Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department alumnus Michael Kurowski ’16, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s BFA Program in Musical Theatre Performance, has joined the national touring company of the Broadway hit Once. The tour opens September 24 in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Kurowski will be understudying several roles in the show, which requires its actor-singers to also play instruments. As understudy for the roles of Andrej, Svec, and Eamon, Kurowski will be playing guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, electric bass, cajon, melodica, piano, and drums.
The call to join the touring company of Once came after a whirlwind round of auditions over a period of a week and a half. As Kurowski recalls it:
“I was in rehearsals for Pump Boys and Dinettes at Theater at the Center [in Munster, Indiana] when I saw an Internet call on backstage.com for ‘Once Non-Eq tour in NYC.’ I told my agent (Paonessa Talent) that I really wanted to be sent in for it. They said ‘Great! Send yourself in on backstage.com and we will send you in ourselves. With two submissions, you’ll definitely get seen.’ Two days later . . . I got an email from casting asking me to email in an audition tape with (and I’m not kidding) 5 sides/scenes and 5 full songs (self-accompanied while singing) by the following Monday. I had 8-hour rehearsals [for Pump Boys] in Indiana with two part-time jobs. . . . So I sent in about a fourth of what they asked for and told them that was all I could get them. Two days later (Wednesday) they told me I had a callback in NYC on Friday at 10 AM, so I immediately booked a flight ($$$) and took off Thursday evening.
“So, long story short, I get there, they asked me to sing the hardest song to sing at 10 AM . . . and they worked my voice to make sure I had the notes. I had a bit of a multi-instrumental jam session with the music director, [and] I did a very specific, yet intimate (five actors in a tiny tiny room), movement call with Katie Spelman, who did movement work for The Hypocrites’ take on American Idiot [a 2015 Chicago production that Kurowski was in] and flew home the same day.
“Two days later I got a call from casting asking me to join the cast and fly out tomorrow. I packed my suitcase with clothes for 7 months, said goodbye to my loved ones, and now I’m in a room everyday with the most fascinating people doing the most intimate and heartfelt show I have ever seen. It was a wild week and a half.”
Both before and since he graduated from Columbia College, Kurowski has been active in professional theatre in Chicago, appearing in such productions as Jackalope Theatre’s Four and Steep Theatre’s U.S. premiere of the British drama Posh as well as The Hypocrites’ American Idiot. His screen credits include roles in the movie Gran Torino (in which he played the grandson of Clint Eastwood’s character) and the TV series Chicago Fire.
Following its debut in North Dakota, the tour continues through April of 2017, zig-zagging back and forth across the U.S. with one- and two-night engagements in locales as diverse as Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Pittsburg, Kansas; St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri; the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas; Lincoln, Nebraska; Springfield, Illinois; Portsmouth and Athens, Ohio; and Flint, Michigan. For a complete tour itinerary, click here.
Once, based on the 2007 film about struggling musicians in Dublin, Ireland, ran on Broadway from 2012 to 2015, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical. The show has a book by Enda Walsh and a score by songwriters Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, whose songs “soar with rough-edged, sweet-and-sad ambivalence that is seldom visited in contemporary American musicals,” in the words of New York Times theatre critic Ben Brantley.
‘I got a call from casting asking me to join the cast and fly out tomorrow. I packed my suitcase with clothes for 7 months, said goodbye to my loved ones, and now I’m in a room everyday with the most fascinating people doing the most intimate and heartfelt show I have ever seen. It was a wild week and a half.’