By MAIA DOMBEY
At 6 foot 3 with chin-length hair, a charming smile and blue eyes, singer, actor and dancer Anthony Sagaria is about to make his Broadway debut. After growing up in Dayton, Ohio and playing sports for most of his life, Sagaria got into acting through the theater program at his high school during his freshman year.. He went on to attend Baldwin-Wallace University, a well-known music conservatory for musical theatre in Ohio.
Now, after graduating and moving to New York City 10 days after college graduation and doing a few small projects, Sagaria is preparing for his a role as a swing, an understudy for several different parts, in the upcoming Broadway production of American Psycho. The musical, which opens on April 20th, is somewhat of a cult classic, is based on a movie and book which tell the story of a smooth and handsome businessman whose secret alter ego is a serial killer. Sitting in Schmackary’s, a cookie shop frequented by the Broadway community in the Manhattan’s theatre district of Manhattan, he shared his journey to the show, his life as an actor and what he loves about the theatre.
Tell me a little about American Psycho and your process with the show.
The musical is based on the movie and the book. It’s the story of Patrick Bateman, an investment banker who may or may not be a serial killer. We watch him murder people, but at the same time you’re unsure whether it’s actually happening or it’s just in his mind.
I auditioned in July and got a callback, and then I didn’t hear anything for over a month. In mid-August I got the part, but I couldn’t tell anybody for about 6 months. We started rehearsals February 8th, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Next week is tech, so our rehearsal will go from 11-11 for about 2.5 weeks. Then we start previews with audiences, where if something goes wrong we can stop mid-performance and fix it. So we get feedback on what’s working and what isn’t before the reviewers come in.
What about the cast or the material makes working on this production special for you? What’s special about working in theatre generally?
The first show I ever saw was Next To Normal, with Jennifer Damiano and Alice Ripley, who are both in this production. So I get to work with people who essentially made me want to do this with my life. It’s sort of come full circle, and they and the rest of the cast and crew are people I respect so much and get to learn from every single night. I feel very lucky and very grateful. Art is made to be shown to people, and evoking awe and a wonderful feeling in other people is incredible. I want to evoke that in other people. It’s hard to do but it pays off.
You moved to New York around a year and a half ago. What have you been involved with professionally in that time?
When I first moved here I did a bunch of readings of new musicals and got to see some shows grow from scripts to workshops to productions. When I got here I got recommended for this awesome little show called Measure of Success out in the Pocantico Center in New York and then I did this immersive musical where we were in a loft in Brooklyn performing a musical while people were walking through and around it. Then that winter I booked an episode of Orange is the New Black, which I filmed this past summer, and then right after that I booked American Psycho. I was in final callbacks for a lot of things but nothing really came through until now.
What was it like to study theatre at a conservatory? Why did you choose a conservatory?
The Baldwin-Wallace program is really intense and serious, where you start at 7 a.m. with classes until 5:30 and then rehearsal starting at six to 10 or 11 every night. You learn what you need to do to be successful in the [real] atmosphere where there are so many people trying to do the same thing, so it helped me get a leg up in that sense. The program takes around 15 students each year from about 400 applicants. I worked my butt off for four years, and then we had a “showcase,” which is where the senior class prepares a 30-40 minute show. We then came to New York and performed it for some agency and casting directors, I ended up getting signed by one of my top choices. I got an agent right away and he and the agency have been great at helping me find opportunities, like this one at American Psycho. Going to Baldwin-Wallace led me to making these connections that I wouldn’t have been able to make as easily at a non-conservatory school.
Do you feel as though your experience in acting has been different than what you know about actors of older generations?
It’s different mostly because 10 years ago showcases were only kind of a thing, and video submissions weren’t a thing at all. I was on a cruise and I got called in for a pilot and they just asked me to put myself on tape and audition that way, so I was able to do that from halfway across the world in a half hour and still be considered for an actual show – a few years ago that would have been impossible. Also, as of recently it feels like the number of people coming to New York to pursue acting has increased, and there are more and more people syphoning into this atmosphere than there used to be. It wasn’t necessarily easier for people then, but certainly different.
What do you think makes someone successful?
The turnover rate is really large. The ones who re not really booking much usually end up leaving after a few years, but the ones who do find something great stick around for a long time. The people in New York who are kind and nice humans you’ll see working more and more. It’s not so much about connections and “I know you so you’re going to hire me,” but rather besides a good audition it’s a matter of “I know him and I know he’s a nice person who’s going to work hard and be considerate.” It’s about building up your reputation as a reliable human. These producers are putting in millions of dollars of work based on what I can do for them; keeping yourself positive really helps.
Do you see yourself ever doing something completely different? Maybe acting for a few years and then changing careers?
I don’t. My roommate and I had a deal that if in 10 years we were still where we began, we would find a different course. I got a minor in marketing as a tradeoff with my parents – they let me major in acting if I got a minor in some sort of business – so if I ever chose to do something else it would probably be marketing or business related. With regards to acting, I want to do it all. Broadway was a huge dream of mine, so next step would be to be a lead on a show and be on every night. I would also do television; I want to do everything. Eventually I want to get to a point where I can say “No, I don’t want to do that project, I want to do this project” and have options.
Any dream roles?
I’d love to be in Book of Mormon, Wicked – it’s going down on history as one of the greatest and longest-running shows – and Urinetown, but my dream roles change every day. In all reality, American Psycho was my dream show. Working with Duncan Sheik, Rupert Goold, every single person in that room makes me feel like I’m part of something amazing.