From swinging in Newsies to portraying a graceful klutz in She Loves Me, Michael Fatica is happy to finally arrive in Punxsutawney. Eight times a week he dances up a storm on a moving turntable while wearing a fat suit. If that’s not challenging enough, he has to do it over and over again in the span of one show. We spoke to Michael about his journey to Broadway and why he is thrilled to be a part of Groundhog Day with Andy Karl.
Joy: How old were you when you started dancing, and when did you know you wanted to do it as a profession?
Michael: Well, actually, I started dancing very late. In middle school I was in show choir, which was not my first choice of elective. My sister was in it, so I didn’t want to do it, but then luckily I ended up falling into it and loved it. From show choir I got involved in a drama club at school which led to summer theater camps, and then I started really loving the idea of doing musicals. Then I went to high school for performing arts. I wanted to do plays, but they needed more boys for the musicals. So I joined and started dancing at the school shows, but not really serious dancing until 16.
It’s easier for boys honestly. I played sports when I was younger and it’s the same muscle groups. So your muscles form while doing sports in the same way as if a boy was taking dance lessons. The technique obviously has to come later, but my college was really great for dance so I learned so, so much there.
Newsies was your first Broadway show. How did you get involved with that?
Newsies was a bit of a journey for me. I auditioned for the Paper Mill production like eight times. I was there until the final call back and I didn’t get it and was completely devastated. I was just coming off of a national tour and I thought that was the show for me and I was so beaten down when I didn’t get it. When it was coming to Broadway, I heard that they were recasting a few guys, and at first I was like I am not going to go in, I am too burned. But then I got called in to come back in for it and only auditioned twice for the Broadway show and I got the swing track. So it was just the right time, right place. I didn’t get to do it at Paper Mill, but luckily, I was part of the original Broadway show which was a truly magical experience.
Was it difficult to be a swing?
Oh, my gosh. I think being a swing is the hardest job and also the most important job for a person to do at some point in their lives. It’s easy when you are in a show to take for granted the fact that doing it every day makes so many things second nature that as a swing you are constantly battling. With Newsies, honestly it was the physical muscle memory of those tricks because I had to learn a lot of that stuff. Some of the tumbling tricks I didn’t know how to do before. A lot of the dance tricks I had never done. The acting and the singing is not quite as hard for me, but that show, the dancing was very tough so it took a lot of practice.
What was the hardest track you had to cover?
It was either the Sniper or the Specs track. Only because everything they did was to my bad side. They did a lot of turning to the right, which is not my jam and also a lot of jumping on the left split, which is not what I want to do. I want to do everything to the right, and I want to turn to the left. So that’s the only reason they were hardest for me. The hardest track was probably Romeo – but you know what? There were three of us who were swings, and we all had our own demons with different tracks. My favorite tracks to do were Albert, Race and Henry.
In She Loves Me you got to partake in a hilarious scene with Peter Bartlett. Is it challenging to combine dancing with comedy?
Well, comedy is like my wheelhouse. That’s what I would like to do all the time. So no, it was a pleasure to do both. We had a blast in She Loves Me. It was a fun little character. Scott Ellis (director) and Warren Carlyle (choreographer) sort of let us do whatever we wanted to create those people, because Peter obviously comes in with a very specific human every time. That’s sort of his brilliance. It was so fun to be able to combine a real scene with a dance number. It’s kind of rare that we ever get to do that.
I feel like it was the kind of