Posted by Bruce Miller
Our college-bound theatre enthusiast, Lizzie Holland (see the previous blog entry), was not the only one whooping it up at the 2009 Tony Awards. Our new friend Grady Bowman (pictured to the right with his Tony-winning director, Stephen Daldry) was there too, performing on stage with the cast of Billy Elliot, and cheering on his company-mates as the ten Billy Tonys began rolling in and piling up.
I give the Barksdale team way more credit than we deserve when I refer to Grady as our "friend." It's certainly true that we hold Grady in high regard; he's very talented and an all round good guy. But on the flip side, I know that Barksdale and we various personalities involved are just a blip on Grady's radar screen.
When Phil and I led the annual Barksdale theatre trip to NYC last March, Billy Elliot was one of the three shows our group went to see. I had friends in the cast of South Pacific (Jerold Solomon and Christian Carter) who graciously agreed to lead a post-performance backstage discussion with our group when we went to see that show. I wanted to find someone from Billy Elliot to do the same, but I had no friends in the cast.
So I went into research mode and quickly learned that I was, in three ways, only one degree of separation away from actor/singer/dancer Grady Bowman, whom I had yet to meet. I immediately friend requested Grady on facebook, mentioning that:
1. I was pals with Jerold and Christian, two Theatre IV and Barksdale alums, both of whom had been Grady's castmates before he, Grady, left South Pacific to go into Billy Elliot;
2. I was friends with and a professional colleague of David Leong, Chair of the Theatre Department at VCU--David is also fight director for Broadway's Billy Elliot and Grady is the fight captain; and
3. I was friends with and a longtime collaborator of Ron Barnett, who composed the scores for a great many Theatre IV musicals and has, for the last several years, been working at the Fulton Opera House, where he once music directed Grady in Crazy for You.
Grady's had one of those careers that most young professional performers would give their left tapshoe for. He graduated from North Carolina School of the Arts in 2005, worked the regional theatres briefly before being cast on Broadway in The Pirate Queen, South Pacific and then Billy Elliot--one right after the other. In South Pacific he also served as assistant dance captain, and, as mentioned before, in Billy Elliot he leads the troops as fight captain.
When he heard from me out of the blue, Grady thoughtfully accepted my friend request. I responded by asking if he would speak with our group backstage after the Billy Elliot performance. He graciously agreed.
When the big day came, we 40 Richmond theatre lovers waited in the house until the audience cleared and Grady came back on stage. He invited us all down front, and answered everyone's questions for about 20 minutes. There was no practical reason for him to be so kind; he just was. And for that I will be forever in his debt.
Billy Elliot is a great show, and Grady Bowman is a talented and generous theatre artist. He is also, now, an official friend of Barksdale. He and I spoke about his interest in choreographing some day soon, and it's my hope that we at Barksdale will be able to work with him someday in that capacity.
Congratulations on all your hard work, Grady, and on Billy Elliot's many accolades. All of your new Barksdale friends cheered you and your team on while watching from our TVs. We're proud of your success, and hope to work with you again in the future.
Additional photo credits:
(all photos are the property of Grady Bowman, and used here with his permission)
photo #2 shows Grady in front of the massive Tony set at Radio City Music Hall;
photo #3 is, of course, Grady with Sir Elton John, composer of Billy Elliot;
photo #4 includes Grady in his Billy Elliot costume and hard hat, with fellow cast members including the three young Tony-winners for Best Actor in a Musical: David Alvarez, Kiril Kulish and Trent Kowalik (the three Billy's);
photo #5 is Grady with Gregory Jbara, who won the Best Supporting Actor Tony as Billy's dad;
photo #6 shows a scene from Crazy for You at the Fulton Opera House, with Grady to the far right and Ron Barnett, playing a real bass, to the left;
photo #7 is Grady (in his Billy Elliot wig) with Vice President Biden (ah, the people you'll meet when you're in a hit Broadway show); and
photo #8 is Grady with the woman in his life, Autumn Hurlbert, who many will remember as the talented musical theatre actress who should have won (my opinion) the Legally Blonde TV casting show.