FROM STAFF REPORTS
Aurora -- Local high school graduate Sean Grandillo (class of 2011) will make his Broadway debut in "Spring Awakening," with previews starting Sept. 8 at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in New York, and opening night Sept. 27.
The revival will be a Broadway transfer of the recent production at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, Calif. that was co-produced by Los Angeles-based Deaf West Theatre and Forest Of Arden.
The latter's founder Michael Arden directed it with choreography by Spencer Liff. It was first presented in LA at Inner-City Arts.
Grandillo was introduced to music at an early age by his father. He participated in the orchestra program in fourth grade at Leighton School playing bass, which continued through his senior year at AHS.
Since his role in "Spring Awakening" requires him to fluently play upright -- as well as electric -- bass, Grandillo thanks local teachers Eddie Nabring and Jason Burdett for encouragement and guidance during his time as an Aurora Orchestra member.
In high school, Grandillo also sang in rock bands, and played four years at the High School Rock Off at the House of Blues in Cleveland.
At the end of his sophomore year, a family friend took him to see the Broadway tour of "Spring Awakening" at the Palace Theater in Cleveland, and it was a life-altering moment, according to his mother Kathi, who is an Aurora City Council member.
"After coming home from the show inspired, Sean made a decision to try theater for the first time," said his mother. "With our [his parents'] and AHS guidance counselor Deanna McCarrell's help, he decided to audition for the Chagrin Falls Performing Arts Academy."
The latter is offered through the Excel TECC program at Aurora High.
Grandillo's audition earned him a spot in the program, and under the direction of Tom Fulton and Mitchell Fields, he grew into a seasoned performer, appearing in 15 plays and musicals in two years.
GRANDILLO spent two summers performing and instructing at a theater camp through the Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory under the artistic direction of Fred Sternfeld, ending with a performance as Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables" in 2011.
He then attended Ithaca College's nationally recognized musical theatre program, only to take a leave after his freshman year to play the title role in the national tour of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer."
Grandillo returned to Ithaca, but eventually made a difficult decision when offered a role in "Spring Awakening" in LA.
"His instincts and an incredibly supportive family allowed him to chase his dream, even though he knew nearly no one in California and had no indication of where the production might go," said Kathi.
The original presentation was in a small theater with only 99 seats in a rough part of downtown LA, and the compensation was minimal. But it was an artistic endeavor that proved to be a very wise investment of time and resources.
After a soldout run, an extension and a slew of rave reviews, Deaf West Theater took "Spring Awakening" to the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.
"Very rarely does a show so small make the jump to a true professional theater," explained Kathi. "The entire cast became members of the Actors' Equity Association [professional union for stage performers], and the show enjoyed another soldout run in its new 500-seat home.
That led to the decision to take it to Broadway. Grandillo's time in LA has been busy outside of "Spring Awakening" as well. After the move last summer, he joined SAG-AFTRA, got picked up by agent Tyler Grasham of APA and was a guest star on two episodes of "Secrets & Lies," which aired on ABC in January.
He also released original music, which is available online on his soundcloud page.