BYU grads pursue Broadway dreams

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Performing on Broadway may be just a dream for many, but some BYU graduates are making their dreams a reality.

Broadway has been a center for world-class theater since the first theater was built there in the mid-18th century. Such a reputation is a draw not only for established performers but also those hoping to find success in the performing industry, including many BYU alumni.

Katherine Bailey, from Rochester, Mich., is a 2012 graduate of the music dance theater department. She moved to New York City immediately after graduation. While she has yet to make her Broadway debut, she said she’s striving toward a working career in the musical theater industry.

“I love to sing, act, dance and perform,” Bailey said. “I want to have consistent work doing that. It makes me happy. I guess right now I am just taking it an opportunity at a time since I just started. But again, the fantasy is Broadway. I would be lying if I said that wasn’t somewhere I would love to be.”

Nikki Bohne before a performance of "Bring it On." (Courtesy Nikki Bohne)
Nikki Bohne before a performance of “Bring it On.” (Courtesy Nikki Bohne)

Bailey, who is now performing in “Saturday Night Fever: The Musical” with Royal Carribean Productions on the Liberty of the Seas cruise ship, gained experience navigating New York City after her graduation.

“Always leave your house earlier than you think you need to, if you want to be on time,” Bailey said. “Also, eat Cafe Rio while you can because there is just nothing quite like it in New York City.”

While some BYU grads are still trying to make it, others have already moved on to their Broadway careers. Nathan Balser graduated from BYU in 1998 with a degree in therapeutic recreation and then went on to get a master’s degree in fine art from the University of Utah. Balser’s Broadway credits include ensemble in “Legally Blonde: The Musical” and “Mamma Mia!” Balser said he believes the quality and legacy of Broadway theater is what attracts performers from around the world.

“Broadway is the NFL of musical theater,” Balser said. “The production qualities — including the sets, lighting, costumes, orchestras, theaters, producers, directors, choreorgraphers and all the talent — don’t get any better. The best in the business work there.”

Balser is now a BYU professor, teaching music dance theater. Despite his success on Broadway, he is now dedicated to instilling his students with the courage to pursue their dreams. Balser said the most important lesson he learned while on Broadway was the importance of professionalism.

“The more professional you are and consistently respectful, the stronger your networking will be, which is everything in this business,” Balser said.

Nikki Bohne is a 2010 graduate of BYU’s music dance theater program. Bohne got a one-way ticket and moved to New York City only a few days after graduating. One of her first big successes was playing the title role of Elle Woods in the national tour of “Legally Blonde: The Musical.”

“I loved being blonde, and thanks to that show and my precious ‘Bruiser,’ I adopted my best doggy pal, Olive, from a shelter in Atlanta,” Bohne said. “This show shaped my life in so many ways and taught me to look at life through rose-colored glasses.”

While Bohne has loved her own experiences in the theater business, she said she knows it can be discouraging. Bohne said the key to success in show business is finding what makes you happy.

“There is no right or wrong path in this business,” Bohne said. “Every single person paves their own way out here. Find out what makes you happy. Truly happy. And then stick with it.”

Bohne said she has always had one goal in mind: Broadway. In 2012, she finally reached this goal, making her Broadway debut in “Bring it On: The Musical.”

“Once I achieved this lifelong goal, my whole world changed,” Bohne said. “Obviously you ask yourself a lot of ‘life questions’ at a turning point such as this, but what I realized was that I simply love what I do. I love to perform. I love the people. I love sharing who I am and what I believe through my work and example. I feel blessed every single day that I get to pursue such an incredible path in life.”

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