Actor/Musician/Writer Michael Lomenda is in the house! Michael’s open heart is what really struck me in this conversation. His willingness to share embarrassments, lessons from the biz, and a real account of what it’s actually like to go from working in the Canadian entertainment industry to moving to LA and starting again with such honesty and positivity is still lingering with me. At one point, Michael refers to the fact that when you are brand new to a place you actually get to “put your hands back on the wheel” and ask yourself, “what do I want to do?”.
I feel like the question of “what do I want to do?” is one that we need to ask ourselves far more often as artists. We can sometimes fall into the trap of trying to be what everyone else wants and one day we can find ourselves looking in the mirror going “how on earth did I get here?”. Michael points out that it is a part of the reason why it is so important to be actively working on your own projects. It will help you determine what gets you excited as an artist and help you carve a more inspiring and deliberate path for yourself.
I am thrilled to be bringing this conversation to you! Grab a coffee, open your heart and consider as you listen, What is it that you really want? If you could create anything right now, what would that be? Then, start!
In this episode:
- How he adapted his character Nick Massi from stage to screen.
- What his experience was like working with Clint Eastwood in the feature film, Jersey Boys
- how important it is to not wait to be chosen as an artist
- Why it is important to understand as an artist that there is not a “ladder to climb”
- how to embrace failure.
Michael Lomenda: Climbing The Non-Existent Ladder, Jersey Boys, And Why Failing Is Important
A little about Michael:
Michael was born and raised in a very small town in rural Alberta, Canada, the son of an ex pro-hockey player turned oil-field foreman and puck-bunny turned business-owning hairstylist. After he was gifted a piano at age 5 by a family friend, Michael started training as a classical pianist from an early age. His father, Mark, drove him weekly to lessons in a neighboring town and eventually, in spite of jabs from his pals, took piano lessons too, culminating in a performance of the “Theme from Love Story” at one of Michael’s piano recitals. He’d never been more proud of his Dad. Michael’s first acting performance was in grade 4 as “Randy” in the well-known Christmas classic, Randy, the Red-Horned ReinMoose, ingeniously costumed by mom, Jan, to facilitate Randy’s climactic reveal (who wrote this play?!)
In high school, Michael crossed paths with an inspirational pair of profs, respectively Darrell Dobson and Rose Pearson, who introduced him to all things art, theatre and culture. Surprising his folks, months before graduation, he abandoned his plans to be an architect and enrolled in the intensive acting program at Red Deer College. After a year at RDC, Michael auditioned for Sheridan College’s esteemed Musical Theatre Performance Program, and despite having minimal dance training and barely being able to sing above a middle “C”, he was directly accepted. Sheridan College had Michael running the performing gamut from pop music concerts, to Marat/Sade, The Crucible to City of Angels, and after graduating with honors, wide-eyed and galvanized, he couldn't wait to dive headfirst into a career in theatre.
He launched himself into a busy Canadian Theatre scene performing coast to coast on the nations top stages in Hairspray, Grease, The Rocky Horror Show, Cabaret, Guys and Dolls, A Chorus Line, Footloose, Sweet Charity, Blood Brothers, Forever Plaid, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He’s performed internationally on the world’s largest cruise ship, The Queen Mary 2, as a featured vocalist at Deerhurst Resort where multi-Grammy award winner, Shania Twain got her start, voiced the character “Buddy Bear” for a series of English language learning CDs, developed and directed a show called Everyone Jump that toured nationally educating kids about the importance of healthy eating and exercise in diabetes prevention, and acted as Musical Director at his alma mater, Sheridan College, for their MainStage production, Catch A Rising Star.
In 2008, Michael auditioned for Jersey Boys and could never have fathomed to what extent the show would shape his career and change his life. He was initially asked to audition for “Bob Gaudio” but, secretly prepared the “Nick Massi” material, just in case. Shortly after his audition began, the Casting Director stopped, looked intently at him, and said, “I think we’d like to see you for a different character. Do you know, ‘Nick Massi?’”
Thus began a 5-year journey with the Broadway hit, Jersey Boys, and the wonderfully enigmatic stage version of a man with whom he shares a birthday, “Nick Massi.” Michael was cast as “Nick” in the Original Canadian Company of Jersey Boys in 2008 which played a record-breaking, award winning run in Toronto and for which Michael was Dora Award nominated for his performance. After Michael's successful run in Toronto, he was invited to join the US First National Tour of Jersey Boys.
With the US First National Touring Cast, Michael performed all across North America including the 2011 White House National Christmas Tree Lighting as well as on the Jubilee Auditorium stage in Calgary, Alberta where, many years earlier, little Lomenda sat front row watching his first musical. After nearly 2 years on the road, and days before his Jersey Boys run concluded at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, during a matinee Michael received a text from a cast member saying Clint Eastwood was in the audience. Michael survived his nerves, and after the show, he shook hands with the gracious and enthusiastic Eastwood, wearing his JB ball cap. A few weeks later Michael was called to audition for Eastwood in New York and, a mere month following that, having never performed on film before, he was officially cast to star in Warner Brothers and Clint Eastwood's feature film adaptation of Jersey Boys.
Since the international release of the Jersey Boys film, Michael has had the opportunity to visit Asia, relocate from Toronto to LA, attend his first film premiere, write his own material, and finally get the rescue dog he’s always wanted. Michael’s hometown Stettler invited him as a Guest of Honor to their own premiere screening of Jersey Boys which raised over $14,000 for local arts programs and screened at the Jewel Theatre, where a young Michael once went on his first date. Most recently Michael was invited as a guest of President Obama and the First Lady, Michelle Obama to perform at a White House State Dinner honoring the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe and his wife Mrs. Abe. After the dinner and performance, The First Lady hugged Michael, expressed that Jersey Boys was the Japanese Prime Minister’s favorite movie, and that she and the President were thrilled to have him there. Michael has never been more humbly wordless.
Michael, prairie renaissance man, intends to hike Machu Picchu, learn to cook seafood gumbo, record his solo album, and become a Dad, all the while doing his utmost to tell you incredibly honest and courageous stories that take you away and make your heart sing.
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