Steven Grant Douglas and I met in Minneapolis a few years ago in the elevator for an audition of one of my favorite musicals, AIDA. He had recently graduated from the University of Minnesota, Duluth and was ready to conquer the Minneapolis theater scene. We quickly became friends due to our love for theater and similar taste in shows. Steven is now playing Sam Wheat in GHOST The Musical, which many of you will know because Patrick Swayze made the role famous in the movie.
Steven Grant Douglas (SGD): I flew out to New York City for a week and was auditioning (just trying to get my foot in the door). I was auditioning for SOUL DOCTOR and the same casting agency was casting for GHOST. My audition went awesome. It was just one of those days I felt great. After the audition, I flew back to Minnesota and started rehearsals for AVENUE Q near my home town. I got a call from GHOST to come in and audition for Sam and Carl (the male leads), but since I wasn’t in town I sent in a video audition instead. Some of my cast mates from AVENUE Q helped me put together my video reel for both characters. A week after I submitted the video I got an email to fly back to New York to audition. I spent the 4th of July in the city, had a few days of callbacks, and then flew home (having no idea what their decision would be). A few days later I got an email saying that I was “on hold” for the lead, Sam (they wanted to make sure I didn’t have any conflicts, etc.) but the following week I received the offer for the leading role. It was an exhilarating day!
TPC: What was the first intro to the show that you had?
SGD: Unlike most people, it wasn’t the movie… it was the soundtrack. At first it didn’t sound like a musical to me. It was more of a pop-rock soundtrack which intrigued me. Now to be apart of it, the music is very unique. The score is a great addition to the romantic story/suspenseful drama.
TPC: How do you like traveling?
SGD: I love it, it’s great. There are ups and downs but for the most part, the pros outweigh the cons. It’s hard to live in a hotel room every week and spend many hours on the bus to the next city, but fortunately I have my own room. 8 shows a week is very demanding; traveling the country at the same time makes it an even bigger challenge at times. The only day we don’t do a show is the day we travel. “Golden days” are days when we don’t travel and don’t have a show. They are so rare so we cherish them, hence the word “golden.” (cue the hallelujah chorus)
TPC: How long are you in each city for?
SGD: A week is the shortest we are in each city, and sometimes we stay for up to two. One of the best parts of traveling is we get to experience the food, people and culture of many regions of America. I feel fortunate to see so much of the country at such a young age.
TPC: What places have you liked the best?
SGD: I was surprised to really enjoy Providence, Rhode Island. We were there in the fall and it was beautiful. The food was great and the community has lots of personality. It’s very artsy and reminded me of Minneapolis (where I’m from). New Orleans was really cool because it is has so many unique elements you can only find in its specific region. It seemed everybody there was a musician, which I enjoyed. The life that music has in New Orleans is amazing. Trumpets, trombones and other instruments are used all over the city. Lastly some of the bigger stops were great like Chicago and Dallas. Both of those places we were in for two weeks, so it started to feel like home.
TPC: How excited are you to perform in your home state of Minnesota this spring?
SGD: Thrilled! I’ve already got friends and family excited to see the show in Minneapolis. The first show I ever saw at the Orpheum Theatre was WICKED. I was 16 and totally blown away. It’s going to be surreal to perform on that very stage.
TPC: I’ve heard you play the guitar before but I know that isn’t your forte. How is it playing on stage in front of a huge audience?
SGD: Funny enough, I was asked in the callbacks to play “Unchained Melody”. The first time I played through it, it wasn’t great. Then before the final callback I paid $15 for a room in a studio to practice. I played for 45 minutes straight and got the song down much better. It definitely helped me get the part. Now I look forward to playing it every night.
SGD: Right around a year with the potential to extend.
TPC: What’s next for you?
SGD: Ideally I would know what I was doing when my contract is up. If that’s not the case, all signs point to New York. It’s where I need to be and long to be. Before touring, I was rehearsing there for a month and was enamored by the community and people. I met so many people I respect and are my role models. I’m looking forward to when I return, because I love the energy the city brings.
TPC: What’s a normal day like when you are performing?
SGD: Life on the road is very interesting. I have a somewhat “normal” schedule but its about four hours off what a typical “normal” schedule is for most people. Breakfast is at 11:30 and then I have lunch at 4:30 because work is late at night. My work is from 7:30-11:30, so I eat dinner at 11:30 after the show. The show ends up being the most important part of my day. Everything sort of revolves around it.
TPC: What would you say are things the audience members are looking forward to in the show?
SGD: The special effects are so high tech and incredible. Our show has many illusions in it that help convey that Sam is a ghost and ghosts exist. Everything has a clear purpose: to tell the story. It’s not just a show. When I pass through the door, it is iconic from the movie and people look forward to it. How we represent when people die is phenomenal. I stand in the wings and watch it every night and think, “Wow… this is amazing.”
TPC: Tell us about the iconic pottery scene.
SGD: In the very early process there was no pottery scene but the producers said, we have to have it! In a musical that has loud rock music and a lot of intensity, it is such a raw moment. Some of those moments are my favorites because not every show does that. People leave our show feeling a multitude of emotions because they are moved by what we do. That’s why I love my job.
TPC: What are the biggest messages that stem from the show?
SGD: The most important message in the show is that you need to tell the people you love that you love them while you still can. Sam gets a second chance but that’s incredibly rare.
TPC: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us!
SGD: My pleasure, it’s always great to chat with a friend. Thanks for having me, and I look forward to seeing you (and everyone else reading this) somewhere down the road!
For more information on Steven, check out his website: http://www.stevengrantdouglas.