It's a big week for Broadway, the Tony Awards are Sunday. One of this year’s sensations is 'School of Rock' star Alex Brightman, one of the nominees for best actor in a leading role in a musical.
Acting is nothing new for Brightman, but the limelight — and a Tony nomination is.
This is quite a time to be Alex Brightman, the star of the hit musical School of Rock.
Fans seek to meet him at the Winter Garden Theater. Rock icons like Stevie Nicks are seeing his show.
He's landed a Tony nomination, his first.
And yes, he's a trading card.
"There's no words that have been invented yet to describe how this has all gone and how this has all been from the very moment I touched the school of rock material," Brightman said.
Alex Brightman on stage at the Winter Garden Theater is, in the words of his favorite musical 'Tommy', a sensation. Just not an overnight one.
He's been a working actor since dropping out of NYU in 2007.
He writes for the stage as well, by himself and with a circle of friends affectionately known as The Morons.
But nothing has ever quite clicked like this.
"I am the right age, I am the right type, I play guitar, I'm funny, or so I think and some other people seem to think so, I do improv, it all seemed to come together. If this came along four years ago I wouldn't have A) been ready or B) been the guy."
For two and a half hours, Brightman struts, screams, sings, plays, spits, and bounces all over the stage.
He says he kept adding new wrinkles to the role and no one said no.
"And I love that, but, I'm in physical therapy six times a week, to get maintenance on what is a black and blue body. I've lost upwards of fifty pounds doing this show. my voice, everything has taken a toll. But I feel like there was no other way to do this role than to leave bits and pieces of yourself on stage every night."
It's an overwhelming performance and yet generous, giving the kids plenty of room to find their own voices.
"To let them shine and watch them figure things out about acting that I had to figure out as well is fascinating to me."
Brightman first played the role at a workshop at the Gramercy Theater downtown in 2015.
At the time, he was told — often — that this was just for the workshop and not a Broadway offer.
And Brightman says that was fine, really.
"I have never ever and I hope I never have that thought, because it's so freeing to just be the actor that's having a good time and not try to angle, and not trying to go every ten second to say I'd love to do this for real. I'm not that businessman."
Now, it's very real. Between eight shows a week and fulfilling writing commitments, there isn't much time for anything else.
"I don't know when I have time to sleep and when I do I don't remember, but I wouldn't have it any other way. This is the life I was hoping that it would be when I was a kid."
Alex Brightman's love of doing theater as a kid growing up near San Jose, California had a very real effect on his day to day life.
The actor who seemingly never stops singing or speaking in School of Rock, was a stutterer.
"I went and did theater and it melted away, being on stage and speaking and being off stage and speaking are two very different things. I imagine different sets of your brain light up and that's how I sort of moved it into my real life and got rid of a stutter on its own."
Brightman is often seen interacting with fans outside the theater long after the show has ended.
It’s a ritual that resonates with the actor because of an early trip to New York in the mid-1990s, and a chance encounter at the stage door with the star of "Tommy" Michael Cerverus.
"And then he leaned down and said 'How you doin'', and he asked me what's my name, and I said my first trip to Broadway, basically, I'd never experienced it. He said thanks so much for coming to my show, means the world to me."
In 2007, Brightman was a disillusioned sophomore at NYU who wanted to drop out of school to pursue acting. So he called his folks.
"I'm going to tell you two things. the first thing is, I'm going to save you $100 thousand. Which I think is a good way to bury the lead.
"And I'm following something my mom always said, which is if you're going to leave somewhere always have somewhere to go. So, I wasn't just leaving 'cause I didn't like it. I left because I didn't like it and because I found something that I think was going to be more fulfilling.
"And on opening night of the show, which was 'The History Boys' in Los Angeles, my parents both said this is best choice you ever made."
There were the usual bumps along the way.
He actually never made it on stage for his Broadway debut in 2008, as an understudy on a show called "Glory Days".
The day after opening night, the cast was called to a meeting.
"Two teenaged girls outside of the theater who had heard on Playbill, we weren't told. Had knocked on the glass with their phones, with the Playbill articles that said "Glory Days", closed. so my first ever closing notice I got from two tweens. I feel like you can only go up from there."
For two years, Brightman had steady work as the Munchkin Boq in "Wicked", as secure a paycheck as there is in theater.
But in each performance, Brightman was on stage for all of 12 minutes.
"It just started to wear on me, you know just sort of like as an improv soul like to do other stuff. I started kind of like raging against the machine a bit as it were, and you know trying new things, and some shows like that and rightly so, they don't need things to change."
Brightman now has the comfort and freedom to do plenty of new things with his character in "School of Rock", a comfort and freedom he displayed in one meeting with the show's composer.
"I called Andrew Lloyd Webber homie, but it wasn't a plant, I'm going to call him homie, I'm going to call him dude. It wasn't, wasn't trying to push his buttons."
"And he said Alex. He wanted to ask me about something. About one of the numbers, and I was like, 'What's up homie?' I was in the middle of the conversation and it came out."
"And he goes 'I believe that was the first time anyone has called me homie.'"
Brightman is exuberant when talking about School of Rock, his family, his writing.
But now that he's part of something special on Broadway, there's one subject he's not quite so eager to discuss understandably.
"You look down a road and you see fog, there are two types of people, one person goes I'm afraid to see what's on the other side of that. the other person goes i can't wait to see what's on the other side of that. I'm the second person. I'm ok that it's mystery for now. cause at some point I'm going to get there. i don't need the spoilers. I'm enjoying this. so when someone says what's next, I'm like just pump the brakes, let me enjoy this. "
Brightman has been able to spread the joy of starring in 'School of Rock'.
His mother is a huge KISS fan, so when Paul Stanley of KISS attended a performance, Brightman called her up and told her to come on down to meet one of her musical heroes.
And as another pretty fair band once sang, "you know that can't be bad."