The new Broadway production of Spring Awakening takes the idea of communication to a whole new level. This show features deaf actors who sign ASL (American Sign Language), their speaking/singing counterparts, and some who do both. I had a chance to chat with Alex Boniello, who is making his Broadway debut. Alex is the voice of Moritz and plays guitar with the band, he is soulful and powerful, and has fantastic hair. I really enjoyed seeing him in Spring Awakening and then meeting him at the stage door. Read on to find out why he loves Twitter, and how he is learning ASL.
What was your first exposure to Broadway and musical theater, and how did it influence you?
My first exposure to musical theater was actually just seeing the shows that my local High School was putting on. I just went because my parents took me, to be honest. I never actually cared much. I was too busy playing guitar and playing video games.
What’s the first Broadway show you saw? How old were you?
I saw Phantom of the Opera when I was 14. But the first show that changed my life was Spring Awakening! It completely lit a fire in me, and woke something up in me. I knew I had to be an actor the second I saw John Gallagher Jr. pull the microphone out of his pocket in “Bitch of Living.”
Do you find it more difficult getting completely into character when you are the voice, but not the entire physical embodiment of the character? Did you do any special bonding exercises with Daniel because the two of you were playing one complete character?
It’s definitely unique. I try not to “get into character” traditionally. It’s not helpful for me. The goal is for me to become Daniel’s voice. I want to become the voice inside of his head. I can’t do that until I’ve watched him perform the beginning of the show without me. The only bonding exercise we have is just chatting before the show. Also, during the pre show, I button the wrist buttons on his shirt. It just connects us, and usually gives us a laugh, because he’s very bad at buttoning them.
You are the only one who holds a hand microphone like did in the original Spring Awakening. How does that make you feel by being the character that gets to portray that?
It’s a bit of a throwback, for sure. But it also serves a purpose in our production. I am the rockstar Moritz wishes he was. It’s only fitting that I use a microphone.
Moritz wasn’t a good student in school. Were you like that in school?
No, I was actually a pretty great student.
How much does the audience energy factor into your performance?
I try to give the same show every night, but I’d be lying if I said a particularly exuberant audience didn’t help!
Have you seen any of the current shows on Broadway? If so, what’s your favorite right now?
I’ve seen Hamilton twice. Don’t get me STARTED.
Have you ever had a “Patti moment” where you wanted to take an audience member’s phone?
Yes, but I’m not Patti. Also, people have germs. I ain’t touching their phones.
Did you know ASL before? Are you picking up on it?
I knew NOTHING! I think I’m doing a pretty good job now. I’m still not great, because I don’t do any ASL in the show, but sharing a dressing room with Daniel, Miles, and Josh definitely helps.
What do you find challenging about being in Spring Awakening?
Everything! I’m matching my voice to a deaf actor who can’t match me, I’m playing the guitar, and I’m singing the most vocally abusive songs in the show. It’s a challenge every night, but it’s a challenge that I LOVE. Going to work every day is a joy, and even when I’m exhausted, my love for it gets me through.
What do you love most about the show?
Working with Daniel.
Do you have a favorite number in the show?
“Don’t Do Sadness.”
Not always. But once I got bit by the bug, it has been my goal!
What is your favorite line that you get to say/sing?
I get to talk a lot about penises and vaginas, which is hilarious. I have the sense of humor of a child. Sue me. My favorite line to sing is definitely “On your way, you are not alone.”
What are your future career goals?
I would love to do more Broadway. It really is as special as everyone makes it seem. I’d also love to spend more time on TV and film sets. I’ve gotten to do both, and always have a great time.
Most played songs on your iPhone/mp3 player?
Currently, “Wait For It.”
What is your favorite social media platform? How do you think social media has changed your fan base, and what’s your approach to dealing with it?
Ugh, Hamilton. I KNOW. LEAVE ME ALONE.
Best Day Off Activity
Video games. Or hanging with my girlfriend and our cats!
Favorite Guilty Pleasure Food
The wings at Glass House.
Hidden Quirky Talent
I’m a great puppeteer.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
All-time favorite show
This is impossible to answer! I can’t do it.
Favorite thing about NYC
Christmas time in New York is unlike ANYTHING else. I can’t wait for our cast who is new to New York to see it.
Favorite Dance Move
The Nae Nae. Obviously.