N.C. grad in first tour, headed to Broadway in ‘Mamma Mia!’
A year after graduating from Western Carolina University, Tyler McKenzie is Broadway-bound. McKenzie is in the ensemble and understudy for two roles in the current national tour of “Mamma Mia!” and will be in the show on Broadway this summer. The tour featuring the music of ABBA is making a return run at the Durham Performing Arts Center for five shows over three days – May 30 through June 1.
McKenzie was born in Long Island and his family moved to Charlotte when he was in high school. He’s based in New York City now, but life is mostly on the road. After high school graduation, he went to Western Carolina and received his bachelor of fine arts degree. McKenzie said he loved the mountains. After graduation, he got a job at a Pittsburgh theme park.
He also went to an open call for “Mamma Mia!” and received a call back the next day. After finishing his theme park contract, it was straight to New York for “Mamma Mia!” rehearsals. The tour began in October.
“I haven’t stopped since graduation,” McKenzie said in a phone interview last week from the tour stop in Chicago. It was his first time in the city and he was having a good time, he said.
“I get nervous every night, especially if there’s someone I know in the audience. It’s a good nervous. I think the passion shows when you’re nervous,” he said.
Last week he also got the news he would be joining the “Mamma Mia!” cast on Broadway this summer. After the tours in Durham and Dallas, it’s off to New York for rehearsals, summer performances, and then a tour in Bogota, Columbia.
“Then we’ll see what happens,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie is in the ensemble of the lively comedic musical about a woman getting married, her mother, and the three men who might be her father – all set to ABBA. He is understudy for Pepper and Eddie and has played both roles. In the ensemble, he sings and dances a lot.
“It’s been a blast,” he said. “Right now I’m having a great time in the ensemble.”
McKenzie had seen the movie and saw it on Broadway during rehearsals.
“I was so excited to be part of this family,” he said. “I have a great time in the show. It’s so universal. It’s great to be in a show that has a huge concert at the end. It’s a big party.”
McKenzie said you can’t help but sing the music of “Mamma Mia!” which includes ABBA hits like “Dancing Queen” and, of course, “Mamma Mia.”
McKenzie’s career has taken off fast, and his advice for others is to never stop creating something on your own and exploring your craft.
Now that McKenzie is joining the Broadway show, he’ll be a member of the actors’ union so he won’t go on tour again next year, because the tour is non-union. Being in the union means a higher rate of pay and it makes it easier to be seen and audition for Broadway, he said.
“My big dream is to originate a role on Broadway,” he said. McKenzie hopes to start with a show when it’s in workshop and be the one a role is written around before it transfers to Broadway. Then maybe one day a Tony Award nomination.
“It’s a dream. I think I can achieve it,” McKenzie said.
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: “Mamma Mia!”
WHEN: May 30-June 1
WHERE: Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St., Durham