Mike Boland As Doc in West Side Story.
Mike Boland (pictured with Zach Trimmer) plays Doc and Officer Krupke in West Side Story
I grew up in Fairfield, CT, as one of six kids to an Irish Catholic family. Every house in my neighborhood had at least as many kids as we did. So it was a great place to be young. I remember we used to climb trees and have forts and where the neighbors’ garages were close to each other, we would jump from rooftop to rooftop. We’d get into trouble and have rock fights and then all be friends again. It was a lot different growing up then. We’d leave the house in the morning and our parents would expect us back for dinner. I remember hitchhiking to school when I was in first grade. It was a different time. Just writing that makes me feel old.
I was always a class clown and that’s where a lot of actors start. I think I was shy and that’s how I compensated. And I always had a loud voice, which makes theater such a comfort zone for me. I’ve played lots of huge theaters when on tour. And I don’t have any trouble reaching the back row. I had a decent part in the sixth grade production of Julius Caesar in grammar school. I had been working with the speech therapist all year because like a lot of kids, I had sort of a lisp. And my S’s were pretty messy. And when I got the role in Julius Caesar, I had a speech to close out Act 1, and there were S’s all over the place. I nailed it. It was a proud day. But I didn’t really have any interest in the discipline of acting. I preferred to just make my friends laugh and do daring, stupid, usually dangerous things to get a rise out of people.
When I was 30 I decided to give acting a try and I auditioned for a community theater play and got a good part. I immediately knew I’d found my home. And two years later, I made my professional debut at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven. In that show, “She Stoops to Conquer,” I was impressed by the comedic genius of an actor named Christopher Evan Welch. He was fearless and tireless and was always in total command of the audience. He was my first stage hero. The director of “She Stoops” was Doug Hughes, who would win a Tony Award years later as the director of “Doubt” on Broadway. I worked for Doug three more times at Long Wharf, and in 2012, I made my Broadway debut in “An Enemy of the People” and Doug Hughes was my director. He has always been a sort of theater angel for me. Another “mentor” for me has been Richard Thomas, who played the lead in the Broadway National Tour of “Twelve Angry Men.” Richard played Juror 8 and I played Juror 1. Compared to a lot of the cast, my resume was pretty thin. But Richard always treated me as an equal, and when I had a stagecraft question, he would quietly give me wonderful advice. Julian Gamble, who played Juror 3, was another member of that cast who left an indelible impression on me. Those two were so specific in their stage business. I watched them very closely. And stole everything I could from them. I performed with Richard Thomas again in “Enemy of the People” on Broadway. The theater world seems to get smaller the longer you do it. My first acting teacher, George DiCenzo, basically summed everything up for me in about five minutes. He was a wise man who made things simple. Genius is a word thrown around lightly. I don’t think George was a genius. But he had a genius for bringing the best actor out of each of us in his class.
Like most people of my generation, I had always been “aware” of West Side Story. But I never saw it on stage, and I never even saw the movie, until the night before I was to audition for the Broadway National Tour in 2010. I watched maybe the first hour of the film to get a feel for it. And the next day I auditioned and was offered the part of Officer Krupke on the spot. I don’t think I really understood the brilliance of the show until we were finished with rehearsal and we began performing for a live audience 8 times a week. After the show, audience members would be waiting at the stage door, weeping. And that music took your breath away while you waited in the wings. We performed that show almost 700 times over two years. We played in virtually every major city in the United States. We also played in Canada and we opened the brand new Theater Orb in downtown Tokyo on our final trip of the tour. The second year of the tour, I played Lt. Schrank. Most of that cast has since performed on Broadway. And two of our cast members are stars of their own TV shows. Kyle Harris, who was our first year Tony, is now the lead in the new TV show “Stitchers.” And Grant Gustin, our first year Baby John, is now a major star, playing the superhero lead on TV’s “The Flash.” When we were in Tokyo in the summer of 2012, as we were all getting ready to say our goodbyes to West Side Story, I got word that I had been cast in my first Broadway show. That’s a memory I will never forget. The entire cast knew I was up for the part, and we all celebrated when I got the news. You really get close to people when your tour with them for two years.
The most interesting thing I think I’ve ever done onstage is “The Orphans’ Home Cycle,” which was a three-part, nine hour show. Actually, it was sort of a theater mini-series. It was both very experimental in the packaging and in the staging. But also very traditional in the storytelling. The piece was written by the great Horton Foote, and we performed it just months after he died in 2009, first at Hartford Stage, and then transferred to Off-Broadway in November 2009 to May 2010. We won the Drama Desk, NY Critics’ Circle, Outer Critics’ Circle and Lortel Awards. And we made a memory that I will always carry with me. Truly life-changing theater. One of my bucket list roles had always been Mitch in “Streetcar Named Desire.” But I think I’m too old for it now. So I will have to find a new one. Arthur Miller wrote a lot of great characters for actors of my type. And one of my favorite plays – “August Osage County” (the play, not the movie) has lots of good roles for me. I just have to convince someone else of that. The second time I did “Twelve Angry Men,” in 2013 at the Engeman Theater, I got to play the amazing role of Juror 3. That was like a dream and I would do that again in a heartbeat.
When I’m not on stage, I’m a bit of a sports nut. Love the Yankees and UConn basketball. I also am a writer. I’ve also been developing an original web series, writing screenplays and considering taking a crack at a novel.
My IPod has a lots of classic rock from my era, like Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, The Eagles, Van Morrison, stuff like that. But I have more Tom Waits than anything else on there. It’s the kind of music that connects you with your spirit, I think. It makes me want to create something when I hear his music. I hear Tom Waits is also a big West Side Story fan, and when we were out on tour in San Jose, CA, near where he lives, I tried to get an invite to him to see our show. But I didn’t have any luck. My newest addition to my Ipod is Elle King, who pretty much kicks ass.