Taking the Stage
By Joan Tupponce
Bud Weber brings rare humility to Broadway.
Bud Weber’s emotions caught him off guard when he stepped onto the stage in 2011 for his Broadway debut in the blockbuster musical Wicked. To his surprise, he felt tears well in his eyes. “I fell in love with the show and the cast album when I was in high school,” says the 29-year-old actor who understudied and also played the role of the handsome Fiyero in both the Broadway production and the national tour.
Some actors who make it to Broadway are fueled by their ego. Not Weber. His rise has been a quiet pursuit. The unassuming Virginian has appeared in some of Broadway’s biggest hits, but still remains as grounded as he was when he took the stage at Atlee High School in Hanover County. “He has no ego to deal with,” says his former dance teacher Pam Turner, director of Richmond Dance Center. “He has the reputation of being good to work with.”
Currently in the chorus of the cheeky Broadway musical Something Rotten, Weber has been busy since he moved to New York in 2009 thanks not only to his talent but also to his determination and strong work ethic.
During his years as a student at Boston Conservatory he labored tirelessly as the production manager of a black box theater, learning all he could about his craft. After graduating with a bachelor of fine arts in musical theater, he sang and toured with the Boston Pops. Then, after moving to New York, he served as the understudy and played Aladdin in Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway and also was the understudy for the lead Elder Price in the touring production of The Book of Mormon.
One of Weber’s I-can’t-believe-it moments came when, as part of the Something Rotten cast, he performed for First Lady Michelle Obama during “Broadway at the White House” last year. “It was so surreal,” he says. “On the train back to New York that night I thought, ‘Did that really happen?’” He had the same feeling when he performed at the Tony Awards and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade last year (he also performed at the Tony Awards in 2014). During rehearsals, he says, “I was trying to act professional but I was also really geeking out. It was both nostalgic and unreal.”
Weber’s father, Mike, realized his son’s passion for performing when the youngster was accepted into the Philadelphia Boys Choir at the age of 7. The family was living in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, at the time, but moved to Mechanicsville for Mike’s job when Weber was 11. “That’s when Bud was hitting his stride with the Philadelphia Boys Choir,” his dad says.
For the next 18 months, Weber, who continued with the choir, would get up at 3 a.m. on Saturdays and his dad would drive him to Philadelphia for practice. They would often return home that afternoon. “Bud was serious about it. He never fought me about getting up at 3 a.m.,” his dad explains. “If he had, we would have stopped there. This is something he wanted to do. This is his thing.”
Weber, the oldest of five siblings, was singing “from the time he could talk,” says his mom, Beth. By the age of six he was putting on plays in his parent’s basement. One of those plays was Aladdin. “It’s funny he ended up being in Aladdin on Broadway,” she says.
Turner met Weber when she choreographed Once Upon a Mattress for the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community (SPARC) where he was taking classes (he took classes from the age of 12 to 18). “I knew he had so much potential,” she says. “He was so talented and he picked up things so quickly.”
Tap dancing didn’t come naturally to him because, as he puts it, his “feet didn’t want to cooperate.” But Turner was determined. “If Pam hadn’t convinced me to take tap, I would not have had any of the jobs I’ve had,” he says, flashing a smile on a visit home during a rare break.
Broadway director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw met Weber when he cast him in the national tour of The Book of Mormon. “I love working with Bud,” says Nicholaw, who directed and choreographed Something Rotten and choreographed Aladdin. “He’s so talented and always brings 110 percent of his energy onstage. It’s infectious and an absolute joy to watch.”
The first time Weber stepped onto the Broadway stage his parents were filled with emotion. “I can’t say enough about what that meant,” says his dad. “I am from a working class family in New Jersey who just dreams of that kind of stuff.”
When friends and family visit New York, Weber takes them backstage after the show and brings them out to the center of the stage. “It’s moments like that that make it all worth it,” he says. “I love what I do so much.” RottenBroadway.com