The "Artist Spotlight" and "The Director's Chair" are bi-weekly interview series highlighting entertainment professionals, working actors, singers, stage managers, producers, directors, designers and others in the arts and entertainment industry.
Considering his latest dynamic and electrifying portrayal in the rock musical “Spring Awakening,” Actor/Director Marcus S. Daniel’s career has blown wide open. Join us now, in "The Director’s Chair," as he lays it all out—past, present and future.
March 7, 2021 — By Chris Daniels
This week we are featuring Marcus S. Daniel in "The Director's Chair," who is by now on everyone's radar, in an exclusively revealing interview on the man, his art, and his future projects.
Marcus S. Daniel is not only a multi-award winning Director and Choreographer, but is also a multi-faceted Actor of boundless emotional depth and range who has immersed himself in a diversity of roles and genres encompassing drama, comedies, and musicals on both stage and screen, startling critics, garnering rave reviews and prompting unqualified praise. But whether ruddering a production, or playing a critical role himself, he always adds that balance between hard and soft, dark and light – by exploring the grey areas in between.
His NY Directing credits include the world premier staging of “Bright is the Ring of Words” for the NYFF, helming the concert production of the same musical at Carnegie Hall starring Natalie Weiss, “Bye Bye Birdie” at Stagedoor Manor, “On The Town” and “Elf” for Narrows Theatre. His work has been seen around the world with Silversea Cruise Line where he created their shows, “A Vamp and Her Tramp,” and “Song and Dance.” Other credits: “Tommy,” “Aida,” “Cats,” “Mary Poppins,” “Les Miserables,” “[title of show],” “Bare: A Pop Opera,” and “Carrie: The Musical.”
As an Actor, Marcus was a 2017 Los Angeles Ovation Award winner for the West Coast Premiere production of “The Boy From Oz” (Chris Bell/Dance Captain). NY audiences may also have seen him Off-Broadway in “The Mad Hatters G&T Party.” Other recent credits include: “Bright Star” educational tour, “Hairspray” (Corny Collins), “CHURCH” (w/ Sally Struthers and Leslie Jordan), “Swan Lake in Concert” (w/ Andrew Lippa and Carrie Manolakos).
As a recipient of many StageSceneLA Awards, some of his most riveting work includes winning Supporting Actor – "Rent," Outstanding Direction – "Rent," Outstanding Choreography - "Bare, The Musical," Supporting Actor - "The Wedding Singer," and Supporting Actor - "The Producers." In addition, Inland Theatre League Awards include Supporting Actor - "[title of show]," Best Director – "Cats," Best Choreography – "Cats," and Best Choreography - "[title of show]."
His Film/TV credits include: “A Voice in the Dark” (feature film), Disney’s “Geppetto” (w/ Usher and Drew Carey), “S Club 7,” “Glee,” and Taylor Swift's “Haunted” music video. IG: MrAmazingMarcus.
If you were unlucky enough to miss his last show in February, "Spring Awakening," a Marcus S. Daniel Production, let me quickly recap the production from my latest review:
"Producer and Director Marcus S. Daniel presented this audacious mash-up of 19th-century themes and cutting-edge alt-rock in its premiere last evening, February 26th at 5:30pm PST, that literally took our breath away from start to finish. Climactically, it represented a new, exciting, and evolving brand of virtual theater resulting in a much higher quality of final product – one that uses a new array of transitions, special effects, synchronizations and backgrounds – and one that ignites and inspires just like live theatre..."
AN ENCORE PRESENTATION OF "SPRING AWAKENING" IS SCHEDULED FOR A PERFORMANCE ON MARCH 26, 2021 @ 6:00 PM PST/9:00 PM EST
All proceeds from ticket sales and our GOFUNDME campaign go directly to the cast and crew. Ticket prices range from only $3-$8. I wanted to make sure it was affordable for anyone and everyone who wanted to see it. As per our licensing rights the show must now be aired on Showtix4u. Wish I could keep giving it away for free. But hopefully people find it worth the price! Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at:
Recently, we caught up with Marcus and he agreed to give us some insight on his rapidly expanding career, as well as how the current crisis has affected theatre. Here's what he said:
Since the pandemic hit early last year, this has been an extremely difficult time for most theatres to create new productions with the same quality as before, considering Covid-19 restrictions, medium limitations, and a learning curve for many on livestreaming. Yet, you seem to have helped revolutionize the way theatre can create virtual productions now with your most recent, "Spring Awakening." Can you tell us briefly how you managed to pull off such a phenomenal show?
“Those are incredibly kind words, so thank you very much for that. The goal all along for Spring Awakening was to be able to see how we could elevate the art of the virtual musical and hopefully provide an intimate experience with the show in a way that no one would have experienced it before. It was a 4 month process from first production meeting to last day of filming and when I tell you it was more planning and organizing than other other project I worked on I am not exaggerating. It included 5 weeks of storyboarding with my AD (Romel De Silva). We had to treat it like it was a film and not just a musical because…well it was. Recording each cast members vocals remotely from their home. We had intensely thought out rehearsals where every detail down to where the actor was looking and at what angle had to be planned.
I would also be remiss to not mention our out of this world video editor (Shara Abvabi) and brilliant sound editor (Pieter Orlandini) who through their expertise were able to elevate the show beyond what I had thought possible. The entire creative team (which also includes Heather Edwards - Music Director and Lindsay Brooks - Casting) was a dream to work with. Talk about lifting people up, working with respect, and everyone bringing their best…couldn’t have asked for a better experience with all of them. And then of course there is the cast! Their work speaks for itself. I’m grateful to every single one of the incredible artists.”
Can you walk us through an average day in your life?
“Pre or post pandemic!? They are two very different experiences but all artists seem to be in the same boat. Before the pandemic hit I was working for The Shubert Organization every night on Broadway, teaching across NYC as a Teaching Artist for Inside Broadway, creating a brand new musical (which got to play at Carnegie Hall starring Natalie Weiss), working for Narrows Theatre in Brooklyn, and traveling quite often out of town to Direct/Choreograph. I was busy. I like it that way. Busy is good for me, it’s what I’m used to and it’s what I want. Anyone around me will tell you I’m a hustler. Don’t ask me to be a morning person though! But my favorite part of everyday is coming home to my partner Ramsey and our sweet little Jack Russell Milo.”
Marcus, how old were you when you decided to pursue a career in the arts?
“It’s been in my blood my entire life. I was a performer by the time I could speak and walk really. I would sing and dance around my house daily. I cannot tell you how many Spice Girls concerts I put on and my living room saw a multi year production of Beauty and the Beast. I was in my first show at the age of 8. It was Peter Pan and it changed my life. There was really never another option for me. I had no interest in anything else pretty much ever. I thank little Marcus each and every day because he was fearless. That little kid paved the way for adult Marcus to live his dreams.”
What has been some of your proudest accomplishments so far?
“In 2016 I was cast as Chris Bell/Dance Captain for the West Coast premiere of The Boy From Oz at Celebration Theatre. We were supposed to run for 6 weeks and we ended up spending the better part of a year doing the show. In January of the following year we were the most nominated show at the LA Ovation Awards and at the end of the night every single one of us walked away an Ovation winner. Traveling the world singing for Silversea Cruises is also right up there. I saw more places in the world than I ever dreamed I would. 10/10 would recommend Norway. Also Directing/Producing a brand new musical that played sold-out at Carnegie Hall. That’s one of those once in a lifetime moments.”
Who do you look up to as your greatest creative inspiration?
“Inspiration comes in so many forms. As a Director I deeply admire the work that Jerry Mitchell and Michael Arden have created. Specifically with Michael our show styles are very similar in how we like to find new ways to tell the story. I like to think we are cut from the same cloth. I also credit John Vaughan and Doug Austin (who ran an incredible summer program at Citrus College in Glendora, CA) for providing me with an immeasurable amount of tools to succeed in this career.”
People often talk about working toward their dreams, especially actors. What is your dream and where would you like to be, say, five years from now?
“Ask me this on any given day and the answer could be a myriad of things. I want to travel more directing, but specifically travel to places I haven’t worked yet - working in Asia is high on that list. I’d also like to open a new theatre in Los Angeles (I just love Los Angeles so much). I have a lot to say as a Director and now that people are listening…looks like it’s time to continue the journey.”
You’ve not only directed, but played a number of characters on stage. What theatrical character do you identify with the most and why?
“It’s hard to answer this because I’ve played so many wild and out there characters - I can’t exactly say I identify as a candlestick or psycho dentist. Melchior from Spring Awakening and Jeff from [title of show] are two characters I hold very dear to me. As a kid (and really still to this day) I was very outspoken about what I felt was right, just, and fair. In that sense I am very much like Melchior. As for Jeff, he’s the epitome of an artist and it’s really fun when you’re on stage and you feel like you’re not only getting to tell their story but you are telling your own as well. That show was a really special gift. That music is HARD!”
What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
“I am fiercely outspoken about what is right. For ME that’s a strength. Not just for myself but for everyone around me, especially in a work environment. Actors are easily taken advantage of and mistreated (and we find that behavior constantly - not just to actors as well) and to ignore that is a detriment. I think it’s massively important to stand up for ourselves within this career. As a Director I feel my greatest strength is emotional intelligence, in the way I direct and in how I deal with my team and cast as people. I want everyone I work with to feel uplifted, respected, appreciated, and seen. That’s very important to me. Weakness? Well I’m not nearly as flexible as I used to be. Thanks quarantine!”
How would you recommend an acting student prepare themselves for a career in theatre, and what tips can you give a novice entering the field?
“Train, train, train, train. Study, study, study, study. That doesn’t mean spend all your money to go to musical theatre college or on expensive masterclasses. There are a million and one options for performers to train in whatever capacity they are capable or able to. One thing I see behind the table frequently is people with headshots that don’t represent them or the level of professionalism they want to present. Invest in good headshots. Most importantly remember why you are doing this in the first place. Love. We do this because we HAVE to and our souls need it. Don’t ever lose sight of the 8 year old inside you with those big dreams.”
What are a couple of your absolute favorite show tunes?
“Without a doubt right now my favorite is’What Baking Can Do’ from the musical Waitress. Sara Bareilles smashed that and her lyrical content is mind blowing and beautiful. It’s the best song in the show (even though everyone loves She Used To Be Mine) and quite frankly one of the best female musical theatre songs ever. Obsessed. Then there’s pretty much the entire score to SMASH (from NBC). Does that count? Bring it to Broadway! We’ve waited long enough. Megan Hilty should’ve got an Emmy for ‘Let’s Be Bad.’”
What else are you passionate about when you’re not acting or directing?
“Travel. I have hardcore wanderlust. Also, just like every typical Southern Californian, I just adore Disney.”
And finally, Marcus, what’s something you are really good at that few people know about?
“I have an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture, especially when it comes to Britney Spears (although everybody knows this) and RuPaul’s Drag Race. I also have an incredible memory when it comes to learning material. I’m a very quick study. Hopefully that lasts a lifetime.”
Thank you Marcus S. Daniel!