By Bill Hirschman
When Danny Burgos steps on the Broward Center stage on June 15 in the national tour of Beauty and the Beast, the moment will resonate for him as few have before.
It was on those same floorboards that Burgos saw his first professional production ever, a tour of The Phantom of the Opera that his stepmother took him to when he was in seventh grade.
“It’s so surreal to be on that stage where I saw (the musical number) “Masquerade” and thinking, ‘This is what I want to do with my life,’ ” he said in a phone interview before a matinee in Nashville.
“A bunch of my friends who I used to do drama club with, who decided to go other ways with their careers, they are so excited. They are going, ‘My God, you’re doing it.’ ”
The anticipation was obvious in his voice as he acknowledged the uncertain journey getting to this point.
It started with little promise in the Hialeah-Miami Lakes area. He auditioned for the drama club early in middle school. Although he had a good singing voice, he was scared and indecisive. “The teacher’s response was ‘You’re not really drama material,’ ” Burgos recalled.
But he reauditioned in 9th grade and made the cut. At Barbara Goleman Senior High, he joined a tiny drama club of 20 students. But the key development was meeting teacher Andy Quiroga, who is also an acclaimed professional actor. His encouragement was crucial, Burgos said. “He was very complimentary. He’s literally the reason I’m doing this.”
With that help, he began performing in shows during his senior year. But fear conquered his ambition and he decided to study nursing for two years at Florida State University. Being away from the stage made him realize something was missing from his life. He had nearly decided to return to theater when he ran into Quiroga who asked, “So when are you going to make the change to musical theater?” That cemented his decision.
He graduated from Florida State University in a year ago with a bachelor of music in musical theater. Immediately, he began performing three leads in shows in summer stock at the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts in Warsaw, Indiana.
Then he was contracted with this Beast tour to play Monsier D’Arque, the asylum owner, and an ensemble member. The 30-member cast started rehearsing in late August and has been on the road now nine months with the last date July 19.
But the Fort Lauderdale gig will be special. Many family members will be in the audience. “My niece was just born and I have a three-year old nephew and they’ll get to know Uncle Danny the actor. My home town gets to know me.”
Burgos is not the only cast member with Florida links. Ryan N. Phillips who plays Lumiere the living candlestick, attended the University of Miami from 2008 and graduated in 2012. He started with an eye on a bachelor of fine arts in musical theater and then focused on the acting conservatory program. He is looking forward to having his performance seen locally by an uncle living in Fort Lauderdale.
For Burgos, this is homecoming and a validation. “It doesn’t matter where you come from. I’m doing what I never thought I would follow through with. I am perpetuating some kind of reality that was a dream.”
Beauty and the Beast plays through June 15-19 from Broadway Across America at the Broward Center For The Performing Arts, 201 SW 5th Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; 11:30, and 3:30 p.m. Saturday; p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $30-$105. Call (954) 462-0222 for tickets, at www.browardcenter.org