Star of the Week: Michael Arden shines as an actor and director

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by Brooke Robinson

It’s safe to say that 2015 was a big year for Michael Arden. After finishing performances of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Papermill Playhouse as the eponymous bell-ringer, he shifted his focus to directing the revival of a little musical called Spring Awakening. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

Both shows received glowing reviews and garnered huge numbers of loyal and passionate fans. The Hunchback cast recording cracked the top 50 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums after its release, and many fans are still demanding a Broadway transfer nearly a year after it was announced that the show wouldn’t make the move. Deaf West Theater’s production of Spring Awakening was a groundbreaking revival that featured the first wheelchair-bound Broadway performer (Ali Stroker) along with deaf cast members who performed the entire show in American Sign Language. He obviously has a knack for working in culturally relevant shows that resonate deeply with theatergoers.

After growing up in Texas, Arden was accepted into the Julliard School on a full scholarship but eventually left to perform the role of Tom Sawyer in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of Big River in 2003. The following year he starred as Peter Simmonds in the Off-Broadway premiere of Bare: A Pop Opera. This was a show that dealt with a major facing today’s society: the acceptance (or lack thereof) of homosexuality, especially in the church.

Arden went on to be in two World Aids Day Concerts: the first was Pippin, in which he played the title role alongside an all-star cast featuring Laura Benanti, Julia Murney, Terrence Mann, Charles Busch, Rosie O’Donnell, Billy Porter, Kate Shindle and others. In the next benefit concert he was Dickon in The Secret Garden, again alongside Laura Benanti but with the addition of Will Chase, Steven Pasquale, Celia Keenan-Bolger, and Max von Essen. In both benefits, Arden brought a youthful energy and gorgeous, powerful vocals to his characters. He made it clear in these concerts that he was right at home performing onstage with some of Broadway’s biggest stars and he could easily hold his own.

Following performances as Coyote in the short-lived Bob Dylan-based musical The Times They Are a-Changin’ and as World War I fighter pilot John Robert Anderson in the regional premiere of the musical Ace, Arden left the stage as an actor for several years. He served as the assistant director for the Broadway production of A Tale of Two Cities under the direction of Warren Carlyle in 2008. Because of the fall of the stock market at the time, the musical closed after three and a half months and Arden turned his gaze to Hollywood, where he has built up quite an impressive resume in just a few years.

After appearances in movies like Bride Wars and Source Code and appearances in TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Bones, Nurse Jackie, and The Good Wife, he landed a role in the main cast of Charlie Sheen’s show Anger Management as Patrick, a patient of Sheen’s. He appeared in all 100 episodes of the show’s two-season run but, after its cancellation in 2014, it was time to return to the theatre.

That same year, Arden made his debut as Quasimodo in the La Jolla Playhouse premiere of Hunchback and his directorial debut in the Los Angeles tryout of Spring Awakening. Being involved with both of these critically acclaimed shows would keep him busy on both coasts for the next year.  

Although he has been in the Broadway community since 2003, it seems that Arden has really hit his stride in the past couple years. He’s received accolades for his acting and directing, and he’s proven that he can transition between these roles with ease.

The foreseeable future looks bright for Arden. Near the end of its Broadway run, it was announced that the Deaf West revival of Spring Awakening will go on a national tour in 2017. Two months later, Arden was named as the director for the Bay Street Theater production of My Fair Lady, which will have performances in August of this year.

Anyone would be happy to have accomplishments like these, but to top it all off, Arden has married life to look forward to. In June 2014, he and fiancé Andy Mientus announced that they were engaged. Broadway’s most adorable couple planned to propose to each other on the same day while vacationing without the other knowing. (Yes. They actually are that cute.)

Arden has just begun to show Broadway what he’s truly capable of, both onstage and as a director. Let’s hope this is just the beginning of a long and successful career filled with shows that will touch audience’s hearts while also making them think about real-life issues that have yet to be resolved. If you aren’t familiar with Arden, check out The Hunchback of Notre Dame cast recording and listen to the last 30 seconds of “Out There.” We guarantee that you will fall in love.

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About Brooke R.

"Don't wait for people to tell you who you are. Show them." - Laura Benanti

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