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by M. Zeman
From Shakespeare's tragic hero Romeo to his arch villian Don John to rebel French poet Arthur Rimbaud...
From British rockers Ian Ware (tv series Fame); Tommy in Broadways' The Who's Tommy to German transexual rock diva Hedwig in Hedwig & the Angry Inch..
From perfoming alongside rock legends Pete Townshend and Bob Mould..
to writing, composing and fronting his own bands ..
Michael Cerveris, an impossibly versatile performer is leading what he has described as a "schizophrenic career"
One might say...an amazing journey ..
The journey began in Maryland. Growing up in an artistic household, his father a University Professor of Music and his mother a modern dancer -- music has always been an integral part of Michael's life. He recalls, "My first memory of growing up was listening to my father play piano." He and his younger siblings were each required to learn one instrument. First showing an aptitude with the violin, Michael was encouraged to try cello. His personal love of rock & roll would ultimately win out and he began playing guitar at age 10, taking formal lessons for a year and teaching himself by ear during the rest of his childhood.
He was introduced very early to performing. "When the university where my Dad taught needed a little kid for their productions I was often the kid they used. The first time I was ever on stage was about 2nd grade -- as one of the prince's little friends in "The Caucasian Chalk Circle." So when you start out your theatrical career with Brecht at the age of 7 or 8 you know you are in for the long haul."
His father's university position necessitated that the family move often, finally settling in Huntington, West Virginia which he considers his home town. This made it difficult to make friends. Spending his last two years of High School at Phillips Exeter Academy, Michael says "I always felt I was on the outside, a fringe member of every clique. It wasn't until I got a small part in a play, 'The Comedy of Errors,' that I found a place where I felt I knew at least as much as the people around me. In the theater, I felt at home".
Attending Yale University, he had the opportunity to study voice with Blake Stern from the music school who had him singing German lieder and Italian songs.
Upon graduation, he went to New York, where he waited tables, dressed windows at F.A.O. Schwartz and played extras in soap operas between auditions.
He then traveled across the country participating in repertory theatre productions.
He performed lead roles in classics such as Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream as well as many cutting edge contemporary plays like Sam Shepard's Tooth of Crime and Total Eclipse by Christopher Hampton.
(left: Michael & Madeline Potter in Abingdon Square)
In 1986, he was cast as British Rocker Ian Ware in the acclaimed television series Fame. Bringing great poignancy as well as a sense of humor to the role, Michael was also able to display his singing, dancing and finely tuned guitar skills in a variety of musical styles including ballads (After Dark), classic (Rock and Roll Will Stand) and punk rock (No Feelings), vaudeville, country, jazz (Private Eye) and showtunes.
Never one to miss an opportunity, his time off camera was spent sitting with the writers, directors and producers absorbing the entire process.
Ian's Girl: "After Dark" real audio real video
Go Softly Into Morning: "Private Eye" real audio
(at right: in Fame)
When the series ended the following year, Michael continued appearing in guest roles on series such as Quantum Leap, The Equalizer and 21 Jump Street. His endearing portrayal of father-to-be, Bobby Krull on the HBO series Dream On perfectly showcased his natural comic ability. He also went onto movies including the science fiction thriller Steel and Lace and the comedy Rock and Roll High School Forever.
(left: in Dream On)
During this period, he never strayed far from the theatre stage, which he still believes is the most satisfying, purest acting experience. And in 1992, Michael originated the role of Tommy in the World Premiere of Tommy at the La Jolla Playhouse in California. Learning to ride a bronco pinball machine and sommersault gracefully high above the stage on wires was only the beginning. Michael conducted research into Autism, listened to music and ultimately looked into himself, creating a brilliant heartrending portrayal of the blind, deaf, dumb "pinball wizard".
(right: Michael as Tommy)
His electrifying performance was embraced by audiences and critics alike. Tommy author Pete Townshend was so impressed he asked Michael to perform with him at special appearances during his "Psychoderelict" tour. They were also often spotted in unannounced performances around New York City. It was this role that finally led to his debut on The Great White Way.
He earned a Tony Nomination for Best Featured Actor and won the Theatre World Award. His first CD recording also earned the show a Grammy for Best Original Cast album.
" Tommy" on Tony Awards 1993 real video mpeg (high bandwith only)
"Pinball Wizard" on CBS This Morning real audio
After triumphing nightly on Broadway, Michael continued to return to his first love -- composing and performing his own material. He asked fellow musicians Alice Ripley, Shannon Ford and John Jinks to join him and together they formed the alternative rock group lame. Playing first for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, they continued at a number of clubs, NYU and had a regular slot at Sin-E, an Irish coffeehouse in New York. "The Band gives me as much energy as it takes from me -- just to have another creative outlet."
"Tenth Grade" on Break a Leg '93 real video '96 real audio
"Individual" Live @ Wetlands mp3 real audio
"Sleepwalking" '96 real audio mp3
With breathless whispers building to achingly beautiful wails, Michael created an intimate soundscape littered with unforgettable images ("eyes like the eyes when a baby wakes"/ Brynn ) and often biting prose ("where I go bridges burn/your open wounds deserve salt"/ Individual). Images in wildly upbeat songs were just as striking and appropriately comical ("I want to write your name on my shoes"/Tenth Grade), ("wish I had an ocean in my bathtub where I could wash away my worries"/What I have). Dues were also paid to some of their rock influences with covers of The Ramones' "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" and "Frank Mills" from Hair. Led by Michael's agility, passion & guitar prowess lame engaged audiences in a rousing sometimes dizzying release of emotion.
He took Tommy to Germany for the European premiere for two years after that, continuing to play outside the show at festivals and clubs in the Frankfurt area with a German incarnation of lame. Like their American counterparts, German fans were quickly won over by his artistry, energy and his compassion which extended on and offstage. After 1,403 performances as Tommy, when the curtain fell on the final performance in Offenbach, upon Michael's initiative, the cast reunited one last time for a special benefit open air concert with all proceeds going to "Tommy Hall" - a therapeutic center for physically and mentally challenged children.
"I'm Free" live Tommy Benefit Concert Offenbach, 1996 real audio mpeg (high bandwith only)
"Once a Child" lame Live @MTW ''96 real audio real video
"Behind Blue Eyes" (written by Pete Townshend) live Germany real audio real video mpeg (high bandwith only)
At last, he returned to the Broadway stage in the Original Cast of Titanic in 1997. As ship designer Thomas Andrews, he provided the moral center of the drama. His stunning performance of "Mr. Andrews' Vision" every night allowed the audience to experience the anguish, fear and despair of the doomed passengers.
"Mr. Andrews' Vision" real video real audio
(left: David Garrison, John Cunningham & Michael in Titanic)
Michael continued to work outside his role in Titanic in various other theatre projects. He performed a reading of The Wild Party for the Manhattan Theater Club and joined cast members of the Scarlet Pimpernel in a reading for a new rock version of Romeo and Juliet orchestrated by Terrence Mann. He went on to participate in a reading for new musical comedy called Joe! with fellow Titanic cast member Brian d'Arcy James. On May 10th and 17th, he narrated two benefit concerts of Chess for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.
On May 11, 1998, NY audiences once again were able to see and hear him off Broadway when he rejoined original "lame" band members in an exciting reunion performance at the Wetlands Preserve in Manhattan.
(right: Michael as Hedwig)
After completing 501 performances as the designer of the fateful ship, Michael returned to his love of rock -- first for a limited four week run taking over for writer and star John Cameron Mitchell as lead in the smash Off Broadway musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch and then performing in the most celebrated rock venues around the world with alternative legend Bob Mould on his final electric tour - the Last Dog and Pony Show.
Traveling throughout the US, Canada and UK on an exciting yet relentless schedule did not slow him down. With characteristic stamina and spirit, he followed the tour with a flurry of projects: spending time in Glasgow and Germany -- attending a charity dinner for "Tommy Hall", playing bass on a new cd for rock group See Saw and looking into the long anticipated possibility of releasing his own material.
(left: Stephen Trask and Michael in Hedwig)
In 1999, Michael stepped back into the role (and heels) which stirred audiences the previous summer - Hedwig. Kicking off the New Year right with a highly charged concert at Radio City, he stomped the stage, rattled the roof, sprinted up the stairs into the upper Mezz of the famous Hall and even took the time to show off a few new guitar licks.
"Midnight Radio" live @ Wetlands real video
"The Origin of Love" Live real audio
"Substitute" Live @ Wetlands, NY - mpeg (high bandwith only) real video
with Michael, John Cameron Mitchell, Miriam Shor, Kevin Cahoon & Lisa Datz
"Pretty in Pink" Live @ El Rey Theater, LA mpeg (high bandwith only) real video
"The Origin of Love" Live @ Vynyl Club, LA - real audio
with Michael, John Cameron Mitchell, Miriam Shor, Stone Temple Pilots
Performing the role for eight months in New York, Michael took Hedwig to other venues including Irving Plaza, Bowery Ballroom, the Wetlands and then ultimately from East Coast to West -- opening in Hollywood.
The show, "a tour-de-force with the emotional impact of a tornado" called on all of Michael's skills as an actor and musical performer. The New York Times raved "Cerveris is...capitvating, mesmerizing and enthralling". Variety elaborated, "Michael Cerveris delivers a superb performance in this polished, energetic mix of monologue, rock concert, German-style cabaret and downtown performance art. ...Cerveris' physical and vocal versatility is outstanding, and he delivers with equal authority exuberant rock songs and softly ironic monologues."
Backstage West declared Michael a "musical theater national treasure" and later presented him with the 1999 Garland Award for his performance.
After leading Hedwig to a spectacular Hollwood size opening - producers quickly began sending him movie and television scripts. His first choice was a quirky action comedy - The Mexican. He said, "It's a great script and a nice, small, but memorable role." The movie also starring Julia Roberts, James Gandolfini and Brad Pitt opened in 2001. At the same time, Michael also coordinated the makers and producers in preparations for bringing the überdiva Hedwig across the Atlantic for the UK premiere in September of 2000.
During his time in Europe he recorded two musical projects. The first is a collaboration with Charlotte Hatherley, of rock group ASH. Michael says , "It's all new and really cool." Then - after several visits to lay the groundwork - Michael returned to studios in Glasgow to record his long awaited first album of his own songs under the band name Retriever. This album, hinterlands, includes new versions of songs previously only heard in concert as well as compositions he wrote during the previous year.
In March of 2002, he co-starred on the new FOX TV series, The American Embassy. Although FOX only showed four of the six episodes filmed during the Mid-Season, it received many terrific reviews and inspired viewers to start a campaign to the save the show.
Within the very week following the cancellation of the series, organizers of the hugely anticipated celebration of the works of Stephen Sondheim at Washington DC's Kennedy offered Michael the lead role in Passion. Judy Kuhn (Les Miserables, Chess) as Fosca and Rebecca Luker (Phantom, Secret Garden) as Clara rounded out the "trio of glorious lead actors"--Baltimore Sun. The show was immediately hailed as the highlight of the entire Celebration and Michael was singled out as not only for his extraordinary performance but also for making the notoriously difficult show heartbreakingly accessible. The New York Times raved: "In Eric Schaeffer's splendidly confident restaging of "Passion," Mr. Cerveris gives a performance of such emotional transparency that it hurts. It's the sort of performance that makes you ask where he's been all our lives...And you start to regard the brooding "Passion" not as an anomaly in the Sondheim canon but as its Rosetta stone."
Michael continues to write and record
for next exciting project hellbaby.
Michael's extensive career on the boards has made him the consummate performer. Whether he is donning the masks of comedy and tragedy or loosing his inner passion for rock and roll, the transformation is seemingly effortless, the result breathtaking.
His commitment to his craft is complete.
His joy of performance is contagious.
And he reaches his audience on every emotional level,
touching their hearts and minds, flooding their souls with inspiration.
And the journey continues...
2002 (7/18 - 8/23) Passion - Washington DC - Sondheim Celebration
2000 (9/8 -11/10) Hedwig and the Angry Inch - West End premiere 1999 (10/31 -12/19) Hedwig and the Angry Inch - West Coast premiere Hollywood 1999 (1/6/-8/7) Hedwig and the Angry Inch - Off Broadway 1998 (7/8-8/3)- Hedwig and the Angry Inch - Off Broadway 1997 - Titanic, Broadway original cast 1995 - The Who's Tommy European premiere in Germany 1993 - The Who's Tommy on Broadway
1992 - The Who's Tommy at La Jolla Playhouse
Regional Theatre Much Ado About Nothing (La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego) as Don John El Dorado (South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, California) as Nestor Dogs (West Coast Ensemble, Hollywood, California) Romeo and Juliet (Lowell Davis Festival Theatre, San Diego) as Mercutio Measure for Measure (Old Globe, San Diego) as Claudio Romeo and Juliet (Goodman Theater, Chicago) - as Romeo Blood Sports (NY Theater Workshop) Abingdon Square (American Place Theater. NY) - as Frank Tooth of Crime (Hartford) - as Crow Eastern Standard (Seattle Repertory Theater, Seattle) as Peter Richard II (Mark Taper Forum, LA) - as Duke of Aumerle Midsummer Night's Dream (Dallas Theater Center, Dallas) - as Puck Romeo and Juliet - as Romeo Total Eclipse (Westside Arts Theater, NY) - as Arthur Rimbaud Life is a Dream (Ark Theater Company, NY ) as Astolfo Green Fields (American Jewish Theater,NY) as Levi-Yitskhok The Games (Brooklyn Academy of Music, NY) as the young man Macbeth (Ark Theater Company, NY) as Malcolm Nothing Sacred -(Northlight) as Bazarov Moon (New York) as Marco The Picture of Dorian Gray (Philadelphia Wilma Theater) as Dorian
LiveDog98: Bob Mould Band Live Forum, UK
Losers' Lounge Tribute to Brian Wilson, (Westside Theatre, NYC 1/24 &26/02)
performed "God Only Knows"
"And the Beat Goes On" Concert Series (The Bottom Line, NYC 7/14/01)
performed "Who Loves the Sun"
Loser's Lounge Tribute to Paul Williams (Westside Theater, NYC 6/8 & 16/01)
performed "You and Me Against the World"
Love Me Or Leash Me: 50 Simple Ways to Keep Me a Happy, Healthy and Well Behaved Companion".
Michael has written a piece about his beloved dog Gibson for the book. Now available from Black dog and Leventhal Publishers,
the book includes a photo of Gibson taken by Charlotte Hatherley along with many other photos by 'Petographer' James Dratfield
and words of wisdom for any dog owner looking to make their happy pet even happier.
Some of the proceeds will go to benefit of animal organizations.
Club Makeup (El Rey Theater, CA 5/5/01)
Monthly celebration of glam & glitter at the El Rey Theater. Tribute to Andy Warhol. performed "Young Americans"
Club Makeup (El Rey Theater, CA, 3/4/00)
Monthly celebration of glam & glitter at the El Rey Theater. Fashion Show.
Broadway Barks (Shubert Alley, NYC 7/26/99) "LHistoire du Soldat" (Arizona State University West, 5/7-9/99) as the Soldier CD: Blue Lava Style (Germany, 11/98) performed bass with See Saw Hedwig & the Angry Inch in Concert The Last Dog and Pony Show World Tour - (9/10/98 - 11/6/98) Lame Reunion Concert (Wetlands Preserve, Manhattan/ 5-11-98) Chess Benefit Concerts (John Houseman Theatre, NY/5-10/17-98) as Narrator Joe! (Lambs Theatre, NY/5-4-98) as Joe's Dad Romeo and Juliet (NY,4/98) Reading as Tybalt & Prince The Wild Party (Manhattan Theatre Club, NY/4-98) as Burrs
Tokyo Pop - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Hedwig & the Angry Inch DVD documentary (2001)- includes footage of Michael performing as Hedwig in NY, LA & London The Mexican (action/comedy/2001) Lulu on the Bridge (drama/1998) Strangers (drama/1991) as "John" A Woman, Her Men & Her Futon (drama/1991) as "Paul" Steel and Lace (sci-fi/suspense/1991) as "Danny" Rock & Roll High School Forever (comedy/1990) as "Eagle Bauer" Tokyo Pop (musical comedy/1988) as "Mike" Television:
Series: The American Embassy as "Gary Forbush", 2002
Fame as "Ian Ware" Season 5, 1986-87
Popped In/Crashed Out (10/20/01) as himself
The show is part chat and part quiz show. Celebrities recline on sofas while Phil Alexander (editor of rock music magazine Kerrang!)
tests their knowledge of pop music and videos. Aired on ITV Friday October 20th after midnight.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (5/17/01) as "Syd Goggle"
Dream On "And Bobby Makes Three" (8/18/93) as "Bobby" Quantum Leap "Glitter Rock" (4/10/91) as "Nick" 21 Jump Street "Back to School" (10/20/90) as "Ray" The Equalizer "Race Traitors" (6/29/89) as "Nick Kaminsky" "Last Call" (3/23/88) as "Frankie" Leg Work "The Best Couple I know" (10/17/87) as "Johnny Dark" The Tracey Ullman Show (5/17/87) "Vive La Difference" as "Vic"
Doubletake (TV movie drama/1985) as "Gary Prine"
The Journal, 8/18/02, Michael discusses Passion
AJ Forum - 5/9/02; Michael discusses The American Embassy and Passion
Time Out London - 8/23/00; Michael discusses Hedwig in London
CheckOut.com interview -12/13/99; Michael discusses Hedwig in LA
Morning Becomes Eclectic - 11/9/99; Michael is interviewed as both himself and Hedwig
A Change of Part - 11/9/99; Michael discusses Hedwig in LA
Backstage West - 10/21/99; Michael was featured on the cover and interviewed about Hedwig in LA
Yale Daily News - 10/5/99; Michael speaks with students at Yale University
NY1 Interview - 8/2/99; Michael discusses Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Fresh Air - NPR - 4/26/99; Michael discussed Hedwig
Idiot's Delight - Vin Scelsa 2/7/99- ; Michael & original cast of Hedwig discuss the musical
AJ - 12/20/98; Michael discusses the Concert in Radio City and reflects on the past year
NPR - 9/30/98; Michael & Last Dog and Pony members discuss tour
Another Journey - Michael's journal from the Last Dog & Pony Show
Another Bio - amusing autobiography written by Michael for Last Dog & Pony Show
In Theater - 7/10/98; Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Musicals - April/May 1998; German interview with Michael about Titanic & Tommy
Playbill Online- Feb 1998; while performing Titanic in NY Michael answered fans questions
Flatiron News - 1997; Titanic, love of rock and roll; Gibson and putting down roots
Good Day NY- April 1997; Titanic and upcoming Tony awards
Playbill Online - April 1997; researching role of Titanic & previews
New York Magazine - April 1997; Titanic
Elle Magazine - 1997; Titanic & Thomas Andrews
A few of Michael's favorite things
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - profile before his 1250 performance as Tommy
Sounds of Frankfurt - July 1995; after concert in Germany to promote Tommy
Backstage on Broadway - 1994; Michael discusses his rock group Lame
Playbill Online - 1994; while performing Tommy in NY - Michael answered fans questions
CBS This Morning - 1993; interviewed about Tommy & performed "Pinball Wizard"
E! On Broadway - 1993; Michael's dressing room with Murray- "the Pinball Lizard" & more
Kidsday -August 1993; interview with Michael and fellow Tommys
Show Music Magazine - Fall 1993; profile and interview about the release of Tommy on CD
Manhattan Spirit - July 1993; profile and interview post Tony Awards
Vin Scelsa Interview - 1993; interview with Michael, Des MacAnuff & Buddy Smith
US Magazine Profile - May 1993; Michael Cerveris is noted as rising talent after La Jolla
Much Ado- Oct 1992; Michael discusses role in Much Ado about Nothing
Star Magazine - Michael is interviewed about his role in Fame
Review of Breeders Concert in Washington DC; 8/9/02; Michael makes special guest appearance
Amazing Journey - Official
Web Archive for Michael Cerveris