San Diego

For San Diego Transplant Michael Cusimano, a Leading Role Six Years in the Making

Right out of college, Michael Cusimano auditioned for the lead in "Once" on Broadway. He didn't get it at the time. But six years later, his journey came full circle in more ways than one.

Right out of college, San Diego transplant and Actor Michael Cusimano got the callback that could have been his big break: the leading role in "Once" the musical on Broadway. 

"I'm 22, almost 23 years old at the time, and I go into this audition in Los Angeles with my guitar on my back and sing one song and do one scene and the casting director says, that was amazing, please come back tomorrow," Cusimano explained in an interview with NBC 7. 

What followed was a series of auditions and callbacks, all leading to an audition in New York City, where Cusimano met the cast and crew of the musical.

"I had the biggest audition of my life, and I was absolutely terrified," Cusimano said. "But that's as far as it went. I didn't get it."

Though that was the end of the road for Cusimano's possible Broadway dream, it wasn't the end of his road to landing his dream role in "Once." Flash forward a few years, and the San Diego-based actor was up for the same exact role, but this time for the leading role in the touring production. 

He went through the same process again: more auditions, and more callbacks. This time, it came down to him and another actor, who happened to be his friend. 

"And I thought, this is it, I'm going to do it this time," Cusimano explained.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be: his friend was cast in the leading role. 

"I was kind of devastated," Cusimano said. 

But the stars aligned in a different way that month. That month, Cusimano got a call from Sean Murray at Cignet Theatre in San Diego, asking him to come to San Diego to act in Rocky Horror Picture Show and understudy the lead role in the production. 

In San Diego, Cusimano found something he did not expect: a wonderful theatre community that embraced him with open arms. 

"That was two and a half years ago, and I never left San Diego after that," Cusimano said.

Many years passed, but Cusimano never forgot about his dream role in "Once." While he was doing other shows in San Diego, one director asked Cusimano to keep his calendar open for a special show she thought he would like. 

It turned out to be "Once" the musical, and Cusimano was cast as the lead. 

This summer, six years after his first audition for the Broadway production, Cusimano is finally getting a chance to play Guy in "Once," this time at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. The musical runs through July 22. 

"So six years in the making, my dream role that I've been chasing for all these years - finally all the pieces came together at this theater. . .and it's with people I love," Cusimano said. "It's kind of like it was meant to happen at this time."

This time around, Cusimano comes to the role of Guy with a staggering similarity.

In the musical "Once," we are introduced to Guy, a musician who is ready to give up on his music. But with the help of Girl, he starts to record his music and share it with the world. 

It's something Cusimano relates to personally. For the first few months of 2018, Cusimano took a few months off to write, record and release his first EP, "San Diego." 

"The process of overcoming the fear and anxiety of putting your music out into the world is something I relate to so personally because every time I play one of my songs or one of my recordings for someone, my whole body is tense," Cusimano said.

"That's been a point of entry for me, that trepidation and fear and anxiety of putting your music out there, but getting over that hurdle and doing it anyway," Cusimano added. "That's where I am in my life, and that's where the character is in the show, pretty much."

Even things Cusimano once thought were differences between him and Guy turned out to be more like similarities. 

"At the beginning of the show, he's ready to give up on his music," Cusimano explained. "And I'm just trying to begin my musical career and get into it."

But as he's talking, he changes his mind. "I guess, actually, it's not even a difference, it's a similarity because I have so many times said to myself, can I keep doing this acting career? Is it worth it?"

But he persisted, and after more than a handful of shows in San Diego, he's finally landed his dream role.

Cusimano said his EP -- and his role in "Once" at Lamb's -- is a serendipitous and unexpected outcome that happened to fall into his lap after all these years.

"I truly thought two and a half years ago that I would come here from New York, do a three-month contract with Rocky Horror Show, then fly back to New York and never see San Diego again," Cusimano said.

What ended up happening changed his life for the better.

"Instead, I've been here for two and a half years, I've done ten additional shows, I love it so much more than I love my life in New York, I fell in love, I'm in an amazing relationship, and so I have these songs that are about love, that are about the city, about the surprising life that you don't see coming," Cusimano said.

For anyone interested in hearing Cusimano's music: you can buy a copy of his EP at Lamb's Players Theatre after the show. And you can hear him sing in "Once," running through July 22 at the Coronado theater. For tickets, click here

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