Stage star Aaron Kaburick won’t tell you this himself, but he’s kind of a big deal. The Illinois native is currently making his fourth appearance on Broadway as a Featured Performer in the 10- time Tony nominated Broadway smash Something Rotten! In addition to quick change costumes that range from Francis Bacon to a dress wearing villager to the Queen of England, he understudies not one, not two,but three of the show’s major roles. If that weren’t enough, Kaburick, along with the entire cast, turns out an indefatigable performance eight times a week. For someone whose theatrical appearances started from humble (and pungent) beginnings, his journey to the Great White Way has been both hilarious and hard earned.
Recently, Kaburick shared a bite with me at Angus restaurant beside the St. James Theatre (his current workplace). As a sixth grader in his small, cornfield town, he was something of a real life Billy Elliot. Coincidentally, he would go on to make his Broadway debut in Elton John’s musical of the same name. He began taking one hour lessons at a local dance studio. The classes were one hour, divided into three styles: 20 minutes of tap, 20 minutes of jazz, and 20 minutes ballet. “After the first year, I went to my teacher and told her that I wanted to exclusively study tap,” he said. “She was so desperate to have a guy interested in her class, that she placed me in an adult tap class.” He went on to study with her for a couple of years.
In junior high, he learned that his high school would be doing a production of The Wizard of Oz. Casting was reserved for high school students, but after encouragement from his mother, an ambitious Kaburick made his bold move. He didn’t know the musical director but he picked up the phone and planted the seed in her ear. “I know you’re doing The Wizard of Oz this year, and you’ll need short people to play munchkins,” he told her. “I would like to be a munchkin. Just consider it.” In a few short days, he received his first offer from the show’s director. “Come be a munchkin!” she said.
The following year, Good News was slated as the school musical. A then eighth grade Kaburick contacted the director once again, hoping that she’d make another allowance for this would be star. This time, his request was met with resistance. Since the show was focused on college students, there were no roles available for younger people. However, Good News has a sub-plot in which the college represented in the show is auditioning various animals to serve as their mascot. Since his Illinois school was located in an agricultural town, real livestock was used and the crafty Kaburick found a loophole. Obviously, there was concern that the animals might relieve themselves onstage, so the musical director allowed him a position on the stage crew, where he was crowned as a pooper scooper. His job was to follow the animals and clean any “accidents”. “I received one of the best reviews because I basically mugged every episode and turned it into a bit! ” he laughed.
Kaburick pursued a major in Economics at Boston University, but kept his tapping feet in theatrical waters. It was here where he became more serious about his dancing craft. He was also part of a theater group at the University, which boasts an impressive roster of alumni currently working the boards. After college, he moseyed back the Midwest, accepting a job as an associate producer for the MUNY, the nation’s largest outdoor theater. “For a few years, I sat back and watched people doing exactly what I hoped to be doing,” he said. “Finally, I auditioned for the national tour of The Full Monty—and I got it! That was followed by a national tour of Annie.” After his stint on the road with the red headed orphan, Kaburick resumed his “hard knock life” at the MUNY.
Shortly thereafter, he caught wind from a colleague about Billy Elliot. She had returned from London and told him that if the show came to the United States, he should audition. “The minute I heard it was coming, I was all over my agent,” he recalled. “It was a long process. We started in February 2008 and I didn’t get the offer until June. But, it was my first Broadway break!” He remained with the Broadway ensemble for two years, playing a butch miner in a cash strapped English town. A national tour of the show followed but after 9 months, it folded. Kaburick then went back to the Broadway company and closed the show in 2011.
Five weeks after his jolt of Broadway “electricity”, Kaburick received a calling from the Almighty—actually, it was just his agent–, inviting him to audition for Sister Act. His second Broadway job began and he stayed with it for six months, until the show went to musical history heaven.
Next came Motown. During that time, Something Rotten! began stirring in the wings. “I had known Casey Nicolaw, the director, when he was an actor at the MUNY, and also in social circles.”, Kaburick said. Nicolaw asked him to be a part of his Renaissance romp, and he obliged, participating in various readings and labs of it. “From the moment we did the first reading, there was a palpable sense that the show was really good,” Kaburick reminisced. “I kept hoping that he would keep me through each incarnation and thankfully, he has!” The creative team mounted a lab last fall, and everyone felt as though it was “Broadway ready.”
On April 22nd , 2015, Something Rotten! landed on Broadway to rave reviews (except from a grumpy chief theater critic of an influential newspaper who was obviously not in the mood for delirious fun). Kaburick beams when he speaks about his current gig. “All of the shows I’ve done in the past have had tracks created before I went into them. This is the first Broadway show I’ve been in where I’ve been able to create and originate a role. It was so important to be valued in that way.” He credits Director and choreographer Nicolaw for the success of the show and for creating a true camaraderie among the cast. “Casey has really been the most rewarding part of this process. He loves to have everybody play in the room and allows them to bring everything they can think of to the table. Whether it’s comedy or movement, he just likes to see what innately shines in each person. We’ve all been in this (process) together, so it helps us get through the high energy numbers, especially the Act 1 finale,” said Kaburick. As an aside, I can tell readers that this is the most energetic show I have ever seen on a Broadway stage. Kaburick acknowledges how much stamina is required, but wisely takes the proper precautions. “I make sure that I get enough rest, eat at the same time every day, take a power nap, and warm up before each show.”
Throughout his Broadway career, Kaburick has been fortunate to brush elbows with some notable personalities. “When I was in Billy Elliot, Jill and Joe Biden came backstage. On another occasion, Debbie Reynolds paid him a visit. “I asked her to recreate one of my favorite lines from Singin’ In the Rain, and she obliged. He admits to accosting cabaret performer Bridgett Everett after she visited the cast of Something Rotten! “I am a huge fan! She kept turning the attention back to me, but I couldn’t help express my admiration for her.”
Although he has not met her, Kaburick holds Carol Burnett in the highest esteem. “She was such a major influence, since I grew up watching her show. I always wanted to do what they did on that show and although I hate to draw a comparison, I think in many ways, that is what we’re doing in Something Rotten! The fun they had transcended joy to the audience, and that’s the goal of our show, too.”
A heavily scheduled Kaburick has little free time, so he’s not seen too many other shows currently playing, but he does recommend Then She Fell, a immersive spin on Alice in Wonderland, and the new comedy Hand to God. Apart from entertainment, the ebullient gypsy enjoys cooking and sheepishly, he admits to a passion for quilting. Given his string of successes and the current smash hit in which he’s featured, it’s probably a safe bet that he won’t have much downtime for his needle and thread.
Something Rotten! is now playing at the St. James Theatre (W. 44th between Broadway and 8th Ave.) For tickets, visit the box office or online: http://rottenbroadway.com/