This month, Houstonian Michelle DeJean revisits the Bayou City to play the role of Roxie Hart in “Chicago,” from Oct. 11-23. Having filled the roles of Anita in “West Side Story” and Gloria Upson in “Mame” for national tours, this diva recently completed the lead roll of Roxie Hart on Broadway. A graduate of Houston’s very own High School for the Performing &Visual Arts and a former student of the TUTS Humphreys School of Musical Theatre, DeJean proves that Houston is the perfect place to launch a Broadway career.
H: Where do you live now? MD: I currently live in New York City.
H: Are you married, or do you have any children? (Or pets?) MD: I am single and am the proud owner of a dog and a horse – a beautiful Newfoundland mix and a black Arabian gelding, Crunchy and Moonstruck.
H: How do you think your training in Houston measures up to that of New York? MD: Well, all of my formal training was in Houston. So, the only reason that I am where I am today is because of my training with Spring Academy of Dance, The Houston Ballet Academy, TUTS Humphreys School and HSPVA.
H: What do you think of Houston fans? Do you think Houston maintains a high cultural appreciation and level of support for the arts? MD: I find that the Houston fans are loyal, but also well informed and very theater savvy. The level of the arts programs in Houston is extreme. I am so proud to come from a city that supports the arts as much as Houston does. The Houston Ballet, the Houston Symphony, the Alley Theatre, TUTS, etcetera are all top of the line. What a city!
H: When did you know you wanted to be in musical theater, and why? MD: My mother said that I could sing whole songs before I could say whole sentences. I have always wanted to be in “the business” somehow, and I didn’t really care how. I think that my final decision to move into musical theater exclusively came around the age of 15.
H: Which characters have you enjoyed most playing, and why? MD: Anita in “West Side Story” is, in my opinion, one of the best roles in musical theater for a woman. She is strong, feisty, emotional, and every time she is on stage, it’s in a show-stopping number. Now that’s hard to beat. Roxie Hart is a very different role for me to play. Although she is ultimately a murderess, she remains naive and wears her heart on her sleeve. She is one of the most loveable murderesses you will ever meet.
H: I heard that playing Roxie Hart on Broadway was a lifelong dream. What are some other dreams that you wish to fulfill? MD: Playing Roxie is definitely a dream come true, but I wouldn?t go so far as to say a lifelong dream. My all-time dream roles have included: Anita-“West Side Story,” Nancy-“Oliver,” Eponine-“Les Miserables.” There are others that I dream of playing but don’t have the “vocal chops” for; Eliza Doolittle-“My Fair Lady,” Maria-“West Side Story,” Fantine-“Les Miserables.”
H: Are your professional aspirations limited to musical theater, or will we see you on the big screen (or somewhere else) one day? MD: I would love to venture into TV and film. My dancing days are numbered. Any takers?
H: What’s the secret to your success? MD: Incredible training, being in the right place at the right time, loving what I do, respecting my co-workers, keeping a strong work ethic and staying away from drugs.
H: What would you say to someone who dreams of making it to Broadway? MD: First wrack your brain to see if there is anything at all that you might rather do. If you still end up wanting Broadway, then here is my advice. Get the best training available to you. Don’t limit yourself to one style of training. Take ballet, tap, gymnastics, voice, acting, anything that you can possibly get your hands on. The more you can do, the more marketable you are.
Before you even consider moving to New York, work with someone to prepare an audition song book. Include standards, pop, country, rock, folk, musical theater songs, etcetera – anything. Get yourself some decent headshots that look like you. Prepare yourself for some disappointments along the way, they are bound to happen. After all of these things are done, spread your wings and fly. H