I expected Matt Cavenaugh to be an eccentric, loud, animated person who exuded “Broadway.” Instead I learned he is humble, eager to share his passions, and easy to talk with. I wanted to know more about this man who is portraying the legendary role of Tony in the Broadway revival of the hit 1957 musical “West Side Story.”
BHL: Playing the prestigious role of Tony in “West Side Story” is a huge accomplishment for any actor. What has this role meant for you?
MATT: It has been an enormous accomplishment. The role of Tony and the show “West Side Story” are what inspired me to get involved in theatre in the first place. My mom dragged me to a production of “West Side Story” at my high school the year before I attended there. I wasn’t really interested in going, but she talked me into it. As it happens, I was blown away by the power of the story, by the music. I remember thinking, “I want to be up there. I want to be doing that.” It really was an “A-hah!” moment in my life. So, it is a great full-circle experience to now be playing the role on Broadway.
It’s a bit of an understatement to say that this has been a very full and busy time in my life. After our last production, I will have spent more than a year playing this character.
It has definitely been the most challenging experience I have had professionally. It is a lot to take on vocally, physically, and especially emotionally. It has certainly been a real honor to play Tony. Both the role and the show are so beloved by a very passionate audience.
BHL: Now that you have the coveted role of Tony under your belt, what are some of your personal goals?
MATT: You know, it’s funny. As I was graduating college, one of our professors had us write down where we see ourselves in five years. I didn’t write that I wanted to be famous. I simply wrote that I wanted to be established in the theatre, television, and film. Now, I’m not as established in television and film as I would like, but I am proud of the work I have done in the theatre and the mark I am starting to make. I have been very blessed. As I grow older, my goals evolve. I have a longing to not only be an actor but also to be a director. I want to create.
Personally, I want to be a good husband. I want to be a good father if I am so lucky to have that opportunity. I want to be someone in this town that people look to and respect – someone the community seeks to help solve problems and lead.
BHL: Aside from having a remarkable voice and impeccable acting skills, what are some of the things you attribute to making you who you are today?
MATT: The easy answer is my family. Yes, my mother and my father, but also the position and role I played in my family. I inherited my father’s drive and resiliency coupled with my mother’s warmth and interpersonal skills. I am also the second oldest of seven children, so I was given a lot of responsibility early on in life.
I also cannot give enough credit to my education. I had a wealth of inspirational teachers from elementary school, to college, and beyond. One in particular is Keith Salter, my high school theatre teacher. How cliché is that? Keith was a great mentor. He challenged me. He believed in me.
He guided me. He also had a real practical approach to the theatre. The theatre was a place to work, not to theorize. Keith was very instrumental during such an impressionable time in my life, and he pointed me in a great direction. He empowered me to travel that road with confidence in my own abilities. I would not have had half of the successes in my life were it not for him.
BHL: Are there any quotes that describe or define who you are?
MATT: At different times in my life I have had different mantras. One year it was “Less talk, more action!” That worked for a time. Maybe it should be, “I’m a deadline kinda guy.” Without one, I’m really pretty worthless.