s really high paced, and I’m kind of a high-paced person. It’s non-stop auditioning. You always get more no’s then yeses, so you have to have thick skin. You never know what your next job is. It’s a little scary, but I like that.”
Wells is also pursuing a career as an author with two plays in the works. The first is based on serial killer Dennis Rader and the devastation his children face after discovering his lifestyle. The other play is slightly more lighthearted.
“It’s based off the funny stories of my family,” Wells said. “I come from a huge family, so I felt I had to write something about them. I’m the seventh of nine children with six boys and three girls. We’re all very close.”
He plans to hold workshops for the plays in the fall of 2012, possibly at the Croswell. Wells also plans to write a musical with close friend and musician Sam DeArmond.
Before tackling any of those projects, Wells has another week ahead as teenage heartthrob Link Larkin in “Hairspray.”
“Link has been a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s not what I’m used to, because it’s a funny role. I’m not used to this lighthearted comedy. I usually do more serious acting. I’ve really enjoyed this. It’s a role I’ve wanted to play for a long time because it’s a cool singing role for a tenor.”
Bridget Harrington, a junior at the University of Toledo, stars opposite Wells as his love interest Tracy Turnblad.
“He’s easy to play off of with all he gives to the stage,” Harrington said. “I feel really good about the connection we have.”
“Hairspray” plays at 8 p.m. on June 24-25 and at 3 p.m. on June 26. Tickets are $25 for adults, $22 for seniors and students and $15 for anyone younger than 12. Visit Croswell.org for more information.