Orange County native David R. Gordon will soon be playing to the hometown crowd as one of the stars of the National Tour of Flashdance The Musical, David’s first show in the OC since heading east to the Big Apple five years ago. Having enjoyed David’s work starting back in 2005 with his star turn as Bobby Strong in the Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse production of Urinetown The Musical, I couldn’t be happier about his return to the West Coast, a feeling shared by friends, family members, and fans.  David took time out of his busy touring schedule to chat a bit about growing up in Orange County, moving to New York, and getting his biggest break to date, the role of Jimmy in Flashdance!

Hi David! I can’t believe it’s already almost eight years since I first saw you as Urinetown’s Bobby Strong at the Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse. And now, here we are in 2013 and you’re about to make a triumphant return to Costa Mesa…but this time as one of the stars of the National Tour of Flashdance The Musical at none other than the mammoth Segerstrom Center For The Arts (formerly the Orange County Performing Arts Center). Obviously the first question for you is: How does it feel to be coming quite literally back home as part of your first National Tour?

Incredible. I am so lucky. One of the first musicals that I remember seeing was a touring production of Rent at the Segerstrom Center. It was very influential to me as I was just getting into theater. And now I’m getting the opportunity to tour through that same theater, but this time I get to see it from the other side. Having toured through Europe with the show Grease, I’m eager to tour the States, and particularly to get the opportunity to tour through my hometown. The amount of people who’ve already reached out to let me know that they’re coming to see the show is overwhelming. So much support!

How exposed were you to the arts, and musical theater in particular, growing up in Orange County? Did you do the usual starring in school plays before heading off to college?

I actually began doing theater “late.” I started performing at sixteen. It was the cliché story of starting theater … for a girl. A girl in high school who was involved in choir and the school plays said I should come audition for You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown. So, I said okay! I showed up at the audition, sat in the back of the auditorium, and snuck out before ever auditioning.

But you still ended up getting into theater. How did that happen?

My mom was very supportive and started me in voice lessons with Crystal Barron, an amazing voice teacher in Orange County. After my second lesson, Crystal informed me of auditions for Bye Bye Birdie at the Buena Park Youth Theatre, where she was music directing the production. I figured it was far enough away that no one would know who I was! I ended up getting Mr. McAfee! From then on, I had the bug. I had to play catch up though. I continued doing shows at BPYT and the Orange County Children’s Theatre one after the other.

Your mother was obviously a big support for you. What about other family members?

My family have always been supporters of the arts. My mom is an incredible piano player, my aunt, Robin Cohen, was, and still is a performer, and my sisters were involved with cheer and dance growing up. So yes, I was very exposed to theater, but never knew it was for me.

You elected to stay close to home after high school, pursuing your education at Cal State Fullerton. How did your time at CSUF prepare you for the career ahead?

I had a very different experience at CSUF. At CSUF you’re not accepted into the BFA program until your third year after being adjudicated every semester leading up to then. Unfortunately, and fortunately, I wasn’t accepted into the BFA program. I was told that I failed the “acting” portion of my juries.

Ouch! That must have hurt!

Seeing how hard I worked, I think my parents were more upset than I was with the school’s decision. Two weeks later, I booked my first tour. It was the European Tour of Grease where I played one of the T-birds, Roger. Many people said, “Well you showed them”. Actually, however, I thanked them! CSUF showed me how the business truly works. This business is not easy! Politics, denial, and heartache are very common when trying to become a successful actor. They clearly showed me all three. I didn’t fit their mold. But with that said, they closed one door, and I opened another. I like to say that I finished my schooling on the road. Eight shows a week will teach you so much. However, had I not studied with certain members of the faculty such as Macarena Gandarillas, I don’t think I would have booked Grease. At the audition, they asked for a clean double pirouette and I gave them a triple. Thanks Macarena! I think college is incredibly important. I will eventually finish. I promise, Mom!

David (left) in Grease

When you were touring through Europe with Grease, how did the Europeans take to our American teens circa the 1950s?

Europeans go nuts for Grease! They love that show. We had super fans that would deliver gifts to us and follow us all over the country. It was awesome. They treated us like rock stars.

What stands out in your mind most about that European tour?

What stands out most would be the architecture and culture. I got the chance to really see and get a feel for both.

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David (left) with Millicent Martin in Twice Upon A Time, and with Ashley Moniz and Matt Merchant in Beauty And The Beast

You did several shows at the La Habra Depot Theatre in the mid 2000s, and a couple at Cabrillo Music Theatre that I got to see you in—Lefou in Beauty And The Beast in 2007 and later that year as the Herald in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella—and then, three years later (and the last time I saw you) in the World Premiere musical Twice Upon A Time in Redondo Beach. Obviously, you kept very busy doing theater here in Southern California, right?

After I came back from Grease, I was very lucky to be welcomed into the LA/OC theater community. I was working at Disney doing High School Musical 2, and doing shows at night. I was a working actor! Many theaters like Cabrillo and Civic Light Opera Of South Bay Cities were so great to me. Directors like Dan Mojica would cast me in parts that they knew I was maybe a little too young for, or not totally right for. But they trusted me and let me make it my own! Because of them, I gained the confidence to move to New York.

Were there any doubts about making the move to New York?

As for doubts about New York being my home base, I’ve been there five years and I still have them. I’m an actor. We’re always worried!

After growing up, studying, and doing a lot of theater in Southern California, how was it transitioning to life as a New Yorker? Did you take to it like the proverbial duck to water?

People used to say to me, “You are very East Coast.” I never knew what that meant until I got there. Upon arrival, I knew exactly what that meant. I feel very much at home in the city. The transition was quick. Oddly enough, as I continue to live there, people now say to me, “You are very West Coast”. I take both as a compliment.

What do you miss most about Southern California?

Being one of six kids, I miss my family a lot. I always say, “I’ll stay in New York as long as it keeps me.”

What do you like most about living in NYC?

My favorite part of the city is exploring. Just when you think you have seen the entire city, something new pops up, or you find something you’ve never seen before. I also love four seasons!

I know that one of your first big East Coast roles was playing Abraham in the Washington D.C. production of Altar Boyz? Any special memories of performing in our nation’s capital?

Yes! I was there during President Obama’s first election. I worked on the campaign for about two weeks total. I’ll never forget where I was when the results came in.

David and his fellow Altar Boyz

And how was it being one of The Boyz?

I loved working with Stafford Arima and the original team while setting the show. I also met two of my closest friends from that show. Also, I took my Equity card for Altar Boyz! It was a huge career decision that I put off for a long time, and it was well worth it.

My guess is that 2013 must rank high on your list of Best Years in David R. Gordon’s life, particularly since the National Tour of Flashdance gave its first performance on New Year’s Day 2013 in none other than the city in which it takes place, Pittsburgh, PA? That must have been exciting for you as a performer and for the city as well. What was that first stop on the tour like for you?

Surreal. Honestly, from the first day of rehearsal, I took in every moment I could. As actors, we put it out in the universe and dream about landing a gig like this for so long. Suddenly you’re sitting at the first day of rehearsal with people you’ve paid to see on Broadway, and Sergio Trujillo is giving you direction and choreography. The entire team, from set designers to the producers, were Broadway caliber. It was my first time setting a brand new show on this type of budget. When we arrived in Pittsburgh we were still rehearsing, cutting, and re-writing, so Pittsburgh flew by. But it was still an incredible week that I will never forget.

Flashdance stands out as one of the iconic musicals of the 1980s, and 2013 marks its 30th Anniversary. Had you seen the movie before auditioning for the tour?

Having four sisters, three of whom are older than me, I remember seeing the movie, but I don’t think I could have told you much about it before auditioning. When I was called back for Flashdance, I immediately watched it again.

How faithful is Flashdance The Musical to its film source?

Interestingly enough, Tom Hedley, who wrote the movie and co-wrote the book, told us that Flashdance was originally intended to be a musical, but Hollywood got it first!

What’s new in its transition from screen to stage?

When transitioning it to the stage many things had to be changed. For instance, we couldn’t have an ice-skating rink on our stage. With that said, Sergio and the team did an incredible job of keeping the iconic moments and driving the music video quality that the movie expressed, transitioning from scene to scene effortlessly. Don’t worry. The water scene is in there!

In the movie, the songs served as the soundtrack to which Alex danced. Flashdance The Musical retains the movie’s Top 10 hits, but adds a dozen or so new songs. Do the characters now break into song to help tell the story?

Absolutely! Robbie Roth did an incredible job writing an original score to immerse the cast and the audience back to the 80s. When we were in rehearsals learning the music, we would lean over to each other and ask, “Is this an original song, or not?” which is only a testament to Roth’s work. And of course, the iconic songs “Maniac,” “Manhunt,” “I Love Rock And Roll,” “Gloria,” and “What a Feelin’” are in the show too!

You play Jimmy, and since I don’t see any character in the movie by that name (or at least in the imdb list of characters), was your role created especially for the stage version?

In the movie, Jimmy’s name is Richie. I don’t know why, and I never asked the reason for the change.

David with Kelly Felthous

What’s Jimmy’s relationship to Alex, the role originated onscreen by Jennifer Beals and played on tour by Broadway vet Emily Padgett?

In the movie Richie plays Alex Owens best friend. However, on stage, Jimmy’s girlfriend Gloria, played by the incredibly talented Kelly Felthous, is Alex’s best friend. So there is definitely a relationship between Alex and Jimmy on stage, it’s just different.

I understand that Jimmy is a jokester with big New York dreams. How much of Jimmy is David and vice versa?

Jimmy thinks he’s a lot funnier than he actually is. David thinks he’s a lot funnier than he actually is. It’s a match made in heaven. Jimmy is very much “me.” It was very easy to jump into this part.

I imagine this has been your first time originating a role? What’s that been like for you?

Originating a role is even more fun because once the writing team gets a sense of who David is, and once I got what the writing team wanted from me, we began to write for each other. It was a very cool experience.

What’s your favorite Jimmy moment or scene or song in the show?

Jimmy has an eleventh-hour type of number that is in the style of a Billy Joel song. I love the song. I will audition with the song. It’s great. One of my other favorite songs is sung by our incredible leading man Matt Hydzik, who plays Nick Hurley. The song is called “Enough.” It’s a gorgeous, well written song, performed so well.

Director-choreographers don’t get more prestigious these days than Sergio Trujillo. How was it working with the choreographer of such shows as Memphis and Jersey Boys (who’s directing I believe for the first time)?

Sergio is great! He is so very talented. He knows what he wants, and will not stop until he gets it! What I admired most about Sergio’s process was how meticulous he was. Nothing went unnoticed and it made me work that much harder.

Can we expect to see Flashdance on Broadway in the near future, and David R. Gordon making his Broadway debut?

I hope so! There are so many things that I’ve learned from this experience. One thing that I have to remind myself is, the closer you get, the less control you have. The goal of putting the show out on the road was to work out the kinks before bringing it to Broadway. Audiences all over have been so responsive and the show receives a standing ovation nightly. I think we have a great show and it’s only going to get better. As for me, I would love to have this be my Broadway debut. All I can do is continue doing good work and hope they’ll have me!

Where you like to see yourself five years from now?

This question is always a tricky one. In five years, I’d like to have a few Broadway credits, maybe be working on a sitcom, and doing more commercials. However, in all reality, in five years I’d like to be happily married, doing what I love, making a living as a successful actor, and being proud of the work I’m doing. For me, the work has just begun and I’m excited to see where my hard work takes me.

Any last words to family and friends within driving distance of Costa Mesa?

Hi Mom!

Anything else?

I hope everyone has the chance to come see Flashdance! Be sure to stop by the stage door and say “Hi!” Feel free to follow me on Twitter @DavidRGordon or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/davidrossgordon or visit www.DavidRossGordon.com for updates!

Thanks so much David! I can’t wait to see you onstage again on Opening Night, and of course at the stage door after the show!

Steven Stanley, you rock!


Flashdance The Musical at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts

David’s Flashdance bio: David is beyond excited to be part of his 1st National Tour, and the 1st touring company of this iconic show! Favorite roles include: Roger (Int’l Tour of Grease), Abraham (Altar Boyz), and Bobby Strong (Urinetown). Special thanks to The Roster, Sergio, the entire creative team, Tara Rubin, and this awesome cast! This one’s for my support team Ali, Momma, my big ol’ family, and friends.

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