September 2, 2014

Elyria
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Pinnacle of performing: Elyria native realizes Broadway dream

ELYRIA — For a thespian who has spent years reciting lines, working scenes and honing his craft, there are few venues that spark excitement like Broadway.

Brent Heuser, a 25-year-old Elyria native, said he always knew he wanted to perform on Broadway.

“To get a Broadway show gig is what someone like me aims for,” he said Thursday during a telephone interview. “There are so many different levels of wonderful theater in this country, but to make it to the Broadway level means a certain level of success. It’s certainly quite comparable to an athlete going to the Olympics.”

If that is the case, Heuser, who graduated in 2005 from Elyria High School, just took home gold.

The animated Heuser, who readily admits he would feel lost without the theater, is still reeling from two weeks performing in the Broadway production of “Chicago: The Musical.” He played the role of Fred Casely with a bit of pizzazz and a lot of style from July 17 through Monday, doing eight shows a week.

“It was an insane two weeks,” Heuser said. “I really didn’t have a moment to catch my breath. Toward the end of the show, I let up on the work a little bit and allowed myself to scream out loud ‘I’m on Broadway.’ ”

Heuser left his Broadway show and hopped on a plane to Durham, N.C. He will perform there for a week on the national tour of “Chicago” before heading to St. Paul, Minn., and Dallas before a stint in Japan. As of now, the tour does not have any Ohio dates. January 2010 was the last time the tour was in Cleveland.

It’s the crazy life of a thespian, but one Heuser said he wouldn’t give up for the world. Every day, he said, he is grateful he didn’t take the safe route while in Elyria.

“I started very late,” Heuser said of when he got the theater bug. “I played football and was all into sports. But I knew my heart wasn’t into sports. I wanted to do something a little more creative. But really I took theater for the credit because we are supposed to have some kind of creative arts class to graduate.”

Heuser said drama teacher Pam Christian didn’t see just another jock looking for a couple of credits when she looked at him. She believed in him when he said he wanted to try.

Christian served as his mentor for two years and worked with him through a number of productions including “The Wizard of Oz,” “Sylvia,” “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and “Anything Goes.” When he performed in “Dastardly Deeds” and walked back stage after the first act beaming with adrenaline and excitement, Heuser said he was hooked.

“Going into my senior year, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said. “Growing up, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I lost that dream just like a kid does. But then I realized the only thing that felt natural was acting and performing. I have learned about myself that if I am not performing or conceiving or writing, I am not happy.”

After graduating from Elyria High School, Heuser went to New York — the Mecca for theatric thespians — and studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, a two-year conservatory for musical theater. He graduated at 20 and immediately starting performing on the national tour company for “Chicago.”

While under the same direction as the Broadway company, it’s not very often that cast members cross over from the touring company to the Broadway company, but thespians hoping to hit the stage in Broadway keep their fingers crossed.

“The call that they wanted me for two weeks was a surprise,” Heuser said. “But I was ready and so happy I got to make my Broadway debut doing this amazing show.”

“Chicago” has had a stellar run on Broadway, with the revival wowing audiences since 1996 and racking up six Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards and a Grammy. It also holds a special place in Heuser’s heart.

It was the second Broadway show he saw, sitting in the third row when he was 18 with his mother and sister.

“And, we were absolutely captivated,” he said. “It was a wonderful show even then.”

Heuser said he is also into writing and producing independent music. And he also has a message for young Elyrians with dreams of stardom.

“I was told to never stop,” he said. “I was not originally a dancer. I was not a singer. But if you keep going and working hard, you can do it. Just tell the voices in your head to shut-up.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.