Beyond the Stage Door with Dennis Stowe
“With 10 Broadway shows under his belt in sixteen years, He is a Broadway veteran.”
This week’s Beyond the Stage Door is with Dennis Stowe! His credits include: Shrek, Aladdin, Man of La Mancha, Annie, and 6 more shows (click here to see). He’s done it all from opening a show, the Tonys, and closing a show. Luckily enough, he’s decided to share some of his wisdom with us! Here’s Beyond the Stage Door with Dennis Stowe.
One of my favorite shows from your career is ‘Leap of Faith’ that show had a powerhouse cast and creative team. What was it like building this show with this cast?
I have such a special place in my heart for Leap of Faith because the journey with the show was about an eight year journey from the initial readings to the workshop to the out of town to Broadway. As you I could imagine, we went through a lot of cast and creative changes during that time but it’s always such a gift to be able to create something from the ground up. The show and the story telling changed drastically throughout the creative process and we knew we had something special, but the challenge, as is with ANY show, was figuring out what the best way to tell the story was.
What I enjoyed the most is that gospel style music was at the center and was the heart of the show and it really made some of the moments very cathartic. In the end, unfortunately I think perhaps the timing was not right for the show and we closed pretty quickly even after getting a Tony nomination. Such is the business!
How would you describe closing a show on broadway?
Closing a show is always very bittersweet. The work that is put in, and the heart and soul we as actors contribute to make a show successful is every bit exhilarating as it is challenging. What we do as performers is very intimate and we put so much of ourselves into the process. But I have always said one of the hardest things about Broadway is making a show artistically and commercially successful and sometimes we win and that and sometimes we don’t. Casts of shows become so close because we are all creating something together that we want to be good and run forever! When a show closes, it closes that chapter in your career and can be really sad. But as artists, we all want and need to move on and create so it’s always a built of a paradox.
What’s your audition preparation process?
It really depends on what I’m auditioning for. I always try to be as memorized and prepared as possible, especially with film and tv auditions. If the script is available and I have time to read it I do, or at least read what comes before and after the scenes or songs I’m asked to prepare. I don’t get too caught up in styles of songs as far as musical theatre auditions are concerned but I always try to come in and present the best version of ME and what I do best.
You’ve been working on Broadway for over 16 years, what are some things you wish someone had told you in the beginning of your Broadway career?
I wish someone had told me that’s is really ok to embrace what makes me special instead of thinking that I had to fit into any one box. For example, I used to be told that if you couldn’t hit a certain high note, you could never be in a Broadway ensemble. I auditioned for Frank Wildhorn one time and went in and sang what I thought he wanted to hear; a high and hard power ballad that may have been to high for me…lol.
When he asked what else I had in my book I told him that I’m really a low bass baritone and I have a song that shows that off. After I sang it, he said “That’s the song you should be singing at ALL your auditions” and I got the job! Really embracing what make YOU special is what will give you success not only in this business, but in life.
How do you reserve yourself and stay show ready as a standby when you’re not on all the time?
The great thing for me about being a standby is that because I’m coming from the ensemble and how hard the ensemble works I can REALLY appreciate just showing up and still getting a check! Lol People ask me all the time whether I get bored and the answer is a resounding NO. I’m able to keep busy with other projects, make phone calls and catch up with friends and take care of any business I need to during the show. As far as being show ready, I was the understudy for the two roles I cover before becoming the standby so the roles are pretty much in my bones at this point. Plus we have occasional understudy rehearsals and I might have to rehearse with new principals or new covers for principals coming into the show so that pretty much allows me to be show ready every day.
How do you maintain 8 shows a week (vocally, physically, spiritually)
I’m a big fan of the gym especially now that I’m not dancing every day. It’s important to take care of ourselves physically to meet the demands of an eight show week. All the cliche things like getting proper rest, drinking lots of water and eating healthy are very much at play here. I still take voice lessons and an occasional acting class to keep my chops up. Spiritually is a bit easier because I realize and never take for granted how lucky and blessed I am to be working on Broadway. The journey to and from the theatre always feels good because I know I’m fulfilling my dream of being a working actor. It feels amazing.
How would you describe the experience of being in a tony nominated show and tony season?
It’s some of the most exciting times in the life of a Broadway show. It’s always great to be in a show that people like. For your show to be nominated for a Tony is so validating because all the hard work you’ve put in to make the show successful is being recognized and it certainly always nice to be recognized. It’s not really WHY I do this but, it sure is nice when it happens!
The time from nomination to the actual ceremony is not only exciting but a very busy time and the three times I have been lucky be enough to perform on the Tony’s have all been unforgettable career highlights. I have a video of all of us in Aladdin watching the Tony’s at the theatre on television after we came back from performing and seeing James Iglehart win his Tony. The love and support and joy in the room was palpable
What show from your career would you revive on Broadway today?
I really LOVED Dirty Rotten Scoundrels! Recently, I had to go back and look at some footage from the show for my “Dancing Through My Resume” feature and was reminded what a fantastic show it was.
What’s your advice to young performers of color in navigating audition rooms and rehearsal spaces
I think that we as performers of color should never count ourselves out as far as what we are auditioning for. Don’t ever assume that a show is not “looking for” performers of color. You have to be in it to win it. Maybe they didn’t THINK they wanted a performer of color for a certain part. Get in the room, present your best version of yourself, embrace what makes you special and change their minds. If I only auditioned for the shows that I assumed I could be in I would have no career!
What’s your advice to young baritones/basses auditioning regionally and on Broadway?
Don’t count yourself out. EMBRACE that low voice! As I always say “the waters just fine down here”…lol. This low voice has allowed me to have a career on Broadway and has given me many many more opportunities just because I am a bass/baritone.